Under Fire: Public, elected officials respond passionately to coyote-killing contest

Coyote Killing Protest photo by Karen Hackney

By Mary Katherine Ray, Chapter Wildlife Chair

Coyotes, our native wild song dogs, are the most persecuted animal in New Mexico. They can be shot on sight, trapped or poisoned all year long in unlimited numbers. And now we know that shooters compete with each other in organized events to see who can kill the most in a weekend to win a prize.

In November, a gun store in Los Lunas sponsored just such a contest, sparking outrage both in and outside of New Mexico. Petitions were gathered, a Facebook page garnered 1,000 “likes” in mere days, and a protest was staged at the store location. There was TV coverage, front-page newspaper stories, letters to the editor and eloquent and heartfelt editorials that all expressed deep opposition to this violence senselessly perpetrated on coyotes. In response to an e-mail alert to our members, more of you sent messages to the governor asking her to denounce this activity than almost any other alert our chapter has posted.

Coyotes are carnivores, and as such perform a very important role in keeping prey animals like rabbits and rodents in check. They also eat insects and juniper berries in large quantities if available. Sometimes, if the opportunity presents itself, they may eat livestock. But the National Agricultural Statistics Survey conducted by the USDA in which livestock owners report how many of their animals unintentionally died and from which causes found that coyotes account for only a small percentage of losses, dwarfed by other causes such as respiratory illness, birthing problems and eating poisonous plants. Even so, killing coyotes at random is not a way to reduce predation on livestock. Coyotes are so resilient as a species, others will quickly replace the ones that are killed. And the ones that are killed may never have preyed on livestock. Killing them like this serves no purpose other than feeding the ego and bloodlust of the shooters.

However, it turns out that the public land agencies, Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, require that before a commercial or competitive activity can take place on federal public land, a permit must be secured. A public comment period is required, and the decision once made can be appealed. A permit can take months to be approved. Both agencies wrote the gun store prior to the contest, forbidding participants from using federal public land without a permit.

Then our state land commissioner, Ray Powell, also told the gun store that the killers could not use State Trust land without a permit either. He went on to say, “The use of non-specific, indiscriminant killing methods, such as unrestricted coyote-killing contests, are not about hunting or sound land management. These contests are about personal profit, animal cruelty, and the severe disruption of our healthy lands.”

While the contest did take place, participants were required to sign a pledge that they would not kill coyotes on federal or state land. Coyotes still died, but the gun store did not disclose how many or where they were killed. Commissioner Powell ended his letter with this: “It is time to outlaw this highly destructive activity.” We agree! Coyote-killing contests should not be legal anywhere in New Mexico.

To help in the legislative session that starts in January on this and other wildlife issues, please send an email to mkrscrim@gmail.com so we can let you know when your representatives need to hear from you.

Special thanks to volunteer activists Lisa and Guy Dicharry of Los Lunas, who continue to stand in opposition to coyote contests throughout New Mexico, Sue Mally of Santa Fe Walkabout tours, who made the connection that these contests require a commercial permit from the land agencies, Sara Cobb in Sen. Tom Udall’s office, who facilitated communication with the Forest Service and BLM, our own Teresa Seamster, and our allies at Animal Protection of New Mexico and WildEarth Guardians, who all contributed to what will surely be the beginning of the end of killing contests in New Mexico.