Powell bans coyote hunt on trust lands


Even though the state land commissioner has banned participants of the controversial coyote killing contest from hunting on state trust lands, the hunt will go on as scheduled this weekend, said Mark Chavez, owner of Gunhawk Firearms in Los Lunas, who is sponsoring the event.

On Thursday, New Mexico State Land Commissioner Ray Powell announced that hunters "are not authorized to access New Mexico state trust land."

According to a press release from Powell, he sent a letter to Chavez, informing the businessman of his decision.

"The participants in this commercial and unregulated exploitation of wildlife do not have a permit or lease to be on state trust lands," Powell wrote. "Individuals killing coyotes on state trust land will be considered in trespass."

Chavez doesn't have a problem with participants not being able to hunt on state trust lands, saying "I don't think we could have ever hunted on trust land."

Chavez claims Powell's decision is politically motivated and said the state land commissioner may have just ended his own career.

"I think he just voted himself out of office," Chavez said of Powell. "A lot of hunters, ranchers and farmers won't like it."

The New Mexico State Land Office administers 13 million acres of trust land throughout the state. But the two-day, statewide hunt isn't a controlled hunt, and participants do not need a license to hunt and kill coyotes.

But, according to Powell, he believes this type of hunt should be outlawed.

"When our native predators or wild domestic dogs kill our agricultural and companion animals, the specific offending animal needs to be removed in a prompt and humane way," Powell wrote in the release. "The non-specific, indiscriminate killing methods used in this commercial and unrestricted coyote killing contest are not about hunting or sound land management … these contests are about personal profit, animal cruelty and the severe disruption of the delicate balance of this desert ecosystem."

The state trust lands support public schools, universities and hospitals, as well as the state's agricultural industry wildlife populations, Powell said.

Chavez said he has limited the hunt to 60 teams of two, but because of threats he's received, the participants will return the coyote carcasses to an undisclosed location next weekend.

"For the privacy and the protection of the hunters, I won't be disclosing where they will be bringing back the carcasses."

Participants will have from dawn Saturday, Nov. 17, through 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, to collect and return coyote carcasses.

The team with the most carcasses gets its choice of either a one Browning Maxus 12 gauge shotgun worth $1,600 or two .223 caliber AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.

Chavez did say that he will hire a local taxidermist to pelt the carcasses the hunters don't want at his own expense. He said he will either sell the pelts or give them away to the homeless to keep them warm.

Last weekend, about 20 or so protesters stood in front of Gunhawk Firearms demonstrating their opposition to the coyote killing contest.

Guy Dicharry of the group, Coalition to Stop Gunhawk Firearms Coyote Killing, referred to the hunt as a "bounty contest."

"We know we can't stop them," Dicharry said, "but we hope to bring attention to this unethical hunt. They (Gunhawk) are truly the only ones who can stop it, and they just refuse to.

"We just have to get out and show that this is a problem. There's a lot of better ways to promote a local business than sponsoring a killing contest."

Dicharry claims Chavez is just trying to generate publicity, and that the whole nature of this type of contest is detrimental to the village and the state.

"We're not anti-gun, we're not anti-predator control," Dicharry said. "We oppose using a killing contest statewide as a publicity stunt for a local business — and that's what we oppose."

-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.