Coyotes and skunks won’t be added to the list of protected fur-bearing animals in New Mexico.
The state Senate Conservation Committee voted 6-3 Tuesday to block a bill that would have restricted hunting and trapping of coyotes and skunks. As it stands, both can be killed any time and in any number.
Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, helped sink the bill by asking if he would need to buy a state license to kill a skunk that found its way into his garage and fouled his home and neighborhood.
Proponents of the measure, Senate Bill 267, said a license would be required unless he were protecting animals of his own from the skunk.
“I don’t want to be dealing with that,” Soules said. His comment resonated with most committee members.
Another option under the bill would be for a homeowner or renter to call the state Department of Game and Fish to remove a skunk. The legislation would require the state agency to assume management responsibility for skunks and coyotes.
Alexa Sandoval, director of the department, said the bill would burden her staff and divert it from other work on wildlife management. She also called the bill an unfunded mandate that would drive up expenses for her agency while the state faces a projected budget deficit of $120 million.
An analysis of the bill by the legislative staff said more than 500 nuisance complaints a year about skunks are made to private animal-control companies in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Silver City alone. The analysis estimated that Sandoval’s agency would need at least another $1.4 million a year if it had to assume management of coyotes and skunks.
Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, sponsored the proposal. He also is sponsoring a bill to outlaw coyote-killing contests — events that critics say are inhumane and wreck the social order of packs, weakening the coyote’s effectiveness in controlling rodent populations. That bill is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.
With its proposed restrictions on hunting and trapping, Steinborn’s bill to make coyotes and skunks protected fur-bearers would have opened a back door to stop the killing contests.
Several people testified in favor of Steinborn’s bill to protect coyotes and skunks as fur-bearers. They said it’s wrong to hunt the animals because neither is used for food.
Other fur-bearing animals in New Mexico have protections that restrict the season when they can be trapped. They include the bobcat, fox, raccoon, badger and muskrat. Still other fur-bearers are protected from hunters and trappers altogether. The pine marten, river otter and black-footed ferret are among them.
Soules and fellow Democratic Sens. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces and Richard Martinez of Española voted to table the bill making coyotes and skunks a protected class of fur-bearers. All three Republicans on the conservation committee sided with them.
The other three Democrats on the committee voted against tabling Steinborn’s bill. They are Sens. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe, Liz Stefanics of Cerrillos and Cisco McSorley of Albuquerque.