By Deborah Baker / Journal Staff Writer
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 Committee, 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.
This article was published in the Albuquerque Journal on February 28, 2015.
The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision-makers. Tips and talking points for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.
- Carnivores have an important, valuable role to play in ecosystem health-the trapping and slaughter of wolves and coyotes does a disservice to us all and is counterproductive for our wildlands. The committee acted wrongly in killing the proposed bans on coyote killing contests and public lands trapping.
- Predator killing contests should be banned-indiscriminate killing for fun does not represent the values of the majority of Southwest residents.
- Trapping should also be banned. It kills or harms animals cruelly and indiscriminately, placing endangered species, pets, and people in danger on public lands. Multiple endangered wolves have had to have legs amputated due to trapping injuries, and many, many pets have been injured or killed in traps.
- The illegal killing of endangered wolves is too often accompanied by the claim that the shooter thought the animal was a coyote. This was the case recently when an endangered gray wolf in Utah was killed.
- Treating coyotes as varmints that should be killed on site is hampering wolf recovery. The coyotes and endangered wolves deserve better.
- Allowing the senseless slaughter of large numbers of wild carnivores is scientifically, ethically and morally indefensible and promotes disrespect for life and nature.
- Science has shown that mass slaughter of coyotes or wolves is counter-productive for protecting livestock. It tends to result in more livestock losses, rather than fewer.
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for publishing the article.
- Do not repeat any negative messages from the article. Remember that those reading your letter will not be looking at the article it responds to, so this is an opportunity to get out positive messages about carnivores and why killing contests and traps should be banned rather than to argue with the original article.
- Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.
- Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.”
- Provide your name, address, phone number and address. The paper won’t publish these, but they want to know you are who you say you are.
- Submit your letter here.