The state Senate voted Friday to ban coyote-killing contests, a proposal with bipartisan backing that opponents said underscored the gulf between rural and urban New Mexico.
The legislation, which would make it a misdemeanor to organize or take part in coyote-killing contests, passed 27-13 and headed to the House.
Similar legislation was rejected in the House two years ago.
There has been renewed focus on the issue since the grisly discovery recently of nearly 40 coyote carcasses dumped in the desert outside Las Cruces.
“It’s really not the kind of image we want our state to have,” said Sen. Mark Moores, an Albuquerque Republican sponsoring Senate Bill 253.
He said the contests amount to “blood sports … killing things for the sake of killing things.”
Typically, he said, they are organized by gun shops and award prizes to those who can kill the most coyotes in a set time period.
Making them illegal would deter gun shop owners from organizing the contests, because they’re diligent about following the law, he said.
More than 20 coyote-killing contests were held in the state during a recent two-year period, according to the bill’s proponents.
The legislation wouldn’t prevent ranchers or farmers from killing coyotes that prey on their livestock.
The bill’s opponents said the ban doesn’t make sense and is an affront to the culture of rural residents. The contests are more humane than trapping, they argued, and sometimes are organized as fundraisers for good causes.
“There is a culture difference between the urban and rural on this particular issue,” said Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview.
Opponents said the contests help curb the coyote population – a premise that is disputed by the bill’s supporters. Those supporters say research shows disrupting the coyotes’ social structure actually causes increased breeding and a population increase.
Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, objected that the legislation was more about “the urban blood sport of killing rural industries.”
And Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, called it “another piece of legislation that sends a message but … is not going to be enforced.”