SANTA FE – A renewed attempt to ban coyote-killing contests in New Mexico cleared its first Senate committee Tuesday but still faces a long road to final approval.
Members of the Senate Conservation Committee voted 6-3 to approve the bipartisan legislation, which has in past years exposed a divide between ranchers and many city dwellers.
During Tuesday’s debate, 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,” said Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, one of the bill’s sponsors. “This bill would make it illegal to kill coyotes for a prize.”
However, critics said the proposed 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.
“I think what it does is it restricts our farmers and ranchers and their ability to protect their land,” added Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo.
Under the legislation, Senate Bill 76, it would be a misdemeanor to organize a coyote-killing contest and a lesser misdemeanor to participate in one.
The bill is co-sponsored by Steinborn and Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque. It’s nearly identical to measures proposed by the two senators that passed the Senate in 2015 and 2017 but ultimately stalled in the House.
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.
Although past bills have come up short, there has been other action on the issue.
State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, a Democrat, issued an executive order last month that bars coyote-killing contests on 9 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.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, the Senate Conservation Committee’s chairman, disputed the suggestion of an urban-rural divide, saying some rural New Mexicans also oppose the practice.
“I think this is about being human beings,” he said.
The legislation now advances to the Senate Judiciary Committee.