Animal rights groups protest Predator Masters

About 150 protesters lined the street along Silverbell and Speedway with signs, posters and costumes to bring attention to a convention being held this week at the International Wildlife Museum.

About 70 members of Predator Masters is in town to hold its annual convention and hunt, although the group says there is no organized hunt of animals.

"We have an egg hunt, it's the only contest we have," says a volunteer spokesman Bob Lemons.

Lemons is trying to tamp down the controversy his group has engendered by moving its convention from Las Cruces, New Mexico after the town council there passed resolution not supporting the group and its convention there.

Lemons believes the problem lies largely with the media which is showing gruesome photographs of piles of coyotes killed during competitive hunts in which contestants attempt to kill the most animals.

He says what the media is doing is spreading "misinformation by associating us with those events."

"Predator Masters has been around for 15 years and it has never had a contest since its inception," he says. "It does not do that."

He says "the actions of a few make it look bad and that's what this is all about.

Many members of Predator Masters hunt nine species of predators permitted in Arizona including coyote, fox and bob cats.

It's website has many pictures of hunters who have shot and killed predators.

But Arizona does not prohibit ccompetitivehunting.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department banned hunting competitions in 1998 but it was overturned by the Governor's office two years later.

The protesters on the corner were a mix of groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, Project Coyote and others.

But it appears the goals of those we talked with were the same, to outlaw competitions and let Predator Hunters know they are not welcome.

"I grew up in Texas and my family hunts, and still do," says Ann Bowen, a former restaurant owner. "But this is not hunting."

"We don't want them ever to come back again," says Britanny Pearce, who was holding a protect our wildlife sign.

Pamela Buck says he hopes the protest sends a message that "we don't want you here."

One county supervisor said the county was likely to propose a resolution that the job of managing wildlife belongs to Game and Fish and the predator hunters are not welcome on county property and open space to hunt.

"These animals are Tucson and Southwest icons and should be protected," says Greg Hale, who organized the protest.

The convention runs through Saturday when another protest is planned.