New Mexico’s state land commissioner banned organized animal-killing contests on state lands on Thursday, calling coyote derbies a “brutal, barbaric, inhumane practice.”
“This executive order is not to say that the New Mexico land office doesn’t support hunters — hunters who hunt ethically,” Stephanie Garcia Richard, the newly-elected Democratic land commissioner, said at the order signing.
On nine million acres in the state, “all organized killing contests” involving unprotected species, such as coyotes, are now barred by the executive order. Thursday’s ban is Garcia Richard’s first executive order in office.
“If you want to hold a contest to see who can accumulate the most coyote carcases … from today forward, you won’t be able to do that on state trust land,” Garcia Richard said.
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Garcia Richard said the order isn’t intended to go after the 3,000 ranchers who lease state land, and who might kill coyotes that pose a threat to their livestock.
“That’s not what today is about,” Garcia Richard said.
Coyote-killing contests are under fire from New Mexico and Arizona to Wisconsin and Montana, as wildlife advocates push to ban them and proponents argue they’re an important tool for farmers and ranchers who want to keep large coyote populations at bay.
“Local ranchers have had a severe problem with coyotes, and calving season is coming up,” said Lindsay Boyce, who organized a coyote derby in Big Sandy, Montana, that came under fire last year, the Great Falls Tribune reports. “So we put together this contest to help farmers and ranchers, as well as a fundraiser.”
California banned coyote-killing contests that offer prizes in 2014, the Associated Press reported. But wildlife-killing contests remain lawful in the rest of the country, according to the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Opponents of coyote-killing contests, including the Sierra Club and other environmental and wildlife groups, were on hand for Thursday’s order signing in New Mexico.
Not everyone in New Mexico was happy to see coyote killing contests barred on so many acres of land, however.
“We are disappointed that a tool in protecting wildlife and livestock has been removed,” New Mexico’s Cattle Growers Association said in a Tweet.
The state is still working out how it will punish those who violate the executive order.
“I’m sure that we will probably return to the way that it was enforced in past times when this ban did occur on state trust lands,” Garcia Richard said. “Whenever there’s a reported case, that will be investigated and the appropriate penalties will be assessed at that time.”
Garcia Richard said the penalties will be “up to the land office.” She also said that, anecdotally, there have been “many instances” of the practice happening on state lands.
Wildlife groups argue that each year as many as 30 “coyote-killing derbies” are held in the state, offering prizes to hunters who kill the most animals or the biggest ones, the Albuquerque Journal reports.
“These are not hunting contests,” Garcia Richard said in a statement. “They are animal cruelty contests.”