House of Representatives could hear bill as soon as Friday
A bill that would outlaw coyote-killing contests could be voted on as soon as Friday by the New Mexico House of Representatives.
Rep. Nate Cote, D-Organ, streamlined the original version, and his revised bill cleared the Judiciary Committee 9-6 late Wednesday.
Republican Rep. Terry McMillan, a surgeon from Las Cruces, joined the committee’s Democrats in voting to advance the bill to the full 70-member House.
Cote, right, himself a hunter, originally proposed to ban commercialized animal-killing contests where prizes were awarded to those with the most kills. This brought opposition from kennel clubs that hunt birds, so Cote edited the bill to focus only on coyote contests.
Cote said one such contest last November caused a public outcry and made New Mexico appear to be a place that advocated coyote bloodbaths for entertainment.
Under his bill, Cote said, ranchers, homeowners and hunters would be free to kill coyotes at any time and in any number. But it would ban killing contests such as the one last year that was sponsored by a Valencia County gun store.
“I am embarrassed as a sportsman that these things take place,” Cote said.
Opponents of his bill testified for 20 minutes Wednesday night. They included the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides, wool growers, cattle growers and Jim Lane, director of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department.
Lane said killing contests run by others were a management tool for his department. Lane said Cote’s bill would erode the authority of his department.
Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, helped Cote rewrite the bill to allow state game commissioners to organize coyote killing if it's needed to reduce populations. But in the end, Gentry still voted against the bill.
During committee testimony, Cote’s bill received more praise than criticism.
David Parsons, a wildlife biologist from Albuquerque, said killing contests actually could lead to increased coyote breeding by disrupting the social order of packs. Not as many females breed in a stable coyote population, he said.
“Killing for fun and prizes is morally bankrupt,” Parsons said.
Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, said one of his late cousins was a renowned coyote hunter who killed the animals for their pelts. But never, Garcia said, did his relative kill pups or aged or sick coyotes.
Garcia said killing contests were wrong, and he voted to advance Cote’s bill.
Even stronger words came from Rep. Antonio Maestas, D-Albuquerque. He said “98 percent of the people in the world believe coyote-killing contests are appalling. This really puts New Mexico in a bad light for tourism.”
An attorney, Maestas helped recast the bill to remove fines that could have gone as high as $2,500.
Under the new version, those who organize a coyote-killing contest would be subject to a misdemeanor conviction. Participants in the contest would face a petty misdemeanor.
Cote said he was pleased with the compromise version, but bracing for a tough floor fight.
“It’s going to be a close vote,” he said.
If the bill survives, it would move to the state Senate for further consideration.