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Calling all coyotes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — ‘Coyotes have the gift of seldom being seen; they keep to the edge of vision and beyond, loping in and out of cover on the plains and highlands. And at night, when the whole world belongs to them, they parley at the river with the dogs, their higher, sharper voices full of authority and rebuke. They are an old council of clowns, and they are listened to.”

That’s a quote from N. Scott Momaday in “House Made of Dawn.”

“The cayote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry. He is always poor, out of luck and friendless. The meanest creatures despise him and even the flea would desert him for a velocipede.”

That’s from Mark Twain in “Roughing It.”

“The first time you actually call in and shoot your first coyote you will experience a rush of adrenaline and feeling of accomplishment never felt before. When this happens beware, the likelihood of a lifetime of addiction to coyote hunting and coyote calling is extremely high!”

And that’s from Todd “Dogbreath” Sullivan, owner of Dogbreath, the Michigan company that sells mechanical coyote calls, and also provides free to novices a book called “Whack ’em and Stack ’em: The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Coyotes.”

Late last fall, coyotes were all the rage – literally – in New Mexico.

After a shooting range in Albuquerque decided to sponsor a coyote killing contest, then dropped the idea when protesters turned up the volume, a gun store in Los Lunas stepped in to carry it out: A $50 entry fee, a weekend of hunting and two AR-15s going to the team that brought in the most dead coyotes.

Protesters took to petitions, Facebook and the street, the state land commissioner declared state trust land off-limits to the hunters, the FBI came in to investigate death threats against the hunt’s sponsor and the story ricocheted around the globe.

When it was over, 39 coyotes had been killed and a whole lot of people who had never heard of killing contests or the increasingly popular sport of coyote calling now had it on their radar.

“It is unlawful for a person to organize, cause, sponsor, arrange, hold or participate in a coyote-killing contest.”

That’s from House Bill 316, a proposal from Democratic Rep. Nate Cote of Organ that would have ended the popular practice of charging entry fees and offering prizes for bringing in the most dead coyotes in organized hunting contests.

The bill originally applied to all animal-killing contests, but it came out of the House Judiciary Committee narrowed down to apply only to coyotes. It was shot down on the House floor Tuesday on a vote of 30-38. “What happens on my private land is my business,” said Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, a Republican Roswell rancher.

“For one reason or another, humans and coyotes have been at odds with one another. Coyotes have been systematically hunted and decried as ‘varmints.’ Despite ranchers’ claims that coyotes kill domestic livestock, deer, and antelope, these blanket statements frequently prove false under closer scrutiny. In the long run, simply leaving coyotes alone may be a more effective way of allowing their numbers to reach a natural balance.”

That’s from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish “Wildlife Notes.” Although coyotes will kill large animals, including livestock and deer, that is not the staple of their diets. If you’ve ever paused on a hiking trail to examine the scat of a coyote that is traveling the same path, you know that the coyote takes what it can get: berries, cactus fruit, jackrabbits, voles and mice. And in urban areas, cats and dogs.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, coyotes killed approximately 116,700 cattle and calves nationwide in 2010. That was a little under 3 percent of the total cattle and calf losses. In New Mexico, that amounts to somewhere around 5,200 cattle and calves

For sheep and lambs, coyotes are a much greater threat. Coyotes are estimated to be responsible for about a third of the sheep and lamb deaths, or about 5,200 sheep and lambs a year.

There are an estimated 300,000 coyotes in New Mexico, so do the math: Coyotes are not living on livestock.

That doesn’t mean that when one reaches into your pocketbook and takes a calf or lamb that it doesn’t sting. But the point of Cote’s bill wasn’t to give those lamb- and calf-killing coyotes a free pass or to hurt the livestock industry. After all, in New Mexico coyotes are classified along with rabbits, skunks and squirrels as nongame species and may be killed without a hunting license. The law would have given ranchers a clear shot to protect their livestock from coyotes. Rep. Ezzell could have spent her eternity picking off coyotes on her ranch or hiring some gun-packing cowboys to do the dirty work for her.

It also wouldn’t have put a dent in the increasingly popular sport of coyote calling. Anyone with a call and a rifle could set up and get that “rush of adrenaline and feeling of accomplishment” Dogbreath advertises. If Ezzell wanted to invite them to call and kill on her ranch, she could have done that too – only without entry fees and prizes.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.
Calling all coyotesSee COYOTE on PAGE A4from PAGE A4Coyote hunting doesn’t need to come with fees and prizesjournal fileA coyote jumps into the bushes along Lopez Street in Santa Fe. A bill to end coyote-hunting contests was killed in the House on Tuesday.Web HeadlinePhoto CreditPhoto CreditInfoHeadInfoBody statrtsPhoto CreditDeck starts here

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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