How to save your pets from traps

By Mary Katherine Ray, Chapter Wildlife Chair

Trapping season began in New Mexico on November 1 and will not end until March 15. This is the season when fur is its thickest and most valuable, so trappers are out to make a profit by killing wildlife such as bobcats, foxes, coyotes and badgers.

They can set their traps on public lands where the rest of us go to enjoy these same animals and their habitats. No warning signs are required, and the distance a trap can be set from roads and trails is a mere 25 yards. How much trapping occurs depends on current fur prices. The more money pelts are bringing, the more traps there will be.
In order to protect your dog and yourself while hiking, please take a look at these photos of traps that could be encountered and note how to open them if your dog is caught.

Traps will usually be set in the ground and covered with fine dirt or leaves. The lure is placed near the set so the animal will step in the hidden trap when he investigates. Dogs are attracted to the same lures trappers use for other animals.

First, steel-jawed leghold traps are the most commonly used trap in New Mexico. They are activated by springs on the side. Put a jacket over the dog to keep from being bitten. The dog will be in pain and struggling and may bite even rescuers. The “long-spring” and “coil spring” versions of the leg-hold trap require that both sides be released in order to open. Push down on them simultaneously. You may have to stand on them to generate enough pressure. Sometimes you may have to seek assistance either in the field or by unfastening the anchor chain and taking the trapped dog for help. The springs slam so hard and tight, they can be difficult to open.

Snares are not as commonly used in New Mexico, but they can be deadly. They are a cable with a locking device that can slide only one way; tighter. Snares can be set to go around an animal’s foot or neck. If around the neck, there may be a stop to keep it from tightening further, but often the intent is to let it tighten to the point the animal is strangled to death by its own struggles. If your dog is caught in a snare, quickly try to stop him from moving to stop the tightening. Then either release the cable lock or cut the cable if it is so tight the dog is in danger. It is not a bad idea to carry a cable-cutting tool.
Conibear traps are legal in New Mexico, but are not commonly used. This is lucky because they are meant to be fatal. And most people won’t have the strength or the time to remove one before the dog dies.

Until traps are illegal, be vigilant. It is not legal for nontrappers to tamper with a trap except to remove a pet.

To help in the upcoming legislative session that starts in January on this and other wildlife issues, please send an email to so we can let you know when your representatives need to hear from you.