The Hancock Fire Department in Delaware County cancelled the hunting tournament Monday after an online petition opposing the event drew “international backlash,” reported dailystar.com. The contest was slated for Jan. 17-19.
“Due to the concerns for the safety of the residents we protect and concerns for the safety of our membership, we must cancel the tournament,” fire department officials noted in a statement released Tuesday.
This was the second year the tournament was to be held. Third Assistant Chief Blaise Bojo told dailystar.com that “a decent amount was raised last year.”
This year, though, the department and its members were subject to threats and harassment “from organizations and individuals for the protection of animal rights,” according to a statement issued by the fire department. Bojo declined to comment on the nature of threats received.
A Change.org petition opposing the contest gathered more than 20,000 signatures. Petition organizer Jennifer Christman accused the firefighters of “murdering innocent, living sentient beings for a fundraiser.”
She urged signers to “be the voice for the coyotes, we need to speak for them. They need us. Let them (the fire department) know that trophy hunting is cruel, heartless, vicious, monstrous, etc,. We need to strongly urge them to cancel this event and have a family friendly fundraiser.”
“They treat these beautiful creatures like they are disposable. They post with the dead lifeless body of the coyote that they killed like they won an award or prize. Treated like a ‘thing’ instead of a soul instead of life. Beyond shameful. Beyond shameful. This must be stopped.”
The information accompanying the petition did not say where Christman lives or whether she represented any group. She did not respond to requests for comment, dailystar.com noted.
As part of the petition on Change.org, though, the names and contact information (either phone numbers or email addresses) of the fire department’s chief and assistant chief, the village mayor, the town supervisor and fire department Facebook page were listed.
Adding pressure to the situation, according to dailystar.com, was Village Mayor Carolann McGrath who called for the firefighters to cancel the event after she received several dozen emails describing the event as cruel and inhumane.
“This harassment has gotten to the point where it is blocking us from being focused on our main mission, which is firefighting and saving lives,” the fire department’s statement read.
The Hancock Department’s coyote hunting fundraiser is not unique and such hunting contests are legal. Other groups in Upstate New York also hold such competitions involving hunting coyotes, squirrels, crows, bobcats and foxes, among other animals. Some downstate state lawmakers in the past have tried to get bills passed to ban these hunting contests, but with no success.
Coyotes are not native to New York State. They are larger than their western counterparts. Genetic research has shown the coyotes in this state are a cross between a coyote and a wolf.
There is no shortage of coyotes in New York. They can be legally hunted from Oct. 15 to March 31. It’s the longest hunting season in the state. They can be hunted day or night and use of bait and dogs is permitted. There is no daily bag limit.
Read more about coyotes on the DEC website.