Coyote carcass dump fuels New Mexico contest ban legislation

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After joggers came across a pile of discarded remains in the desert last month just days after a coyote contest, a bill to end the practice passed the New Mexico state senate by a 27-13 vote.

The legislation would end coyote-killing contests in the state while leaving an open year round season on these predators for landowners to manage nuisance animals.

“This bill would make it illegal to conduct coyote-hunting contests,” state Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, told the ABQ Journal. “It would still give everyone the ability to protect their property and hunt coyotes but not turn it into a blood sport.”

Moores’ legislation, SB 253, would make it unlawful for a person to organize, cause, sponsor, arrange, hold or participate in a coyote-killing contest. These contests would be defined as any sponsored competition with the objective of killing coyotes for prizes or entertainment. Those who stage the event would be guilty of a misdemeanor while those who participate would be liable to a petty misdemeanor. Under New Mexico law that would translate to a term less than one year or to the payment of a fine of not more than $1,000 or to both for the first case and half that for the latter.

This comes just a month after joggers outside of Las Cruces found nearly 40 coyote carcasses dumped near the county airport. Subsequent investigation found that a local hunting club had held a legal coyote contest the weekend before that harvested 39 desert dogs and a pair of foxes.  The club voiced concerns that the dump was done wrong and acknowledged the public relations problem it gave the sport, pinning the blame on a “private member.”

That black eye given to the hunt by sportsmen who made a bad call may give lawmakers enough of a public push to get the bill through the state House. In 2013, a similar measure failed in a 30-38 vote.

Critics of the bill are still able to argue that the measure may tread on property rights, fear of which was a big contributor to scuttling the previous legislation.

As reported by the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, voted against the bill last week over concerns that it would open the way for criminal penalties for anyone who kills coyote.

Others contend that the populations of these dangerous predators who attack livestock are out of control.

“If they did a better job of managing all of these populations, we wouldn’t have these problems,” said Carlos Salazar with the Northern New Mexico Stockmen’s Association. “That’s the bottom line to everything is managing. There is no managing. There is a big lack of management from the New Mexico Game and Fish.”

Legislation such as this killed the coyote contests in California while in nearby Arizona a Predator Masters convention drew protests from anti-hunting groups trying to end long-standing traditional contests there and in other South Western states.

The New Mexico bill now heads to the state House.