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Ban on coyote-killing contests dies

Supporters of a ban on coyote-killing contests had their hopes for this legislative session dashed on Friday when a House committee axed the proposal.

The legislation, which had passed the state Senate 27-13 two weeks earlier, was derailed by the House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committtee, which tabled it on a vote of 8-2.

The same committee, by the same vote, also killed a proposal to ban trapping and poisoning on public lands after hearing nearly three hours of testimony.

Supporters of the ban on coyote-killing contests likened it to previous successful efforts to ban cockfighting and dogfighting, and said the failure of Senate Bill 253 “only delays the inevitable.”

“All the hunters I know, myself included, are appalled by these activities,” Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center, told the committee. He was involved in the recent discovery of the carcasses of 39 coyotes dumped in the desert near Las Cruces.

The contests typically award prizes to those who kill the most animals in a certain time period.

Ranchers and others told the committee the contests are less expensive than hiring professionals to curb the population of coyotes on large ranches.

“Coyote contests are the most effective means of large-scale predator management,” said Kerrie Romero of the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides.

Ranchers also complained it was wrong to tell them they couldn’t hold contests on their private property.

Supporters of the ban said rounding up a group of people to kill coyotes would be legal under the legislation, as long as prizes weren’t awarded.

House Bill 426, restricting the use of traps and poison on public lands, was supported by a series of speakers who said traps are a danger to people, their dogs and wildlife that inadvertently end up in them.

“You can’t un-hear the sound of iron on bone,” said John Otis, a hunting guide from Santa Fe whose dog was caught in a trap as they walked 20 yards off a road in Rio Arriba County.

Collin Wolff, a veterinarian and small-animal surgeon, said that just two weeks ago he amputated the leg of a small dog caught in a trap.

Opponents said the legislation wouldn’t solve the problem of illegal trapping that may have caused such incidents, and that trapping was important to predator control.

“We need these tools desperately to be able to survive in the ranching industry,” said Debbie Hughes of Hughes Brothers Ranch near Carlsbad.

Romero, of the outfitters’ and guides’ council, said supporters of the trapping ban were “overly emotional and idealistic.”

Other opponents of the trapping ban included State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn and the Department of Game and Fish.