Posted at: 02/19/2013 6:02 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
A continuing controversy over a story KOB Eyewitness News 4 broke last November has inspired some state lawmakers to try to outlaw competitive coyote hunts that offer prizes for the hunters that kill the most coyotes.
It started with a coyote hunt that a Los Lunas gun store sponsored, offering a first prize of two AR-15 assault-style semiautomatic rifles. As it turned out, the hunt didn't result in the killing of many coyotes, but it did generate news stories and public opinion pro and con across the nation.
Rep. Nate Cote, a Las Cruces Democrat, got the message - at least from one side. He sponsored a bill that would outlaw such contests.
"The publicity on the coyote killing contest became the issue," Cote said. "That's where the public outcry is."
Cote changed his original bill so that it applies only to coyote hunts - not to the hunting of any other animals.
Many hunters already feel their rights are being trampled on, and many of them wouldn't even dream of taking part in a coyote contest. But the legislature is packed with rural New Mexicans who hunt, like Sen. George Munoz of Gallup.
"We have kids and puppies and cats, barn cats, out at our place," Munoz said. "The number one prey for coyotes is cats. It's sad to say, but if you try to raise a cat in rural New Mexico it's probably going to end up as a coyote's lunch."
Munoz, a Democrat, says ranchers need to shoot coyotes that sometimes prey on sheep and cattle. Cote says his bill wouldn't stop that - it would just stop the contest hunts.
"It's like live target practicing," Cote said. "It's a blood sport. We're sending the wrong message to our children."
The bill faces a crucial hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.