SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The Humane Society of the United States is calling for a ban on wildlife killing competitions in Illinois following an undercover investigation of one in the state.

Humane Society investigators across the country often attend these competitions undercover. They observe participants bringing hundreds of dead animals to weigh-in events, collecting cash and prizes for having the most kills or the largest or smallest animal killed. Participants often brag about the “thrill of the kill” and even bring their children to play among the dead animals.

One such investigation, with many of the observations listed above, happened in Mendon last month. An investigator attended a weigh-in of the Nuggets Night Vision Coyote Hunt, organized by a manufacturer of night vision and thermal optical devices that are often used in these events to increase one’s kill count.

During a 45-hour period from Feb. 3 to Feb. 5, roughly 86 participants killed over 400 coyotes in this contest. The three-man team that won the “most coyotes” award killed 49, with the second-place team killing 27. The smallest coyote killed weighed just 17 pounds.

“Wildlife killing contests are an abomination and a disgrace,” said Marc Ayers, Illinois state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “Destroying coyotes for sadistic fun, games and cash does not reflect our state’s values. Illinois is among the 10 worst states when it comes to wildlife killing contests, with at least 28 competitions targeting coyotes, foxes, raccoons and crows taking place in the state in 2022. Responsible hunters denounce this horrific blood sport and 73% of Illinois voters support a ban on killing contests. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources must take a stand and make our state the first in the Midwest to ban this cruel, unnecessary treatment of coyotes who provide vital balance to our ecosystem.”

The Humane Society said that coyotes are native to Illinois and are a top carnivore. Left alone, coyotes regulate their own numbers based on available habitat and food sources.

The best available science, the Humane Society said, shows that indiscriminate killing of coyotes does not reduce their population or prevent conflicts with farm animals. In fact, it can result in the opposite.

“Coyotes are valuable members of the wildlife community and do more good than harm where humans are concerned,” officials with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said.

At the coyote hunt in Mendon, the undercover investigator noted that while the weigh-in was in Illinois, coyotes were brought across state lines from as far away as Kansas and Arkansas.

“Watching truck after truck backing into the weigh station, and coyote after coyote, dripping with blood, being weighed – it was like a factory assembly line,” the investigator said. “The stench of rotting flesh was so strong that people would step back when trucks with the bodies were opened. The ground was staining purple with blood and people – including children – were walking through it with total disregard for potential disease transfer.”

The investigator saw at least one coyote with severe Mange, a highly contagious disease that can easily spread to humans. Coyotes were not checked for disease nor disqualified if it was found.

The investigator also said that one participant, like so many others, bragged to them about the “thrill of the kill” and added that he hunts coyotes away from competition as well, leaving them to rot or be thrown away because their bodies aren’t worth anything. Humane Society officials confirmed that AR-15s, commonly used to kill coyotes, rip holes in their fur and render their pelts worthless.

In addition to night vision and thermal imaging equipment, hunters also lure animals using electronic calling devices that mimic the sound of dependent young or prey in distress, resulting in an easy kill. This results in those dependent young being orphaned and left to die from starvation, exposure or other predators.

Eight states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington – have already banned wildlife killing competitions. On Dec. 22, 2022, veterinarians and 18 organizations, led by HSUS, submitted a petition to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources requesting that Illinois become the ninth state to do so.