Coyote contest winds down without problems

ALBUQUERQUE – A coyote hunting contest organized by a New Mexico gun shop that set off protests from animal-rights activists has ended without problems.

The hunt ended at noon Sunday and all hunters had checked in with the shop’s owner by 2 p.m., Gunhawk Firearms business manager Rick Gross said. Gross didn’t have a count for the number of coyotes taken, but said at last count. Saturday 23 coyotes had been killed and he expected no more than 60 would be shot in all.

Animal activists and the state’s trust land commissioner were incensed when Gunhawk owner Mark Chavez said he’d go ahead with the hunt despite the protests. The store is about 20 miles south of Albuquerque in Los Lunas.

About 80 hunters actually participated in the hunt, and the one who shoots the most coyotes will win a choice of a free shotgun or a pair of semi-automatic rifles.

Gross said he and his partner, Chavez, decided they needed to go ahead with the hunt on principal after a large shop in Albuquerque pulled out of a planned hunt a month ago because of pressure from activists. He pointed out that hunting coyotes is legal, and ranchers frequently lose cattle to the predators.

“We care about public opinion, we care,” Gross told The Associated Press by phone on Saturday. “Honestly we took this over because a big gun shop pulled out because of threats. And we just thought that was wrong.

Protesters had warned they would try to shut down the hunt, but none showed up, Gross said Sunday.

People were upset over the idea of making a contest out of killing an animal that usually lives peacefully alongside residents, Susan Weiss, 74, who leads the Coexist with Coyotes group in Corrales, N.M., told the AP on Friday.

“There’s a tremendous amount of arrogance in conducting this hunt,” Weiss said. “(Chavez) is damaging the reputation of ranchers. He is damaging the reputation of legitimate hunters.”

Gross said he thought the whole thing was overblown.

“I think people thought we going to kills thousands, but I’ll be surprised if we get to 60,” he said Sunday. “Frankly three-quarters of the people had zero.”

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