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Senate committee votes 6-3 to endorse coyote-killing contest ban

A bipartisan bill that would outlaw coyote-killing contests in New Mexico took a step forward today, although opponents said the measure would allow for infringement on private property rights.

The Senate Conservation Committee voted 6-3 in favor of the proposed ban, with backers calling coyote-killing contests an immoral “blood sport” that sully the state’s image.

“This has nothing to do with hunting; it has nothing to do with sporting. It’s killing for fun,” said former Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, one of dozens of people who showed up at the Capitol on Tuesday to testify in support of the bill.

However, opponents of the legislation raised questions about enforcing the proposed ban and said it could lead to other sporting competitions — like bass fishing contests —being outlawed.

“These coyote-calling contests are a management tool,” said Phil Bidegain, a rancher from eastern New Mexico. “I think God did give us dominion over the animals.”

Coyote-killing contests are in the cross hairs of lawmakers after the recent discovery of nearly 40 coyote carcasses in the desert outside Las Cruces after such a contest sparked renewed interest in the issue. A 2013 attempt to ban such contests was killed on the House floor.

Under this year’s bill, Senate Bill 253, coyote hunting and killing coyotes to protect property would remain legal. The bill also would not prohibit killing contests of other unprotected species. Organizing or participating in a coyote-killing contests would become a misdemeanor.

The bill is cosponsored by Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, and Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces.