Grady resident protests school-sponsored coyote hunt

Sharna Johnson

Ranchers say the coyote is a menace and a threat to the way of life around the ranching community of Grady.

May be, a community newcomer contends; but killing them is not supposed to be sport and there are more appropriate ways to raise money for school athletics.

Cliff Sagnotty, who moved to rural Curry County from Iowa this summer, said he was shocked early this month when he received a flier advertising a coyote hunt — and noticed it was sponsored by the Grady schools girls athletic department.

The Coyote Calling Contest is scheduled Friday and Saturday.

Competitors under 18 must be accompanied by an adult and show a Hunter’s Safety Certificate to shoot. With a $75 team entry fee, the team with the most coyotes wins with ties broken by weight, according to the flier, which states, “Grab a partner (or two) that are good shots and sign up.”

“From a rancher’s perspective, they’re a menace to society (and) that’s what this community is; we’re farmers and ranchers,” said Alicia Rush, director of Grady’s girls athletic program.

“They (coyotes) kill our cattle, they kill our cattle dogs. There’s no regulations (on hunting them). We’re not doing anything illegal — we wouldn’t do anything illegal.”

After Sagnotty’s complaint, Rush said sponsorship for the event was picked up by an area rancher she declined to identify. But Sagnotty said he does not believe such an event should be associated with a school.

Sagnotty said he talked briefly with Rush and attempted to schedule a meeting with school officials to find an alternative fundraiser but received no response.

“Why is this a form of fun or entertainment or a sport?” he said. “Why are kids being encouraged to participate in this? What is this teaching our children? Let’s get back to the three R’s.”

Sagnotty said he and his wife love the Grady area, and they sympathize with problems associated with coyotes.

“I understand the farmer has to protect his livestock. We’re just saying ‘Hey the tide’s changing here.’ This shouldn’t be something that the school sponsors, and we shouldn’t be killing wildlife for fun.”

Sagnotty said Internet research he has done after becoming aware of the hunt indicates coyote hunting contributes to increased populations and that changes in coyote populations and hunting habits are mostly tied to human interference.

Grady rancher Wesley Grau, who said he is not the sponsor of the event, said he doesn’t participate in the hunt or hunt coyotes for sport but does view them as a problem.

“I just don’t have time to go participate in it but it doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a good idea. When they get real thick, there’s nothing else … the sheep industry has just been wiped out in New Mexico because of the coyote,” Grau said.

“I don’t think (Sagnotty) has any right to say anything until he’s lived here 50 years … I know exactly the damage they can do (left) unchecked.”

Hunting has brought coyote populations down in recent years, which has helped increase other wildlife, such as antelope, on his land, he said.

When coyotes do come in, Grau said he has problems and has to call in wildlife specialists or get a group of ranchers together to go hunt them.

“They’re predatory, especially in the spring when my cows are calving,” he said.

“If they come in the country pastures out here and get newborn calves then it’s a big economic disadvantage to us. When we control the predators, it allows the wildlife to flourish (because) coyotes will overpopulate an area and really cause havoc.”