LAS CRUCES – A Republican state senator and Democratic representative say they plan to co-sponsor legislation to ban coyote-killing contests in New Mexico.
Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, and Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, say they hope their bipartisan bill has a better chance of passing during the coming legislative session after a similar Democratic-sponsored bill failed to pass the House in 2013.
“This bill would make it illegal to conduct coyote-hunting contests,” Moores said. “It would still give everyone the ability to protect their property and hunt coyotes but not turn it into a blood sport.”
House Bill 316 to ban coyote-killing contests failed to pass the House in 2013 on a 38-30 vote.
The new bill is “very narrow,” Steinborn said, noting that it only bans coyote-killing contests. Organizing such a contest would be a misdemeanor, while participating would be a petty misdemeanor.
Coyote hunting and killing coyotes to protect property would remain legal. The bill also doesn’t prohibit killing contests of other unprotected species.
“This legislation preserves all management tools for the livestock sector and everything else,” he said.
Steinborn attributed the 2013 bill’s failure to opposition from ranchers and “misinformation” about what the legislation would do. He said he believes that “bipartisan sponsorship sends a good message in a divided Legislature.”
The discovery of nearly 40 coyote carcasses dumped in the desert outside Las Cruces following a coyote-killing contest has brought the issue to the forefront.
California became the first state to ban such killing contests last month.
Wildlife advocates say there were at least 20 coyote-killing derbies in New Mexico last year but note that number may be understated because many are not advertised. Such contests award prize money for the most coyotes killed or the biggest killed.
Ruben Olivas of New Mexico Desert Dogs, which hosts coyote-killing contests around Las Cruces, defends the derbies. He said a “private party” dumped the nearly 40 dead coyotes killed during one of his group’s contests and called the act “a shame.”
“We pride ourselves as being as respectful to the game as possible,” he said.
Other sportsmen have decried the contests as “blood sport.”
“It’s just an inhumane and unnecessary activity that reflects poorly on our state and doesn’t represent real sportsmen’s ethics,” Steinborn said.