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Illinois Senate unlikely to pass ban on wild animal competitions

A bill that would ban contests that offer money or prizes for killing certain wild animals is unlikely to pass the Senate after narrowly passing the House of Representatives, according to the Senate-sponsored proposal.

House Bill 2900 would prohibit the conduct of wildlife contests that reward participants with money, prizes or incentives for killing fur-bearing animals. Much of the debate has centered on contests that reward the killing of coyotes as a method of population control.

Under this measure, organizing, sponsoring or participating in such competitions would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of between $500 and $5,000.

Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), who sponsored the bill, said the bill arrived too late in the process to be passed by the chamber's scheduled adjournment on Friday. It arrived in the Senate on May 16 but has not yet been assigned to a committee.

During the House floor debate on May 15, bill sponsor Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin) said the bill's focus is to “end the highly unethical and unsportsmanlike practice of mass slaughter of fur animals for cash prizes.”

Moeller said the contests are a “bloody sport” that is not sanctioned or monitored by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, nor is it an “official method of controlling wildlife populations.” She added that the bill does not prohibit “ethical hunting” or protecting property, pets or children from harm.

When asked about the lack of definition of “prizes” during debate, Moeller said she interpreted the bill to prohibit contests that give away monetary items such as firearms. Opponents raised concerns that the bill as currently drafted does not define what counts as an incentive or prize, making it unclear whether trophies or awards are included.

The proposal is supported by Project Coyote, a nonprofit based in California. According to the organization's website, Project Coyote, the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter and the Rewilding Institute have asked the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to ban the contests through regulatory action. According to Project Coyote, 10 states have banned wildlife contests, five of them through regulatory action. In a letter, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stated that such a change would have to come through the legislature to amend the Wildlife Code.

The bill passed after more than 40 minutes of debate by a vote of 62 to 45. While not a single Republican in the House supported the measure, several Democrats – most from outside the Chicago area – opposed the bill. They include Reps. Will Davis of Homewood, Anthony DeLuca of Chicago Heights, Jay Hoffman of Swansea, Dave Vella of Rockford, Larry Walsh of Elwood and Lance Yednock of Ottawa.

Republican Vice Chair Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) called the debate “a tale of two regions.”

“This law violates the health and safety of our livestock,” Hammond said. “It causes significant harm to our agricultural crops that we grow to feed your families.”

If the bill is not passed by the time the legislature adjourns at the end of May, it could be taken up again in the veto session in the fall.

Anna Harden

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