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Senate backs ban on coyote-killing contests

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A coyote creeps through fresh snow in Eldorado, south of Santa Fe, earlier this month. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The state Senate passed legislation Wednesday that would ban coyote-killing contests in New Mexico – after an 80-minute debate that highlighted the political divide between urban and rural lawmakers.

The bipartisan proposal, Senate Bill 76, now heads to the state House.

“This is an abhorrent fringe activity,” said Sen. Jeff Steinborn, a Las Cruces Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill.

Opponents said the legislation is an example of urban lawmakers failing to understand life in rural New Mexico – where, they said, killing contests should remain an option to help control the population of a predator.

“This is a perfect example of what’s wrong with our government,” Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, said of the proposed law.

The bill would make it illegal to organize or participate in an organized competition to kill coyotes for prizes or entertainment. People could still kill coyotes to protect life or property.

The Senate passed the bill 22-17, with a mix of Democrats and Republicans on both sides. It was co-sponsored by Steinborn and Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque.

Similar proposals have passed the Senate in previous sessions and died in the House. But voters shook up the composition of the House in last year’s general election, with Democrats picking up eight seats to reach a 46-24 majority.

In Wednesday’s debate on the Senate floor, Moores described himself as a freedom-loving Republican, but he said he was disgusted at the behavior of people who participated in a recent killing competition. They dumped the carcasses into a trailer and “drove them around town sticking it in people’s eyes,” Moores said.

On the other side, Sen. Gregg Fulfer, R-Jal, described in graphic detail how coyotes attack and kill other animals, including livestock. It isn’t right, he said, to force every part of the state to abide by one law for coyotes.

“It won’t work for my area,” he said of the proposal. “Think about how these bills are changing New Mexico’s culture.”

Coyote-killing contests are already banned on state trust land, under an executive order issued last month by newly elected State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, a Democrat. But the order doesn’t cover other public land or private property.

Supporters of the Senate legislation say 20 to 30 coyote-killing contests are sponsored each year in New Mexico. Participants use devices to “call” coyotes to lure them into range.

Under the bill, it would be a misdemeanor to organize a contest and a petty misdemeanor to participate.

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