SALMON, IDAHO-A US federal judge denied a request by conservation groups to block a weekend hunting competition in Idaho that targets wolves and coyotes and has been condemned by wildlife advocates as an inhumane “killing contest.”

More than 100 contestants from Idaho and surrounding states, including Wyoming, signed up on Friday for the so-called coyote and wolf derby, and sponsors said they expected as many 300 hunters to register by the start of the event. The two-person hunting teams were to begin fanning out on Saturday morning into national forest land around the town of Salmon in the mountains of east-central Idaho. The event has drawn staunch opposition from conservationists who claim the tournament is cruel and unsportsmanlike and sets a chilling precedent by inviting children as young as 10 to participate. But some ranchers and outfitters in Idaho see the competition as a recreational form of wildlife management aimed at reducing the number of nuisance predators threatening livestock and big game such as elk that are prized by hunters.