Coyote bill worries area ranchers, farmers


February 3, 2019

Some farmers and ranchers in eastern New Mexico are concerned about a bill being considered in the Legislature which would prohibit coyote killing contests, citing the effect on the coyote population and thus their businesses.

Opponents to Senate Bill 76 say coyote contests, generally multi-day events designed to kill large numbers of coyotes by offering rewards or prizes, are a necessary method to control the population of the predatory animal.

Farmer and rancher Eva Woods, wife of Sen. Pat Woods (R-Broadview), told The News she felt the state’s ag producers’ voices were not being heard in Santa Fe regarding the threat coyotes pose to livestock’s, and thus their owners’, livelihood.

“We don’t have the rabbits that we used to have, so they’re needing to go find food somewhere else and the ones that are hanging around, they are very aggresive with our baby calves and they will try to catch them and kill them as soon as they hit the ground,” Eva Woods said.

Critics of the contests point to the ethical implications of the mass killing of coyotes, as well as ecological concerns.

Jessica Johnson, the chief legislative officer for Animal Protection Voters, A New Mexico-based animal rights organization, said some scientists have put forward a theory called “compensatory breeding” which says that when a coyote pack is broken up by humans, the animals experience a biological reaction where they actually breed more pups in order to combat the perceived threat.

“Humans have been trying to exterminate (coyotes) in North America for over a century and their populations have only increased and their territory has only spread,” Johnson said. “That for a lot of us and for scientists is a good sign that mass killing indiscriminantly doesn’t work and so it’s not the answer.”

She said another concern is the optics of the coyote contests to potential visitors to the Land of Enchantment.

“A couple years ago some outdoor recreationists outside of Las Cruces stumbled upon a pile of dead coyote carcasses that had been left out there after a contest,” she said. “That got some media attention and the overwhelming response was this isn’t what New Mexico is about, this doesn’t fit with our image and culture of beautiful surroundings, outdoor recreation and wanting to invite tourists to come visit New Mexico.”

Last month state Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard outlawed the contests on New Mexico state trust land, referring to them as a “blood sport,” according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Eva Woods said the impact the coyotes are having on livestock is equally bloody.

“People haven’t seen what the coyotes do to the sheep and livestock out in the field, talk about a bloody sport,” Eva Woods said. “They need to come see the aftermath of coyotes attacking sheep and baby calves, that’s not a pretty sight either.”

Lee Griggs, a farmer and rancher in House, told The News that in years past he had as much as 700 sheep but was forced to give them up after losing up to 10 lambs a day to predators.

From the end of September 2016 to March 2017, Griggs said he stopped counting after trapping and killing 200 coyotes.

“I don’t think people really realize how when predation gets so thick, the impact that it has on ranchers,” Griggs said.

While similar bills have gone before the Legislature in previous years, Pat Woods said with the House of Representatives becoming more and more progressive following November’s election there is a good chance the bill will pass this time around.

He said the issue comes down to people living in two different worlds, rurual and urban.

“(SB 76 co-sponsor Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces) claims that there’s not any predator calling contest that’s directly benefiting a problem a rancher has. I contend that any of these we eliminate have got to help,” Pat Woods said.

Ultimately, Eva Woods said she does not want to make coyotes coyotes extinct but some balance needs to be found.

“There’s room for everybody if we control the population,” she said.


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