New Mexico lawmakers are considering legislation that has put landowners and hunters at odds with wildlife advocates. Senate Bill 76 cleared its first hurdle this week, passing the Senate Conservation Committee in a 6-3 vote.
The proposed legislation would make organizing a coyote-killing contest in New Mexico a misdemeanor, and a lesser misdemeanor to participate in one. In past years, similar legislation has exposed a divide between the state’s ranchers and many urbanites.
During debate on the bill, some backers of the measure described the contests – also called coyote-calling contests – as cruel and immoral and said they promote a “culture of violence.”
“Anybody can kill a coyote at any time for any reason – that’s the reality,” Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, one of the bill’s sponsors, told the Albuquerque Journal. “This bill would make it illegal to kill coyotes for a prize.”
Critics of the bill, however, say the law would make it difficult for rural New Mexicans to control coyote populations. Don Simpson, a member of the New Mexico Trapping Association, compared the contests to fishing derbies and said they are a form of predator control and that they benefit farmers and ranchers.
Wildlife advocates say 20 to 30 coyote-killing derbies are typically organized across New Mexico every year, with participants using calling devices to lure coyotes into range. Such contests often award prize money or new firearms for the most coyotes killed or the biggest coyote killed.
Lat month, State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard issued an executive order that bars coyote-killing contests on nine million acres of New Mexico state trust land. But that order does not cover other public lands – or private land – and enforcement could prove difficult.