- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A New Mexico Senate panel approved a measure Tuesday that bans coyote-hunting competitions, which have attracted national attention to the state.

After a two-hour, emotional debate, the Senate Conservation Committee voted 6-3 to outlaw coyote-killing contests after a number of recent competitions generated anger from animal rights advocates and support from some hunting groups.

The bipartisan measure would make the contests illegal in the state but not prevent landowners from hunting the predators on their property. The bill would not outlaw hunting contests of other unprotected species.

The vote came after a packed room of supporters and opponents of the bill gave personal stories of growing up in rural New Mexico and how coyotes played a role in their upbringing.

Peggy Lynch-Hill, a teacher who lives in Corrales, said the contests were sending mixed messages to children because the hunts were without purpose other than for thrill.

“We tell them senseless coyote killings are OK,” Lynch-Hill said. “But we tell them bullying is not.”

Other animal rights echoed the same concerns and warned that the high-profile contests were damaging the state’s reputation.

Still, some hunters and ranchers said the proposal was encroaching on property rights.

“It prohibits landowners like myself to have a contest,” said David Sanchez, vice president of the Northern New Mexico Stockmen’s Association. “I’d like to have a contest on my ranch.”

Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, warned that the ban could lead to prohibitions on other gaming contests like bighorn sheep hunts.

In October, a southeastern New Mexico gun shop drew criticism for hosting a coyote-hunting competition. It was one of many gun shops that have hosted similar events in which winners receive prizes like firearms.

In 2012, a two-day coyote hunt sponsored by a Los Lunas gun shop sparked an online petition that generated signatures worldwide and an FBI investigation after the shop owner faced a death threat.

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