A beheaded and skinned coyote was found in a ditch bank with its legs tied together. (Courtesy Corrales Police Department) Credit: Corrales Police Department

By Josiah Ward

A dead coyote was found skinned and beheaded with its hind legs bound together on Jan. 17 along the ditch bank adjacent to Corrales Road and Kings Lane. Police charged a local man with animal cruelty as a result.

“While doing regular patrol, animal services came upon a coyote, which was young in age, that appeared to be skinned without its head,” a Corrales Police Department spokesperson said. “Upon further investigation, animal control and police officers determined who did that to the coyote and the individual was charged.”

The individual, Shane Smartt, was charged with felony animal cruelty. But Smartt told police he only skinned the coyote after finding it dead.

According to a police report, Smartt said that he and some friends found the coyote deceased on the mesa, and it looked like it had been shot in the head. 

Smartt then took the coyote to his house, skinned it and planned to make a hat out of the coyote’s head. 

There was no injury to the body of the coyote, though its legs had been tied when the animal was found.

The police report says that he was “adamant” he did not kill the coyote. 

“I don’t know why you are charging me with animal cruelty,” Smartt says in a voicemail to animal control that the Comment obtained through a public records request. “I told you I didn’t kill that coyote; I have proof that I didn’t kill it. I skinned a dead coyote that I found in the mesa, because I thought it was pretty. I don’t see the problem with that.” 

Smartt said that he wanted to “honor” the coyote by using its pelt. 

“I guess you guys don’t see it the same way as I do. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be portrayed as some cruelter to animals, because I’m not. I did nothing to be cruel to any animal. I have never done anything to be cruel to animals,” he said.

Smartt is being charged under village code 6-11A, which prohibits any cruelty to animals. However, the code does not specifically state if the animal involved has to be alive. 

Coyote Conflicts

Coyotes are a persistent problem for residents of Corrales and elsewhere. Reports of coyotes killing pets, chickens and even llamas are common.

Just last weekend, Christine Carrasco lost her beloved 10-year-old Australian Shepherd, Bella, to a coyote attack.

“It was 6:30 in the morning. It was 5 feet from the backdoor,” she said, adding that the coyote came back to stalk her other dog the next day. “We’re a little frustrated. We’ve had numerous coyote situations.”

Carrasco said her property is protected by a 5-foot tall fence. She loves animals and would rather they not have to be killed. But, “Until it happens to you in your own backyard, you want to get rid of them.”

Carrasco said her neighbor has lost two dogs and two llamas to coyotes. Neighbors lose chickens to coyotes daily, she said.

“There’s got to be a little more we can do to ward these guys off,” she said.

Coyotes are not protected in New Mexico and are classified as non-game animals by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF). That means they can be trapped and hunted year-round and there is no limit as to the number a person may kill. 

Corrales Animal Services has a coyote management plan that outlines how officers should handle coyote-related incidents. Control methods include trapping, snaring, shootings, removing pups from dens and harassment. 

Hazing the animal is recommended by the City of Albuquerque if one is found on your property. 

“Hazing simply means scaring a coyote away from you, your yard, or your neighborhood,” its website says. “Coyotes are members of the dog family, and just as we train our dogs to adopt good behavior, we can reinforce a coyote’s natural instinct to avoid people without harming them. Keeping coyotes wild and wary is the key to successful coexistence.”

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