LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) - A repulsive killing contest or the right to reduce dangerous predators?
The controversial coyote killing contest has the village of Los Lunas divided.
Protestors and supporters lined main street Saturday, and police were even called out to keep the peace.
"It's not about hunting! It's about being cruel!" shouted one protestor.
About two dozen people held signs demanding the gun store cancel the protests. Signs read "Mass murder coyotes? Howl no!!" and "This is not a contest, it's a massacre."
The uproar is caused by a controversial coyote hunting contest held by Gunhawk Firearms. The shop is offering a reward for the hunter who bags the most coyotes in a weekend. It was an idea spurred by Calibers, an Albuquerque gun shop. They canceled their contest after severe backlash from customers and activists.
Gunhawk took on the challenge, claiming the animals are a nuisance, over-populated and that they destroy livestock.
Protestors say it just malicious marketing.
"A contest like this, organized buy a business in this town, sends the absolute wrong message about our town," said Los Lunas resident Guy Dicharry.
Others shared their opinions.
"This is a senseless contest that doesn't serve any kind of purpose except for making coyotes moving targets," agreed Lori Laiche from Albuquerque.
Those opposed to the hunt weren't the only voices in the crowd. On the very same street hunters like Iraqi war veteran Estaban Marquez carried guns and signs supporting the hunt.
"I fight for our freedoms to do everything," Marquez said. "Our freedom to protest, to do whatever we do. Our freedom of speech, and I think hunting is right along there with that."
At one point police divided the two sides worried a fight would break out.
"Just don't talk to them," said one Sergeant. "We won't have them talk to you."
Residents also honked in support of both sides as they drove buy the signs and protestors.
Inside Gunhawk's business is booming.
"It's awesome! I'm excited! I love it! Why not!" exclaimed employee Josh Waters. "It's been a banner day here in the shop. People are showing their support and freedom of speech and the second amendment. Got to love it!"
Gunhawk has 90 hunters signed up for the contest, and they expect that number will double.
An online petition to stop the hunt has more than 28,000 signatures.
It's not illegal to hunt coyotes, and residents do not need a hunting license.
The FBI is also looking into three death threats made to the shop, because they would not cancel.
The hunt is statewide and scheduled for November 17th and 18th. Participants must sign up in person.
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