By Dylan J. Darling

The Bulletin

The 8th annual JMK Coyote Hunt is still set to take place this weekend near Burns, despite the Bureau of Land Management asking its organizer to not have hunters go after the animals on land overseen by the agency.

“I’m absolutely still having the event,” said Duane Freilino, hunt organizer. “It actually is ineffectual to me.”

Freilino said he met with BLM officials for two hours Tuesday morning. The Burns district manager for the BLM has said the event would need a special-use permit to occur on land managed by the district, because the contest is a commercial venture.

Entering the contest costs $200 per two-person team. The winning team takes home half the total entry fees. The winner is determined by the number of coyotes killed, with ties broken by combined weight of the animals. Last year, there were about 20 teams that killed just under 150 coyotes.

Freilino said the contest will start and end on private land. But where the hunters go to find coyotes is up to them.

“I don’t give them maps,” he said. “I don’t tell them where to hunt.”

The BLM wasn’t aware of the JMK Coyote Hunt in previous years so it didn’t ask for a permit before, said Tara Martinak, spokeswoman for the BLM Burns district.

“This is the first year we are aware,” she said.

The agency also didn’t know about a similar event held last month in Burns by the Oregon Hunters Association- Harney County Chapter. The chapter put on the Coyote Classic, the first in what will likely be an annual event, as a fundraiser, said Matt Ellibee, chapter president.

He said there were 21 teams of one or two people in the contest. He declined to say how many coyotes they killed, but did say they didn’t run into any issues about land overseen by the BLM.

“Ninety-five percent of our hunters all hunted private land,” he said.

Frielino predicted most of the hunters in the JMK Coyote Hunt would also focus on private land. Private land allows them to get away from other hunters while they try to call in coyotes, he said, noting he wouldn’t encourage or discourage hunters from going onto public land in search of coyotes for the contest.

Coyotes are not regulated as a game species by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. There is no defined hunting season or bag limit for them.

Oregon lawmakers have classified the animals as predatory, ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy wrote in an email.

State statute says ODFW “shall not prescribe limitations on the times, places or amounts for the taking of predatory animals,” she wrote.

Ellibee and Frielino say coyote numbers need to be controlled, and the contests are a way of doing that.

But critics of coyote contests disagree. Killing off coyotes, particularly the top males and females, only leads packs to produce more pups, said Brooks Fahy, executive director for Eugene-based Predator Defense.

The group put out a press release Tuesday, taking credit for alerting the BLM of the JMK Coyote Hunt. Fahy said coyote killing contests should be stopped.

“There is really no place in modern society for this type of event,” Fahy said.

—Reporter: 541-617-7812; .