SANTA FE — A legislator from southern New Mexico hopes to outlaw animal-killing contests, saying they are senseless and glorify violence.

Rep. Nate Cote, D-Organ, said events such as one last fall in which teams of hunters competed to kill the most coyotes caused a justifiable public outcry.

"I'm a hunter and a fisherman, but I'd never seen anything like that. We've got to be better than that," Cote said in an interview Wednesday.

His proposal, House Bill 316, would criminalize organizing, sponsoring, arranging or holding an animal-killing contest.

Violators would face a civil fine of up to $1,000. Repeat offenders could be jailed for a year.

Mark Chavez, owner of Gunhawk Firearms in Los Lunas, sponsored the coyote-killing contest that attracted national attention in November.

He said Cote's bill was a disguised attack on hunting and on gun rights.

"To me, these contests are helpful to the community. You get rid of some mangy coyotes, plus hunters put gas in the tank and buy lunch," Chavez said from his gun store.

His contest drew 52 two-member teams that killed 60 coyotes in a weekend. The winning team killed 11, not even a dent in the state's coyote population, he said.

Top prizes in Chavez's contest were a Browning Maxus 12-gauge shotgun or two AR-15 semiautomatic rifles.

He said his business improved because of the contest and all the attendant publicity. But in truth, coyote-killing contests go on every weekend during wintertime, often with a rancher as the sponsor, Chavez said.


His event was denounced in newspaper editorials, by advocacy groups and even by certain hunters.

Lisa Jennings, executive director of Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection Voters, said she supported Cote's bill because it takes a stand for ethical hunting.

Hunting competitions, she said, "send a dangerous message to our children that life is cheap in New Mexico and that senseless killing is cause for celebration."

To ward off critics, Chavez belatedly renamed his coyote killing contest as "a management hunt." He said he would take the same tack if Cote's bill becomes law.

New Mexico allows hunters to kill coyotes anytime they like and in any number. But, Jennings said, Cote's bill would be important because it would ban offensive competitions.

Cote said animal-killing contests are not sport.

"They're nothing but live target shooting," he said.

His bill will be heard first in the House Judiciary Committee.

Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at or 505-820-6898. His blog is at