In Alberta, it’s legal to shoot coyotes on private land as long as the landowner gives permission. No permit or licence is required.
Paul, who asked that his last name not be used to protect his family from harassment, has been running the contest for four years.
“People are saying that I should be shot, that anybody who supports this should be dead,” he said. “People are hiding behind computers and … writing nasty posts on Facebook and other social media sites.”
Hunters across the province are invited to participate in Saturday's tournament, needing only a rifle and a $50 admission fee, and are allowed to kill coyotes anywhere in the province where private landowners have signed off.
Cash prizes will be awarded to the team that kills the most coyotes, typically seen as pests by rural landowners.
According to one advertisement, there are side contests for heaviest coyote, lightest coyote, mangiest coyote and a wild card.
Hunters then take their haul to a checkpoint to verify the kills are fresh and weigh them. Teams also must use “mouth blocks”— dated pieces of wood strapped into the dead coyotes’ mouths — to verify their kills.
The coyote pelts will then be processed and sent off to the fur market, Paul said.
According to Paul, the 22 hunters in last year's tournament killed 13 coyotes.
Coyote killing should be monitored, says critic
“The reason why everybody is up in arms about it is because there are cash money prizes involved,” Paul said of the hunt.
Lesley Sampson, the founding executive director of Coyote Watch Canada — a national wildlife conservation, education and research group — says such contests are "reckless" and glorify indiscriminate killing.
“I think it really flies in the face of conservation and there’s many, many ethical hunters that don’t engage in these kinds of activities,” she said Thursday.
She said paid hunts are not necessary, and that other strategies — such as removing the bodies of dead livestock immediately, as well as adding fencing and lighting — can be used to minimize losses by coyotes.
At the very least, Sampson says contests offering cash rewards should be banned outright, and that more controls should be placed on where and when coyotes can be killed in general.
“There’s nothing gained by that, and promoting massive killing of any species really goes against the whole conservation of hunting.”
In Ontario, hunters must get a small game licence before killing a coyote. California has banned all wildlife-killing contests.
But Paul says critics are going overboard, and just don’t understand how harmless the contest is — or what kind of damage coyotes can cause.
“Our other populations are getting depleted to the point where I’m on the land every day in my business and I don’t see rabbit tracks every day, like I should be doing.
“The only thing that seems to be prospering in our area are coyotes.”
However, Sampson said coyotes, while not a threatened species, do play an important role in the ecosystem, and killing them off could have a cascade effect on other species.
She pointed out that when 71,000 coyotes were killed in Saskatchewan in 2010, the province had to spend an extra $500,000 in rodent control measures.