A bill that would prohibit coyote-killing contests will likely make it through the Oregon Legislature and become the law of the land.

The bill made its way out of committee last week on March 18. Rep. Mark Owens, R-Crane, said he proposed an amendment to allow counties to vote on an opt-out by putting it out to those communities to vote whether they should forbid the contests.

The proposal was one vote short of making it into the legislation, he said. He said another proposed amendment did not get the “light of day.”

He said they tried to mitigate the bill’s proponent’s concerns, but they were not successful, and it was not from a lack of trying.

“It goes both ways,” he said. “I want to work with them, but eventually, they should want to work with us, and we felt we could answer questions and concerns and explain that it’s not a sport of killing or a bloodletting exercise, and we were not able to do that.”

Owens said they will have an opportunity in the Senate.

Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, said on March 25 that he would we fight the bill’s passage in the Senate.

Findley said the derbies are a “way of life” in Eastern Oregon, a tradition and tool for ranchers to maintain their viability.

According to the bill’s staff measure summary, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that there are 300,000 coyotes in Oregon.

Findley said Friday that the derbies do not kill many coyotes. He said two years ago that the Harney County contest killed roughly 60, which, he said, is not a large number, but that low number likely saved a high number of cattle and livestock.

Findley said the contests affect where the coyotes are. He said the animals adapt and move on out of the lowlands and become more cautious of people so ranchers can move on with their calving.

“It’s just ill conceived,” he said of the bill. “People say, ‘What do you mean they have a contest to kill coyotes? That should be banned.’ “Well, they don’t understand all the logistics and all the issues behind it.”

Oregonians can hunt coyotes year-round, and current regulations do not limit the number of coyotes hunters can kill.

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Steven Mitchell is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. Contact him at steven@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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