ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said Thursday she won't allow coyote killing contests on millions of acres of land managed by her agency.
Garcia Richard, who took office at the beginning of the year and is the first woman in the state's history to hold the position, signed an executive order to ban such animal killing contests on state trust land during a news conference in Santa Fe. The Democrat was joined by animal welfare and wildlife advocates who consider the practice barbaric and ineffective.
Ranchers and outfitters from across the state have argued over the years that the contests are a tool for managing packs of coyotes that threaten livestock.
In an attempt to address concerns from the state's rural residents and the sportsmen community, Garcia Richard said the ban is aimed specifically at organized contests.
"This executive order is not to say the New Mexico State Land Office doesn't support hunters, hunters who hunt ethically, hunters who use practices that follow the law and include fair chase, hunters that use what they kill," she said.
The 3,000 people who hold agricultural leases with the agency also will not be dissuaded from humanely combatting the predation of coyotes on their livestock, she said.
Critics argued on social media that small pets and populations of quail and other wildlife could be at risk from the predators if their numbers are allowed to grow without any means of control.
Legislative efforts to end coyote contests have come up short in recent years. In 2018, city councilors in the state's most populous city passed a resolution condemning the contests and supporting legislation for a statewide ban.
Republican Mark Moores of Albuquerque and Democrat Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces have prefiled legislation to push the issue again during the 60-day session that begins next week. Under the proposal, anyone who participates in a coyote killing contest would be guilty of a petty misdemeanor.
Garcia Richard couldn't say how many killing contests have been held on state trust land. She acknowledged that the ban applies only to trust land and covers those species not regulated by the state Game and Fish Department.
As for enforcement, she said her agency would be responsible for investigating any reports and assessing appropriate penalties.
Garcia Richard also has voiced support for ending trapping on public lands, saying the practice is dangerous and inhumane.
Legislation that would prohibit the use of traps, snares and poisons on public land in New Mexico has been introduced by Democrats Bobby Gonzales of Taos and Matthew McQueen of Galisteo. As in past years, the legislation is expected to spur much debate.