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New Mexico Game Commission considering paltry changes to trapping rules
The Department of Game and Fish proposal comes after a bill to restrict commercial trapping on public lands made unprecedented progress in the New Mexico legislature. House Bill 366 (2019), called “Roxy’s Law” after the dog who was strangled to death in a snare near Santa Cruz Lake, passed two legislative committees but did not receive a vote on the House floor. Activists believe the legislation is necessary for protecting New Mexicans, their companion animals, native wildlife, and public lands—and they fear the weak rule changes are meant to undermine the legislation with minor, superficial adjustments to the status quo.
“The vast majority of New Mexicans oppose trapping, and this proposal does almost nothing to alleviate their concerns,” said Chris Smith, southern Rockies wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “The Department is trying to dance around the margins of the problem while the real solution is to get traps and snares off of public lands altogether.”
“New Mexicans deserve to have trap-free public lands, and the Department of Game and Fish has completely missed the mark with their proposal,” said Jessica Johnson, chief legislative officer for Animal Protection of New Mexico. “We urge the State Game Commission to respect the will of the vast majority of New Mexicans by getting traps and snares off our public land.”
“Our neighboring states prohibits traps, making them more attractive to tourists who seek to see wildlife and enjoy the outdoors,” said Mary Katherine Ray wildlife chair of the Rio Grande Chapter Sierra Club. “New Mexico can ill afford to lose tourist opportunities to the tiny portion of people who trap.”
The Department of Game and Fish has stated it plans to provide several avenues for public comment and to address trapping rule changes at subsequent Game Commission meetings in October and November, and they plan to finalize any changes by mid-January 2020.
Trapping on public lands is legal in New Mexico. There are no bag limits 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.
No database or official record is kept by any public entity and no requirement exists that trappers report when they have captured a dog in their traps. The pattern these incidents follow are usually similar; dogs screaming and frantically biting at the person desperately trying to rescue them. Veterinary and even human medical treatment along with associated expenses can result, as can long-lasting psychological trauma.
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, imperiled Mexican gray wolves, coyotes, and other animals.
The almost singular excuse for the above-mentioned incidents is that trapping is necessary to control carnivore populations, but scientific studies do not support this assertion. In fact, scientific studies show that trapping and lethally removing carnivore species, like coyotes, often exacerbate conflicts such as those with livestock (see Using Coyotes to Protect Livestock. Wait. What?, Randy Comeleo, Oregon Small Farm News, Vol. XIII No. 2, p. 2, http://ow.ly/Pj8k30k3wTF (Spring 2018)).
The existence of trapping by a minuscule subset of the population using New Mexico’s public lands is in direct conflict with one of the state’s most valuable economic strengths: outdoor recreation. Highlighted by the recent New Mexico Outdoor Economics Conference in Las Cruces, the outdoor recreation economy in New Mexico is a current and future boon—diversifying and stabilizing the state’s economy while creating 99,000 direct jobs in the process. Outdoor recreation includes hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, hunting, horseback riding, angling, trail running, and bicycling. This economy is not bolstered by piles of dead animals discarded by public roadways or by the thousands of wild animals taken from New Mexico’s diverse public landscapes for personal profit.