SANTA FE – A renewed attempt to ban coyote-killing contests in New Mexico cleared its first Senate committee on Thursday, despite vociferous opposition from ranchers.
The proposal, Senate Bill 268, was touted by supporters who described coyote-killing contests as an immoral and “barbaric” blood sport. They described the aftermath of a 2014 contest in which nearly 40 coyote carcasses were dumped in the desert outskirts of Las Cruces.
“We got rid of dogfighting, we got rid of cockfighting, and it’s definitely time to get rid of this,” said Kathy McCoy, a former state representative from Sandia Park.
But critics of the legislation, which would make organizing a coyote-killing contest a misdemeanor offense and participating in one a petty misdemeanor, called the derbies a legitimate tool to control coyote populations.
Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, told the story of one eastern New Mexico rancher who recently lost 200 lambs to coyotes.
“It’s an ‘Eat or be eaten’ world,” Woods said.
Another opponent of the bill was more blunt, saying, “A dead coyote doesn’t eat.”
The strong feelings on both sides of the issue were reflected in attendance, as supporters and critics filled a Roundhouse committee room to capacity. A separate committee room, with live webcasting of the hearing, was set up to accommodate those who weren’t allowed in.
After about an hour of debate, the measure passed the Senate Conservation Committee on a 6-3 vote. It would still have to clear two more Senate committees before reaching the full Senate.
Wildlife advocates say dozens of coyote-killing derbies have been organized around New Mexico in recent years. Such contests typically award prize money for the most coyotes killed or the biggest coyote killed. Participants often use calling devices to lure coyotes into range.
This year’s legislation is not the first attempt to prohibit coyote-killing bills. A similar proposal passed the Senate in 2015 but stalled in the House.
Unlike some other issues at the state Capitol, votes on banning coyote-killing contests typically break down along urban-rural lines, instead of political party lines.
The three senators casting “no” votes Thursday on the measure included one Democrat – Richard Martinez of Española – and two Republicans, Sens. Ron Griggs of Alamogordo and Pat Woods.
The bill is sponsored by Sens. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque. It now advances to the Senate Judiciary Committee.