“Unfortunately, I was present … ”
That’s how former New Mexico Game Commission Chairman Scott Bidegain portrays his role in an illegal cougar kill on his sprawling ranch near Tucumcari.
From that statement, one would think the hunter’s rifle was directed at him to compel his presence, but of course it wasn’t. He was there willingly.
The .243-caliber rifle was fired by a wealthy Oklahoma City lawyer – who arrived late to the party – to dispatch a cougar already cornered in a cave by hunting dogs. All Jason Roselius had to do was get out of a pickup, hike to the cave, shoot the cougar and watch it die. Then pose for a photo.
Bidegain snapped the picture of the happy hunter and the “unfortunately” dead cat.
A couple of things made this hunt illegal.
One, a hunter who kills a cougar must be present continuously once any dog is released, according to state hunting rules. Apparently, that was not the case.
And two, Roselius had not purchased a required game-hunting license and habitat management access validation stamp, although he did buy a cougar license in New Mexico. Those familiar with hunting here know you have to have all of the paperwork when the kill is presented to be “pelt-tagged” by a Game and Fish officer.
But beyond the illegality of the kill is the cowardly way the cougar was killed. There was nothing noble about this hunting expedition.
After the cougar killing, the governor asked for Bidegain’s resignation, as well she should have.
Bidegain and his guides, who face charges and possible fines, are poor examples of sportsmanship. Guide Billy Ivy of Canyon, Texas, told the Journal the charge against him is a “little old bitty misdemeanor.”
Well, misdemeanor or not, the way the “hunt” unfolded and wanton disregard for the rules is not what is expected of game commissioners. The governor and Legislature should revisit the commission’s mission and direction.
Bidegain was a disgrace to the position Gov. Susana Martinez appointed him to. Let’s hope she picks a better person to fill the “little old bitty” shoes he leaves behind.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.