By Dylan J. Darling

The Bulletin

For Duane Freilino, organizer of the eighth annual JMK Coyote Hunt next weekend in Crane, the reason for the contest is simple.

“We are not trying to eliminate coyotes, we are trying to control the population,” said Freilino, who ranches near the small town southeast of Burns. “Every coyote killed is one less coyote that will kill a calf.”

But such contests are ecologically harmful and inhumane, said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon director for the Humane Society of the United States.

“The greater the hunter pressure on (the coyotes) the faster they reproduce,” he said.

A similar contest hunt in Salmon, Idaho, drew national media attention late last month when the target species included wolves along with coyotes. No wolves were shot. In Crane, the focus is on coyotes, as was the Coyote Classic last month in Burns put on by the Oregon Hunters Association.

“Coyotes, like any other predator, need to be controlled to some degree,” Freilino said.

Last year, the JMK Coyote Hunt — named after JMK Farm where it started — drew 44 participants split into two-person groups, he said. They came from Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Washington and Utah, and they killed a total of 146 coyotes.

The entry fee for the contest, which is set for the weekend of Jan. 18, is $200, with 80 percent of the total entry money going back to the participants, Freilino said. The winners take home half of the entry fee, second place gets 20 percent and third place gets 10 percent. There are also raffle prizes from sponsors.

“When it is all said and done, I don’t make any money on it,” Freilino said.

Winners are determined by the number of coyotes they bring in during the hunt, with the coyotes’ combined weight used as a tiebreaker. Freilino said judges check the animals’ temperatures to make sure they were killed during the contest and not before.

While the contest is based in Crane, participants can travel as far away as they want in search of coyotes, as long as they make it back to town for check-in on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Freilino said they can go anywhere they have permission or a legal right to hunt coyotes.

This year, that won’t be on land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management near Crane, said Brendan Cain, district manager for the Burns BLM district. Because the event is a commercial venture, he said it would require a special recreational permit from the agency and the organizers hadn’t applied for one.

Freilino said he had been in discussions with the BLM and feels the hunt should be allowed on public land. The event is still on and will start and end on private property.

Coyotes are classified by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as an unprotected animal in the state, meaning there is no hunting season or bag limit.

So the contest in Crane is lawful, said Michelle Dennehy, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Salem. She said the Oregon State Police, which enforces wildlife laws in the state, is aware of the contest and will be monitoring the event.

The coyote population throughout the state is stable if not increasing, Dennehy said.

“(Coyotes) are abundant in Oregon,” she said. “A contest like this is not going to have an impact on the overall population.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7812; .