Challenging Wyoming Coyote-Killing Contests
In 2017, the Animal Legal Defense Fund brought a lawsuit on behalf of a Wyoming resident in an attempt to stop an upcoming coyote-killing contest.
The Calcutta auction, raffle, and keno were ruled to be gambling
Continue to mount legal challenges against animal killing contests
In this case, the coyote-killing contest was allowed to proceed.
In January 2017, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint in state court on behalf of a Wyoming resident in an attempt to stop a coyote-killing contest scheduled to take place in her county. The “Wyoming Best of the Best,” which hosts these contests throughout the state of Wyoming each year, involves teams of hunters vying to kill as many coyotes as possible from sunup to sundown. Non-hunting participants were encouraged to place bets on the teams they thought would kill the most coyotes (a style of betting known as a “Calcutta auction”). The contest organizers also held raffles and keno lotteries as part of the event to generate additional revenue.
The complaint alleged the Wyoming Best of the Best contest constituted illegal gambling, since participants wager money (in the form of entrance fees and side bets) and the outcomes are based predominantly on chance. Illegal gambling is a violation of Wyoming’s nuisance statute, enacted to prevent activities that put the moral integrity and safety of the community at risk.
The plaintiff worried the influx of hunters would negatively impact the wildlife in her area. These killing contests are known to cause serious disruptions to local ecosystems, leading to unbalanced and unhealthy population dynamics within and among different species. Making matters worse, there is no limit on the number of coyotes a hunter may slaughter in Wyoming, and the state does not require hunting licenses for coyote hunting. Coyote killing is virtually unregulated in Wyoming.
Sweetwater County Third District Court Judge Richard Lavery initially denied the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s petition for a temporary restraining order, so the hunt went on as planned from Feb. 3-4, 2017.
In October, 2017, the judge issued a partial ruling in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Immediately after oral arguments were heard in the case, the judge ruled that at least some of the activities associated with the event — the Calcutta auction, raffle, and keno — constitute illegal gambling.
A few months later, in January 2018, Judge Lavery issued his opinion, determining the coyote-killing contest does not constitute a nuisance or illegal gambling, and allowed it to proceed. The main reason for his holding was his belief that luck had little to do with coyote-hunting.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund continues to mount legal challenges against animal killing contests.
Coalition for legislative intervention
Center for Biological Diversity v. USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services
Letter sent on April 30, 2019