New Mexico Bans Coyote-Killing Contests
SANTA FE — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed bipartisan legislation Tuesday that prohibits organizing, sponsoring or participating in coyote-killing contests in the state.
Several conservation organizations praised the governor for signing the progressive, science-based legislation into law.
During these contests, participants compete to kill the greatest number, the largest or even the smallest coyotes for entertainment and prizes. At least 30 such contests are known to take place annually in New Mexico.
The bill, SB 76, was spearheaded by Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque) and Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces). The bill was carried on the House floor by Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo).
“Killing contests are just blood sports. All they are about is killing as many animals as you can, and not about protecting livestock or property,” Sen. Moores said. “No one is trying to restrict landowners’ ability to kill offending coyotes, but celebrating mass killing is just not good wildlife management.”
“With the signing of this bill, New Mexico is sending a powerful message that we value our wildlife and humane treatment of them,” Sen. Steinborn said.
“This victory has been nearly two decades in the making, the culmination of a homegrown campaign waged by thousands of dedicated New Mexicans appalled that these gruesome blood sports are hosted in our state,” said Jessica Johnson, chief legislative officer for Animal Protection Voters. “Today, we as a state are taking a giant step toward thoughtful, humane wildlife management and basic human decency.”
“This law makes New Mexico a leader in following sound science in its treatment of wild carnivores,” said Michael Robinson, senior conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We celebrate for coyotes, for endangered wolves that might have been mistakenly killed and for our children learning that humane values are New Mexico values.
“There is no documented scientific evidence that coyote killing contests serve any legitimate wildlife management purpose,” said Albuquerque-based Project Coyote science advisory board member Dave Parsons, a retired career wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We applaud Gov. Lujan Grisham for taking a strong stance against these ethically and ecologically indefensible events.”
“Coyotes as a species don’t deserve to be vilified. They are important ecosystem managers that regulate populations of rodents and rabbits which are significant competitors for forage with other native herbivores and even livestock,” said Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter and long-time resident of rural Socorro county. “The random mass killing of coyotes that occurs with killing competitions is like targeting every cocker spaniel, a similarly sized canine, for death because one may have behaved problematically. The governor was right to sign the bill to stop this.”
“This is a huge victory for New Mexico’s wildlife and New Mexicans,” said Amanda Munro, communications director for the Southwest Environmental Center. “Our wildlife deserves management that reflects broad public opinion, respects all wildlife, and is informed by modern ecological understanding about the value of all species. This bill takes New Mexico a giant step in that direction.”
“These contests are abhorrent and unjustifiable — they are neither hunting nor wildlife management,” said Christopher Smith, southern Rockies wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Banning this activity is a step towards science-based and ethical wildlife management and we are grateful to the bill’s sponsors and supporters and the governor.”
In January, New Mexico State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard signed an executive order prohibiting wildlife killing contests for unprotected species on State Trust Lands. California banned the awarding of prizes for killing furbearer and nongame species in 2014, and Vermont banned coyote killing contests in 2018. Cities and counties in Arizona, New Mexico, and Wisconsin have passed resolutions condemning wildlife killing contests.
Wildlife-killing contests occur throughout the United States. The best available science indicates that indiscriminately killing coyotes disrupts pack social structures, which can lead to increased depredation and compensatory breeding.