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Coyote hunt contest ban measure dies in House

SANTA FE — A bill that would have prohibited coyote hunting contests in New Mexico was shot down Tuesday, leaving the door open for more of the animal killing competitions that have sparked recent public outcries.

House members voted 38-30 to reject the measure, with eight Democrats voting against the bill. Just one Republican, Rep. Paul Pacheco of Albuquerque, voted in support of the legislation, while other GOP House members voted in opposition.

Critics of the organized coyote hunting contests described them as “distasteful” and “immoral” during Tuesday’s debate, which lasted more than two hours.

Rep. Nate Cote, D-Organ, the bill’s sponsor, said after the vote that a well-organized campaign had been waged against the bill.

“There was a lot of misinformation,” said Cote, who said he wasn’t sure whether he would bring the legislation back next year.

He also said the legality of coyote hunting contests sends the “wrong message” to New Mexico children.

However, opponents said it could have infringed on private property rights, while hurting the ability of ranchers to protect their livestock.

“What happens on my private land is my business,” said GOP Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, a Roswell rancher who acknowledged killing coyotes to protect her livestock and questioned whether paying others to shoot the animals would have qualified as a “contest.”

The bill brought to the Legislature came about after recent coyote hunting contests drew international attention to New Mexico.

A November 2012 coyote hunting contest sponsored by a Los Lunas gun shop generated an outcry, with animal rights advocates protesting the event and tens of thousands of people signing an online petition calling for it to be canceled.

More recently, a similar hunting contest held last weekend was sponsored by a Roswell gun store. The prize for the winning team was an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

Cote and other backers of the legislation argued repeatedly Tuesday that the proposal was not intended to make life difficult for ranchers, as it would not have barred individuals from shooting coyotes to protect themselves or their property.

“There is nothing in here that threatens anyone’s way of life, except when people engage in activities that are distasteful and immoral,” said Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.

In addition, some supporters compared the effort to ban coyote killing contests to the state’s handling — and eventual banning — of cockfighting.

Unlike a previous version of the bill that targeted animal-killing contests, the legislation defeated Tuesday would have applied only to coyotes.

House Bill 316 would have made it a misdemeanor offense to organize, sponsor or participate in a coyote hunting contest. Such contests would have been defined as competitions in which coyotes are killed for prizes or entertainment.
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal