The former chair of the state Game Commission is accused of participating in an illegal cougar hunt, charges that led him to resign his post on Monday.
Officials with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish announced that Scott Bidegain was stepping down the same day that a department officer filed misdemeanor charges against him in Quay County Magistrate Court.
Since being appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez—and confirmed by the New Mexico State Senate in March 2013—Bidegain has represented District 4, which includes Santa Fe, Taos, Colfax, Union, Mora, Harding, Quay, San Miguel, Guadalupe and Torrance counties. Within weeks of joining the commission, he was elected its chair at a meeting on March 21, 2013 in Albuquerque.
Bidegain is a rancher and board member of the New Mexico Cattlegrowers Association.
According to the criminal complaint, on February 9, Bidegain allegedly aided or abetted “in the killing of a cougar that was pursued by dogs without the licensed hunter who harvested the cougar being present continuously from the initial release of the dogs.”
New Mexico has a year-round cougar hunt that runs from April 1 until March 31. Licenses cost $43 for residents and $290 for nonresidents. Each license is valid for two cougars and must be purchased from the department at least two days prior to hunting. The state is divided into 19 cougar management zones; each zone has what are called “harvest limits” that apply to the total number of cougars and to the number of female cougars. Between 2001 and 2012, a total of 1,795 cougars were killed by hunters in New Mexico. The alleged incident with Bidegain occurred in San Miguel County
The department’s press release included a statement from Bidegain’s resignation letter:
“I am honored to have served on the commission and as its chair. Unfortunately, I was present during a hunting incident earlier this month that will result in charges being filed shortly. I believe that it is in the best interest of the Commission and the Department that I step down at this time. I think you should be proud to know that throughout this incident, the officers at the Department acted honorably and professionally.”
The criminal complaint is signed by Sergeant Ty Jackson, Las Vegas District Supervisor. When Jackson was promoted from district officer to district supervisor after ten years with the department, he was profiled on the department’s website. There, he’s quoted saying: “The NM Dept. of Game and Fish is always looking for good game wardens. This is a job that requires a smart, highly motivated person capable of working in a hostile environment on their own with little or no assistance.”