Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 18, 2014

Contacts:  Kevin Bixby, Southwest Environmental Center, (575) 522-5552
Phil Carter, Animal Protection Voters, (505) 967-5297
Mary Katherine Ray, Rio Grande Chapter Sierra Club, (575) 772-5655
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 313-7017
Taylor Jones, WildEarth Guardians, (720) 443-2615

Ban Sought on New Mexico's Wildlife-killing Contests

New National Data Ranks State Highest in Number of Cruel Killing Contests

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— Ten conservation groups today called for a ban on wildlife-killing contests in New Mexico after a new national ranking gives the state the dubious honor of holding more of the cruel killing contests each year than any other state. The groups are calling on the governor and state legislature to ban these biologically unsound contests that target coyotes, bobcats, foxes, prairie dogs and other animals.

At least 17 wildlife-killing contests were held in New Mexico between August 2013 and July 2014, according to data provided by Wildlife Conservation Advocacy Southwest, placing the “Land of Enchantment” at the top of the list of all states. At least 130 such events were held nationally during that period. At least three coyote-killing contests took place in New Mexico just this past weekend.

“The fact that New Mexico is number one in this area is an embarrassment to the state,” said Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center. “Now is the time for the legislature and governor to ban these barbaric events.”

“Once we started tracking the contests in 2012, we found many more than we had anticipated,” said Elisabeth Dicharry of Wildlife Conservation Advocacy Southwest. “We found that New Mexico ranked among the highest in the nation for numbers of contests. We know this is the tip of the iceberg because not all wildlife-killing contests are widely publicized.”

Wildlife-killing contests are organized events in which participants compete for prizes by attempting to kill the most animals over a certain time period. Coyotes are the most common target, but other targeted species include bobcats, badgers, foxes, skunks and prairie dogs. The events are legal in every state1 except California, which banned the awarding of prizes for contests involving furbearers and nongame mammals last month. Each of these species is a key part of healthy, functioning ecosystems. Killing contests devalue native wildlife and glorify wasteful killing, while disrupting natural processes.

“California set the trend for the nation with this historic vote,” said Judy Paulsen, New Mexico representative for Project Coyote. “We hope that New Mexico follows suit and bans this barbaric practice that has no place in the 21st century.”

“The fact that these events are legal and apparently being held more frequently demonstrates the urgent need to close the loopholes in our state wildlife laws in order to protect all of New Mexico’s wildlife species,” said Phil Carter, wildlife campaign manager at Animal Protection Voters. “Currently there are no limits to the number of the targeted species that can be killed during certain times of the year. Some species, such as coyotes and prairie dogs, can be killed any time of the year.”

Wildlife-killing contests give ethical hunters a bad name and serve no legitimate management purpose.

“Using animals as target practice as if they were a video game violates one of the core tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation: wildlife should only be killed for a legitimate purpose,” said Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair for the Rio Grande Chapter Sierra Club. “Most New Mexicans would agree that killing for fun and cash prizes is not a legitimate purpose, and in fact is morally reprehensible.”

Wildlife-killing contests are out of synch with the attitudes of most New Mexicans, and undermine the economic contribution of non-consumptive users of wildlife who account for $328 million in annual expenditures.2

“Being ‘number one’ in wildlife-killing sprees is hardly what the Land of Enchantment wants to broadcast to the rest of America,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “And frankly, it’s more than a little sickening and shameful for those of us who live here to know that the wildlife we cherish may be shot and killed for a score.”

Wildlife-killing contests ignore the ecological value of their target species and can actually exacerbate conflicts with livestock. Peer-reviewed studies on coyotes and wolves demonstrate this result.

“Wildlife advocates voted to change New Mexico’s official nickname to the ‘Land of Entrapment’ in 2013 because of the prevalence of trapping, killing contests and other animal abuses,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Killing contests damage the state’s image; a place that leads the nation in wildlife massacres for fun and profit is clearly not the ‘Land of Enchantment.’”

The groups urging action include Southwest Environmental Center, Animal Protection Voters, Wildlife Conservation Advocacy Southwest, Sierra Club: Rio Grande Chapter, Center for Biological Diversity, Project Coyote, Rewilding Institute, WildEarth Guardians, Sandia Mountain BearWatch and Conservation Voters New Mexico.

1 Some states place restrictions on wildlife killing contests. For example, Washington caps the total value of prizes that can be awarded per contest.  Colorado limits the number of animals that can be killed by contest participants.

2 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation: State Overview

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