The old mattresses and abandoned boats dumped on Valencia County’s east llano were joined by piles of coyote carcasses last week.
After a friend posted pictures of what she believed to be dead dogs on Facebook, Los Lunas resident Elizabeth Dicharry went out to North El Cerro Loop to take a look last Wednesday.
“She thought it was a dump site from dog fighting,” Dicharry said, “but they were coyotes.”
When she went out to the mostly uninhabited area east of Valencia High School on March 20, Dicharry said she found two piles of carcasses.
One pile has about 15-20 small, fairly-fresh coyote carcasses, she said, many of which have silver duct tape wrapped around their muzzles. There is writing on the tape, which she says indicates the date and time the animals were killed in a contest.
“Only one of them was skinned,” she said. “The other pile is quite deteriorated, it’s mostly bones. It looks like there was a lot more skinning of those, so maybe they were trapped.”
Late on the morning of Thursday, March 21, during a second visit, Dicharry said she found a third pile of fresh carcasses that wasn’t there the day before, which also appear to be contest kills.
Dicharry reported the piles of carcasses to Valencia County code enforcement on Wednesday, March 20.
Gabe Luna, the county’s interim community development director who oversees code enforcement, said two code enforcement officers went out to the location.
“We did find the piles of coyotes, some skinned, some not,” Luna said. “We opened a case and under our ordinances, and the way they are written, this is considered illegal dumping.”
Luna said the county had the carcasses — 90 total — removed last Friday by a private contractor, due to their proximity to the school and residences.
In 2012, when Gunhawk Firearms in Los Lunas sponsored a coyote bounty hunt, Dicharry became involved in the push to ban the hunts.
“This is not what hunting is about. They are an unregulated species that some consider varmints. I do not,” she said. “I do own livestock and if I, or anyone, have a predator get into my animals or on my property, I can take care of it. I can shoot it. That’s not what happens during these contests.”
Currently, coyote hunting contests are permitted on private land, but Senate Bill 76, which passed both chambers of the Legislature during this year’s session, would ban them all together.
“The bill only prohibits contests,” Dicharry said. “You can still go hunt, you can go out and shoot them. These contests are so atrocious because they target any coyotes, anywhere, even those not causing problems.”
Dicharry said there are 25 to 30 contests in New Mexico a year, with four to five of those held in Valencia County.
“If you register and become a contestant, you can kill them anywhere you want — you can go down to the Ladrones, out to the Sandias,” she said. “It’s not like you’re protecting anybody’s ranch. I’m not a fan of fur … but they’re not even saving the fur.”
Earlier this year, via executive order, New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard banned coyote killing contests on land managed by the agency. Because coyotes are not a protected or monitored species in New Mexico, hunters don’t need licenses to kill them and there is no established season.
As a nurse, Dicharry said she was concerned about the large number of decomposing animals so close to people.
“It’s not healthy,” she said. “And this is animal abuse. They do gut shots. It’s not ethical. When my husband hunts, he wants to take the animal down quickly, humanely. We have no idea what these coyotes went through.”
Luna said if anyone has information about the carcasses being dumped, they can call 866-2054.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.