WILLIAMS, Ariz. — On April 2, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 76, prohibiting coyote killing contests in the state.
Arizona may not be far behind.
During a Coconino County Board of Supervisors meeting March 26, Eric Peterson, public affairs director for Coconino County, reported that during its March 15 meeting in Bisbee, Arizona Game and Fish Commissioners took action to begin rulemaking to stop predator hunts.
“They have laid out parameters prohibiting contests where someone pays an entry fee and also has the potential of being rewarded for the harvesting of animals within that contest,” Peterson said. “That’s what this rule in its infancy would start as. That is what they have proposed as a rule.”
According to Peterson, the commission has one year to get the rule finalized before it goes before the governor’s regulatory review counsel. If it passes the counsel, the rule then must be signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey.
During this process, Peterson said there will be opportunity for public comment.
On March 26, Coconino County joined Yavapai County along with the town of Dewey-Humboldt which passed resolutions opposing the contests in November and December.
Coconino County Resolution 2019-05 states that the county opposes quantity-based predator hunts offering prizes of any kind for a quantity of animals harvested and strongly encourages the Game and Fish Commission to engage in rulemaking to prohibit predator hunts.
The resolution passed the Board of Supervisors in a 3-1 vote with District 4 Supervisor Jim Parks voting no. Matt Ryan, supervisor for District 3 and Williams was not present for the vote but said he would have voted in support of the resolution.
“Had I been here I would have voted for it,” he said.
“This type of hunting we don’t support, but we do support hunting overall,” Ryan added.
The resolution does not ban predator hunting contests in Coconino County. It does ask the Game and Fish Commission to consider the county’s resolution as it moves forward in its rulemaking.
Game and Fish does not currently regulate hunting contests and hosting or participating in predator hunting contests is legal. There is currently no bag limit on the number of coyotes that can be harvested by a hunter. Those who hunt predators hunt under the regulations set forth by AZGFD and are within their legal right.
Predator species as defined by state statutes and the Game and Fish include coyotes, bobcats, foxes and skunks. Wildlife hunting contests are held throughout Arizona and across the United States. Currently New Mexico, Vermont and California have outlawed the contests.
During contests, participants hunt in groups or by themselves, sometimes using coyote calls. When the hunt ends winners are announced based on the most harvests.
The Game and Fish Commission currently has no data on how many hunts are held in Arizona or the number of animals harvested, according to Peterson.
However, Peterson reported that in 1999 the commission took previous action to regulate predator hunts.
“Ultimately that rule was not enacted by the governor’s regulatory review counsel at the time,” he said. “It went all the way through the rule making process and the governor’s final approval through that counsel was not granted and therefore the rule was never implemented.”
As the process to outlaw the contests moves forward, Ryan said County supervisors are deferring to Game and Fish to conduct rulemaking.
“These contests may have been popular in the past but times have changed and it’s not seen as the appropriate method for predator mitigation. We have no problem with Game and Fish culling populations with the hunt depending on if they’re using these standards, these conservation standards which they do — they abide by them and adhere to them,” he said.
Ryan said his office and District 3 has received no public feedback on supporting the resolution.
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