A controversial coyote elimination event has opponents flinging death threats against the organizers and their families. The owners of Gunhawk Firearms, a gun store in Los Lunas, New Mexico announced it would hold a coyote-killing contest at the beginning of November. Since then, the store has been bombarded with threats, death threats and other menacing messages.
Calibers, a gun store in nearby Albuquerque, previously announced a contest along the same lines but eventually decided to cancel after severe backlash from residents. The idea behind the contest was to award an expensive firearm to the hunter who came back with the most coyote carcasses. Calibers said it would be a way to help farmers and ranchers reduce the population of coyotes that prey on their livestock.
The coyote is not a protected species and may be hunted without a license.
When Calibers gave up, Gunhawk Firearms began to entertain the idea. They announced their contest, explaining that coyotes “are a nuisance, over-populated and…they destroy livestock,” as quoted by local TV station KRQE. In retaliation, the store began receiving mail threatening to kill the owners, their family and to destroy the store.
Josh Waters, an employee of Gunhawk Firearms, told KRQE that they received letters “threatening us with explosives, burning down the shop, Molotov cocktails, and following you home to pick you off one by one.”
While the gun store owners are facing extreme threats, much of the local community has taken sides on the issue. Los Lunas resident Guy Dicharry said ”a contest like this, organized by a business in this town, sends the absolute wrong message about our town.”
This past Saturday, about two dozen protesters showed up to demand that the store cancel the contest. Supporters of the hunt also came out to demonstrate, saying hunting is a right just like any other. The simultaneous protests escalated to a point that police had to separate protesters and supporters, fearing that a fight would break out at any moment.
Gunhawk is making record sales and had a total of 90 hunters already signed up for the contest as of November 11. They expect the number to double by the time the contest officially commences on the weekend of November 17 and 18.
Those opposed to the contest had acquired more than 28,000 signatures on a petition to end the contest. They say the body count is cruel and that it is also a risk to public safety.
For now, the competition is scheduled to go on. Six teams have already paid the entry fee. The winners will receive either a Browning Maxus 12-gauge shotgun or two AR-15 rifles.