Coyote-hunting contest in New Mexico stirs critics

Farmington, N.M. (AP) – A contest that involved killing more than a dozen coyotes in Farmington is drawing ire from a state wildlife protection group for its "bloodthirstiness.''

The Farmington chapter of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife held a so-called coyote-calling contest last weekend, attracting 22 hunters who killed 16 coyotes in two days. It was the seventh year for the event.

Hunters use specialized reeds to mimic the sounds of a dying animal, such as a rabbit, to attract the coyotes to kill them.

The Farmington Daily-Times reports that such events aren't too common in New Mexico, but Sportsmen member Frances Espinoza said hunting predators is a fast-growing hobby across the country.
Proponents of the practice say that coyotes damage deer herds and kill livestock and sometimes people's pets, while critics say it amounts to animal cruelty.

"While these events aren't illegal, they are astonishingly egregious for their bloodthirstiness,'' said Phil Carter, wildlife campaign manager for Animal Protection of New Mexico.

He said anyone who supports the "repulsive killings contests'' is displaying a callous disregard for wildlife.

Espinoza, a game commissioner from Farmington and a former executive director and Sportsmen's former director, said hunting coyotes is a method of managing the predators' population.

"You have fishing contests. Is that cruel?'' he said. "It is a method of management and recreation just like any other hunting activity.''

Darwin Gunnick, a Sportsmen member, said the hunts are necessary.

"We need to control coyotes if we want to keep the other animals,'' he said. "And hunters are the only ones that will do it.''

John Hansen, a wildlife biologist for the Bureau of Land Management's Farmington office, said coyotes live all over San Juan County, including in Farmington city limits by the rivers or in open fields of sagebrush and pinon and juniper trees.

They eat small animals like rabbits and mice, but also animals as large as sheep, baby deer and cattle, and people's pets.

Hansen said that while the BLM focuses on habitat preservation to help sustain local wildlife, there is evidence that shows killing coyotes can prove beneficial to deer and livestock populations.

"Coyotes are in Farmington, they're at the river bottoms and they kill a lot of cats and small dogs,'' Gunnick said. "A lot of people have problems with them.''

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