Media Releases

Ontario Refuses to Take Action Over Illegal Coyote Hunt

TORONTO—Animal Justice and Coyote Watch Canada are disappointed the Ontario Ministry of Environment has declined to open an investigation into an illegal competition that awarded cash and prizes in exchange for dead coyotes.

Hunting competitions are unlawful in Ontario. Last year, Animal Justice and Coyote Watch Canada filed for an investigation under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights—a cornerstone law that gives Ontarians a right to request an investigation when an environmental law is violated. The application asked the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to investigate an illegal coyote hunting contest held by a Belleville, Ontario hunting store in February of 2023.

For years, Chesher’s Outdoor Store awarded thousands of dollars in cash and prizes to participants who killed and weighed in the bodies of coyotes throughout the month of February. The contest violated Ontario’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which forbids paying or receiving a bounty, as well as encouraging hunting “for gain or the expectation of gain.” 

Though the EBR is clear that a decision not to investigate must be made within 60 days of an application being filed, the Minister took more than a year to consider the groups’ request for an investigation. The Ministry of Natural Resources has now refused to investigate, claiming that the contest  “would not likely cause harm to the environment”.

“Canids killed for the contest were not limited to a particular geographic region and could be brought to the store weigh-in from anywhere in Ontario, posing a risk to the endangered Eastern wolf that strongly resembles the Eastern coyote,” said Lesley Sampson, executive director of Coyote Watch Canada.

“Although the Ministry’s decision is incredibly frustrating, it’s hardly a surprise,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, director of legal advocacy with Animal Justice. “For years, the Ministry has refused to uphold Ontario’s wildlife protection law and stop this contest, leaving vulnerable coyotes to suffer and die in the name of entertainment.” 

The Ministry’s decision comes after an Ontario court ruled against the groups in a lawsuit against the province for allowing Chesher’s to run a similar contest in 2022. While the court found the store  “may well have acted in violation” of provincial law, the ruling stated the Ontario government has the discretion to decide whether to prosecute the store or not, and it chose not to.

The contest has garnered significant public attention in recent years, with thousands of letters being sent to the Ministry from concerned citizens urging officials to stop the illegal contest.  At this point, the store does not appear to be moving ahead with the cruel contest this year.

Animal Justice recently charged a Manitoba live horse exporter utilizing a private prosecution after the federal government failed to enforce animal transport laws. Animal Justice stands ready to enforce other federal and provincial laws when authorities refuse to take action in the face of clear violations.

The decision from the Ministry of Natural Resources is available here. 



Josh Lynn
Public Relations Manager
[email protected]

Kaitlyn Mitchell
Director of Legal Advocacy
[email protected]

Lesley Sampson
Executive Director
Coyote Watch Canada
[email protected]