In an unfathomable move, the New Mexico Game Commission approved the trapping of bobcats, foxes, and other fur-bearing species throughout the state, disappointing wildlife and public-safety advocates who sought to ban a practice long-criticized as cruel, inhumane, and indiscriminate.
Friday’s decision reauthorizes the use of leghold traps, body-crushing traps, and strangulation snares that have killed and maimed endangered Mexican gray wolves and countless other species. Last year, five wolves in New Mexico were caught and killed by private trappers.
“Endangered Mexican wolves are repeatedly losing limbs and sometimes their lives in leghold traps, but the state shrugged that off,” said Michael Robinson, Senior Conservation Advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement. “Other species contribute to ecological health as well and should not be killed in such a cruel fashion for the sale of their pelts.”
The commission’s decision came despite thousands of comments from the public deploring the setting of cruel, indiscriminate traps, which have been banned or restricted in other states, including Colorado and Arizona.
“It is unconscionable that not only wildlife but humans and their companion dogs will continue to endure the suffering traps inflict,” said Mary Katherine Ray, Wildlife Chair for the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Nothing is being managed in any responsible or meaningful way by this exploitation.”
The commission’s rules create minor setbacks where trapping is not allowed near trailheads, as well as small areas outside of Albuquerque and Las Cruces. These restrictions would not protect wolves or the domestic dogs that are repeatedly caught in traps throughout the state.
“This action makes it clear: It is now up to the state Legislature to respond to the public’s concern about animal cruelty and public safety by passing Roxy’s Law in the 2021 legislative session,” said Jessica Johnson, Chief Legislative Officer for Animal Protection of New MexicoandAnimal Protection Voters. “Until then, our outdoor recreation, tourism industries, and the wellbeing of New Mexico’s families and ecosystems remain under threat by trapping on public lands.”
Roxy, an 8-year-old heeler mix owned by Dave Clark of Española, died in November after being strangled by a trap at Santa Cruz Lake.
House Bill 366, titled “Roxy’s Law,” is an anti-trapping measure introduced by state Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo. Introduced last year to ban trapping on public lands in New Mexico, the bill passed two committees but then ran out of time for a floor vote in the state’s House of Representatives.
Trapping on public lands is legal in New Mexico. No bag limits exist for furbearer species. The law does not require trap locations to be marked, signed, or for any warnings to be present. No gross receipts tax is levied on fur and pelts sold by trappers. No penalties exist for trappers who unintentionally trap non-target species, including endangered species, protected species, domestic animals, pets, humans or livestock. The new regulations leave all of these problems in place.
No database or official record is kept by any public entity, and no requirement exists for trappers to report when they have captured a dog in their traps.
The true toll that trapping takes on native wildlife is difficult to know. Reporting requirements exist for some species, but not for often-trapped so-called “unprotected furbearers” like coyotes and skunks. The accuracy of reporting is unverifiable, and numbers do not adequately articulate the suffering and carnage that traps wreak on bobcats, foxes, critically imperiled Mexican gray wolves, coyotes, and other animals
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