Organizer says animal activists are misguided in their opposition
Gun-store owner Mark Chavez says his right to sponsor a mass coyote hunt trumps complaints from any group accusing him of animal cruelty.
Chavez is charging two-member teams a $50 entry free for the hunt, scheduled for Nov. 17-18. Whoever kills the most coyotes during that weekend will win a shotgun or semiautomatic rifle from his store, Gunhawk Firearms in Los Lunas.
Two conservation groups, the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians, on Monday accused Chavez of being unethical for encouraging indiscriminate killing of coyotes.
“Mindless, random, body-count killing contests benefit neither nature nor livestock owners. They serve only to feed human bloodlust and ego,” said Mary Katherine Ray of the Sierra Club.
Wendy Keefover, director of carnivore protection for WildEarth Guardians, said ethical hunting involves a fair chase. The purpose of the Gunhawk event is to use animals as live targets, she said.
Keefover also said the hunt would be of no value to farmers and ranchers, given the resiliency of coyotes. Despite the war on coyotes since the 1850s, she said, their range has expanded.
“They now roam east of the Missouri River, north into Canada and south to Central America — even as they face a constant barrage of poisons, guns, traps and aerial shooters,” she said.
Chavez, 50, said in an interview that the animal advocates actually made his case for the ethics of his event.
“Coyotes are pretty hard to hunt. They’re highly intelligent animals,” he said.
But his larger point, he said, is that organizing such a hunt is his right, and that it should be respected.
“This is perfectly legal,” Chavez said. “If somebody’s issue is that it is slaughter, they should take it up with Game and Fish. They won’t get anywhere because it isn’t.”
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish allows hunting of coyotes every day of the year, knowing they are plentiful, Chavez said.
A hunter since age 5, Chavez said coyotes in New Mexico actually have shrunk the deer population by preying on fawns.
Hunters from Arizona and Texas have inquired about the coyote contest and a number want to take part in it, Chavez said.
“A lot of these animal activists don’t understand hunters,” Chavez said.