By Steven Dubois Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. — The hunt will go on.
A Harney County judge on Friday rejected an attempt to postpone a coyote-killing contest scheduled for this weekend in the high desert of southeastern Oregon.
The ruling comes a day after the Animal Legal Defense Fund and two co-plaintiffs filed a lawsuit stating the annual event violates state gambling laws. Lawyers sought a temporary restraining order that would prevent the event from taking place.
?Judge William Cramer Jr. denied the emergency request, saying the lawsuit was filed so late it did not give the defendant proper time to respond and the applicants weren’t at risk of immediate, irreparable harm. The next hearing is scheduled for March 21.
Event organizer Duane Freilino said more than 100 supporters of the contest showed up at the courthouse in Burns, 285 miles southeast of Portland.
“The community feels it’s a good event,” he said. “It’s good for the community.”
Coyotes are classified as predatory animals under Oregon law, and there are no limits on killing them. Faced with that reality, the animal rights groups are focusing on anti-gambling laws to halt such contests.
“We want to decouple the gambling and the incentive of cash from these hunting contests,” Stefan Heller, an Animal Legal Defense Fund lawyer, said after Friday’s ruling. “And we think that will really change the way all of them have to be structured in Oregon and will decrease the draw of these.”
Freilino said in an earlier interview the JMK Coyote Hunt was started eight years ago to boost winter tourism in the sparsely populated region and to help ranchers by reducing coyote numbers right before calving season. It’s unknown how many contestants will compete this weekend because there is no pre-registration.
Last year, 20 two-man teams of hunters combined to kill nearly 150 coyotes. The contest entry fee is $200 per team, and the team that kills the most coyotes takes home half the total. Second- and third-place finishers also get cash.
According the event’s website, there also will be a “Calcutta,” which is a type of auction-pool wagering.