February 27, 2015

Coyote killing contest ban fails in House committee

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Courtesy of Larry Lamsa Via Flickr

Two bills that would ban certain types of hunting and trapping were tabled in a House committee Friday morning. One bill aimed to eliminate coyote hunting contests and the other would have banned trapping animals on public land.

Courtesy of Larry Lamsa Via Flickr

Courtesy of Larry Lamsa Via Flickr

The House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife committee voted 8 to 2 to table both HB 426 and SB 253. The only dissenting votes on both pieces of legislation came from Reps. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, and Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, D-Rancho De Taos.

SB 253, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, aimed to stop coyote hunting contests.

Those in favor of the bill said coyote hunting contests are inhumane and unnecessary. Those opposed to the bill, mostly farmers and ranchers, said the contests are simply a way to thin the predator population with an incentive.

Steinborn and Moores both stressed to the committee members that the bill would not prevent farmers and ranchers from killing coyotes as a way to protect livestock. Instead, Steinborn said, it would ban the use of prizes for what he called “odd categories.” He told the group that often contests will award prizes for smallest, youngest or biggest.

HB 426, sponsored by Gonzales would ban the use of lethal traps on public land. According to the bill it would not ban “the use of non-body-gripping traps for the lawful taking of wildlife to abate damages caused to property, crops or livestock.”

After more than two hours of public comment, the panel debated the bill.

Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, who is a rancher by trade, said he thinks trappers and hunters alike provide a service by maintaining the population predators. He said there needs to be a certain balance in the wild.

“I think the trappers help keep that balance,” Bandy said.

McCamley voiced his concern for traps hurting people or pets, a common sentiment from some audience members.

“This is not hunting. These things are placed there and they are indiscriminate,” he told the committee.

Committee Chair Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, also a rancher, shared her concerns for the agriculture industry and their ability to protect their property. She told the committee that ranchers and farmers need to be able to provide goods for the state.

“We [ranchers] are not only making a living, we are also taking care of the wildlife,” Ezzell said.

Coyote killing contests have long been a controversial topic in New Mexico. Some new outlets have published pictures or piles of coyote carcasses left behind after some contests. Many hunters and ranchers have argued that coyotes are dangerous to livestock and other animals.

The full House defeated a bill to ban coyote-killing contests in 2013 on a 38-30 vote.

Activists have vowed to continue to push for the legislation.

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