HANCOCK (WBNG) -- The Hancock Volunteer Fire Department said in a statement sent to 12 News that it has decided to cancel its annual coyote hunting tournament scheduled for late January.
A petition was formed online that accumulated more than 20,000 signatures against the tournament. The event also prompted major backlash from online commentators who disagreed with it on Facebook.
The Hancock Volunteer Fire Department said in a statement sent to 12 News:
"As most of you have seen, there has been concerns with our annual coyote hunting tournament that happens the third weekend in January. Organizations and individuals for the protection of animal rights have been continuously harassing the Hancock Fire Department and our members, including threats against our personal safety.
This harassment has gotten to the point where it is blocking us from being focused on our main mission, which is firefighting and saving lives. The Mayor of the Village of Hancock emailed the chiefs of the Hancock Fire Department stating that the Tournament had to be cancelled even though the Hancock Fire Department Inc. is not part of the Village of Hancock and is a separate, not for profit corporation.
Let us be clear, we do not tolerate nor condone the aggressive behavior that has been showed to our membership and our organization. We thank our residents that have supported us during this endeavor, and who continue to support us.
Due to the concerns for the safety of the residents that we protect and the concerns for the safety of our membership, we must cancel the tournament. All registration sheets that have been sent in will be returned with a full refund. All donors for the tournament will be contacted and their donation returned.
We thank our community members for the support."
Stay with 12 News as we continue to follow this developing story.