By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Scott Bidegain of Tucumcari, chairman of the New Mexico Game Commission and representative for the commission’s 4th District, has resigned, accused of being part of the unlawful killing of a cougar.
A complaint filed in Quay County Magistrate Court alleges Bidegain did “unlawfully counsel, aid or abet in the killing of a cougar that was pursued by dogs without the licensed hunter being present continuously from the initial release of the dogs.”
It is a a misdemeanor to “release dogs with the intent to pursue or hunt bears or cougars unless the hunter is present from the initial release of the dogs.”
The complaint was signed by Sgt. Ty Jackson, district supervisor for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in Las Vegas. Jackson didn’t immediately return telephone calls.
An Associated Press story said Bidegain was with at least four other men Feb. 9 on his family’s T4 Cattle Company ranch when they allegedly let loose dogs to chase and tree a cougar. The AP credited citations issued by Game and Fish Department officers for their information.
Cited along with Bidegain was Larry H. Webb of Newkirk; Billy G. Ivy of Canyon, Texas; Chad W. Hassell of Childress, Texas; and Jason E. Roselius of Oklahoma City.
Roselius was cited for killing a cougar without a valid license. It is unclear whether the men shot the cougar or their dogs cornered and killed the cougar, AP said.
New Mexico has a year-round cougar hunting season this year, according to the Game and Fish website, but a hunter must have a valid state license and must be present when a cougar is killed.
Failing to be present when dogs are used in a cougar hunt is punishable by up to six months in a county jail and fines, according to state statute.
The criminal complaint was filed against Bidegain in Quay County Magistrate Court on Monday, even though the incident occurred on T-4 Ranch property in San Miguel County. Bidegain helps manage the T-4 Ranch, which is owned by his family.
In his resignation letter, Bidegain stated he was present during a hunting incident earlier this month in which a cougar was killed and said the incident resulted in the misdemeanor charge.
Bidegain could not be reached for comment Monday or Tuesday.
Rachel Shockley, a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish spokesperson, said the incident did involve a big game cat and occurred on Feb. 9 in San Miguel County, although she said further details could not be released Monday due to the ongoing investigation.
Bidegain’s resignation letter said he believed it is in the best interest of the commission and the department that he step down, according to a news release from the game and fish department.
“I am honored to have served on the commission and as its chair,” Bidegain wrote. “I think you should be proud to know that throughout this incident, the officers at the department acted honorably and professionally.”
The game commission elected Bidegain as its chairman last March. He succeeded Jim McClintic, who died last year.
Bidegain also serves on the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association board of directors.
Bidegain ran afoul of environmental groups earlier this year over his participation with another State Game commissioner in coyote-killing contests, AP said.
Nine conservation organizations asked Gov. Susana Martinez to remove Bidegain and Robert Espinosa from the commission on Feb. 5, AP reported.
Espinosa remains on the commission.
Bidegain was one of seven members of the game commission and represented the commission’s District 4, which includes Quay, Santa Fe, Taos, Colfax, Union, Mora, Harding, San Miguel, Guadalupe and Torrance counties.
Members are appointed by the governor and subject to confirmation by the New Mexico State Senate.
Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, sponsored Bidegain’s appointment, which was unanimously confirmed in March by the state Senate.