TORONTO—Animal Justice, The Fur-Bearers, and Coyote Watch Canada have lost a legal challenge aimed at stopping a coyote killing contest hosted annually by Chesher’s Outdoor Store in Belleville, Ontario.
The groups argued in Superior Court in December 2022 that the Ontario government unlawfully allowed the coyote hunting contest to take place, violating provincial hunting laws, which state that no person shall hunt “for gain or the expectation of gain”, “induce another person to hunt for gain”, or “pay or accept a bounty” unless they have a written authorization from the Minister of Natural Resources.
Chesher’s holds its annual coyote hunting contest without that legally required written authorization. As part of the 2022 contest, Chesher’s awarded thousands of dollars in cash and prizes, including for the top five heaviest coyotes killed, and five “hidden weight prizes” awarded to those who killed coyotes with certain weights chosen in advance of the contest and kept secret until the contest closed. The annual contest was held yet again in February 2023, with thousands of dollars in cash and prizes awarded to participants.
While the Court found that Chesher’s “may well have acted in violation” of the law, it did not agree that the province permitted Chesher’s to hold the contest. Rather, the Court found that the province had discretion to decide whether to prosecute the store or not, and it chose not to.
“Every year, this hunt shop holds a coyote killing contest that appears to be blatantly illegal, yet the province seems content to look the other way and refuses to shut it down,” says Kaitlyn Mitchell, director of legal advocacy with Animal Justice. “Animal Justice and other groups have tried at every turn to force the province to uphold the law, and it is disappointing that the court’s decision means there will be no justice for coyotes. We have a law on the books designed to prevent contests like this, but the Minister appears to be unwilling to enforce it.”
Animal Justice and Coyote Watch Canada have also filed an application for an investigation of Chesher’s 2023 coyote hunting contest under the Environmental Bill of Rights—a cornerstone law that gives Ontarians the right to seek an investigation when environmental laws have been broken. The groups hope the province is compelled through that application to finally take action to uphold the law and hold the store to account.
The groups encourage residents unsettled by this court decision to contact their MPPs to call for change. More can be learned about coexisting with coyotes and issues facing wildlife at AnimalJustice.ca, TheFurBearers.com, and CoyoteWatchCanada.com.
A copy of the decision is available here.
For more information, contact:
Director of Legal Advocacy, Animal Justice
Spokesperson, The Fur-Bearers
Founding Executive Director, Coyote Watch Canada