Groups Formally Call Upon New Mexican Officials to Ban Traps

Coyote Close Up

Conservation Groups Formally Call Upon New Mexican Officials to Ban Traps Cruel, Indiscriminate, and Harmful to Wildlife and Recreationists

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Santa Fe, NM. Yesterday, three conservation and animal welfare organizations formally requested that New Mexico wildlife officials ban traps and snares on all public lands. The Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, and Animal Protection of New Mexico made the request to the New Mexico Game Commission, which is charged with managing wildlife in the state and regulates trapping.

Driving the request:

• New Mexico supplied a jaw-dropping 22,961 bobcat furs to the world’s fur market in the last decade—driven by the fact that pelt prices are easily fetching several hundred dollars each;

• Non-target, protected species are trapped including 14 endangered Mexican wolves since 2002 -- with two losing limbs. Other species not legally trapped but have been include: spotted cougar kittens, black bears, Abert’s squirrels, coatimundis; and javelinas.

• Recreationists hiking with dogs have faced an uptick of negative encounters with traps on public lands in recent months, suffering injury and incurring medical bills.

The groups also have argued that the current regulations, rules, and biological basis for trapping are totally inadequate.

• New Mexico Department of Game and Fish allows an unlimited number of bobcats to be killed during one of the longest trapping seasons in the West: November to mid-March, 4.5 months—compared with, for example, Colorado’s 3-month season. New Mexico trappers pay only $20 to cull as many bobcats as they can.

• In New Mexico, there are no limits on how many animals can be killed by trappers nor are limits placed on how many traps can be set. While trappers are required to check their traps daily, some do not.

• The Game and Fish Department does little to reign in bobcat and other legal forms of trapping. No quotas limit the number of animals killed each year, and the “sustainable harvest limit” set by the agency has no biological basis because the state has insufficient population data. The number and location of traps is not known even on public lands.

Trapping is unethical because of the pain and suffering it inflicts, and the long-term damage it causes. Animals frequently sustain injuries from restraining traps, in addition to physiological trauma, dehydration, exposure to weather, and predation by other animals. Animals released from restraining traps may later die from injuries and/or reduced ability to hunt or forage for food.

In recent months, human-related trapping incidents have escalated in New Mexico—perhaps because record numbers of traps are on the ground. Several recreationists, while hiking on national forest lands have had dogs snatched by bone-crushing traps. In December, one San Cristobal woman required medical attention after her fingers were smashed while trying to rescue her dogs, who also received medical care.

“Barbaric and cruel, trapping must cease in New Mexico. It’s high time New Mexico catch up with Arizona and Colorado and other states that have banned public lands trapping,” said Wendy Keefover of WildEarth Guardians. “Traps do not discriminate between people, pets, and even protected species,” she added.

After failing to evaluate the practice of trapping in New Mexico since 2006, the New Mexico State Game Commission finally voted in December 2010 to open the trapping rules for public review. The three groups had petitioned for a rulemaking on the practice of trapping in August, 2009.

“The state wildlife agency has been moving glacially on the issue of trapping reform,” noted Mary Katherine Ray of the Sierra Club, “in fact,” she continued, “we are concerned that the views of all public stakeholders, especially wildlife enthusiasts not considered equally or fully.”

In February, as part of a Sierra Club outing, Ray and a group of hikers found a coyote that had its leg crushed in a steel-jawed, leg-hold trap. The leg was horribly broken with bone protruding from the bloody injury.

“Trappers in lobo country have caused wolves to lose limbs, and may have harmed untold numbers of ‘non-target’ animals.” said Ray. “In New Mexico, trapping is out of control and we hope to remedy this for people, wildlife, and pets.”

“Traps are not in the public’s interest by every measure: Trappers make a quick buck while harming and indiscriminately killing native wildlife. Plus traps hurt people and pets, and cause untold suffering,” said Keefover.

Comments about the trapping rules can be sent to NM Game and Fish at: NM Game and Fish

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