HANCOCK (WBNG) -- After intense backlash and a petition acquiring more than 20,000 signatures against the event, the Hancock Volunteer Fire Department's second Annual Coyote Hunting Tournament has been cancelled.
In a statement to 12 News, the department said: "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."
Johnson City resident Karen Kozlow says she signed the petition because she is against killing for sport.
"It's killing for fun and I think making it into a contest is vile and just immoral," she said.
Kozlow says she feels participants could learn from the community reaction
"Maybe they could use it as a learning experience and realize what it's like to be threatened," she said. "That's what animals live like in the wild constantly being threatened by humans and if they can't live in the wild where can they live?"
The department said in a statement to 12 News that the backlash got to be too much.
"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," they said in the statement.
Several Hancock residents told 12 News Tuesday that the culling of the coyote population in the area is necessary and the fundraiser would help accomplish that goal, something Kozlow says she takes issue with.
"I don't think coyotes are a nuisance, I think it's humans," she said. "We're the ones polluting the environment at an alarming rate to the point where it's harming us."
Kozlow says while she does not agree with the fundraiser, she also does not agree with the aggressive behavior that the department described in their statement.
"When you threaten people's lives it does not give a good image to the cause or the movement," she said. "I don't believe people should threaten other people."
The department tells 12 News that anyone who signed up for the tournament will receive a full refund and anyone who donated to the tournament will have their donations returned as well.