Trap Victim Stories
New Mexico residents tell their stories of encountering traps on public lands
We have a cabin in a little subdivision surrounded by national forest, and walk our dogs around the perimeter of the private land, Pine Cienega Ranch. While examining the fence line surrounding the property we heard our dog just screaming, something I’ve never heard before and hope never to again. Her paw was in a leg hold trap, set by one of our neighbors, just barely over the private property line into the forest, with very minimal marking- a flag in a tree branch above meaning nothing to anyone not versed in trapping. It was hell trying to release her. When confronted the neighbor said he wasn’t even using the pelts, just trying to rid the area of foxes. The foxes have in the past bred on our property, and we love hearing them at night. They help control rodents and we sure have plenty of those. Our very personal experience with trapping confirms for us the cruelty of the act. There is no need for the wide open trapping that exists in NM. Most states have a more mature, humane approach to their wildlife. It’s time for NM to grow up.
–Gila Forest south of Mule Creek
My dog Murphy and I were finishing up an evening hike in the Gila National Forest about seven miles from our home. As we headed up an old jeep trail to our car, I heard Murphy screaming and crying. He was about 30 yards up a hill off the road and was caught in a steel trap. I ran up to him but couldn’t control him due to his panic, fear and pain, and even if I could, I didn’t know how to free him from the trap. I then hiked/ran about 1/2 mile up the road to Highway 152 and flagged down a truck with two men and a kid. They hiked down with me but Murphy was still too wild with pain to control and neither of them know how to release the trap anyway. So they walked back up to the highway and I stayed with Murphy. By then it was dark, so I detached the trap from its anchor, cradled Murphy’s fore legs (with the trap still on his paw) in my arms and lifted him up so that he could walk on his back legs. He’s 65 pounds so I couldn’t carry him. Anyway, we made it up to the highway where the two guys were waiting. They had spoken to a vet who told them to have me sit with my back to a tree, wrap Murphy’s head in a coat, and then each of them should step on the two side bars to release the trap. It worked. I was so fortunate and grateful for their help. I then drove Murphy down to my house where a local vet met us. No broken bones, thank goodness. Murphy and I have been a bit traumatized for the past few days. It was a horrible experience. We hike in that area a lot and I had no idea there were traps.
–San Lorenzo, Grant County, National Forest
I volunteered at the Santa Fe animal shelter for six months and saw two dogs that had both lost one of their feet to a trap. I adopted one of them, named Chama. He has many emotional scars from living as a stray with such an extreme injury. We tried a prosthetic for a while but the limb was just too sensitive and have since amputated the leg. It pains me to think of animals stuck in those horrid things, dying slowly or being attacked by wild animals or hunters with their dogs. It’s a shame on our species that we still allow them to be legal.
–Santa Fe area
I was hiking with my dog on January 22, 2016 on Westside Rd in the Lincoln National Forest when my dog got caught in a trap. This is the second time in two years this has happened and in the same general location. I could not use my hands to open the trap as the dog was scared and biting my hand, so I used my feet to open the trap. The trap caught the end of his paw so fortunately no damage.
–Westside Rd, Lincoln National Forest
Recently, my husband and I were walking with our two dogs on a firewood road on forest service land, just north of the Gilman tunnels in the Jemez mountains. Suddenly, we heard our border collie cross screeching and yelping. Because she was just off the road in a narrow, wooded canyon, her cries echoed off the sheer walls and it was hard to pinpoint her location. It sounded like she was moving and we thought some predator (coyote, mountain lion, etc.) had gotten her. After only about 1/2 min., all was quiet, and we were afraid she’d been carried off. We searched and searched for her, calling all the while. Long story short, it took us 15-20 min. to find her. There she was, under a juniper, lying very quietly, and it took us a moment to register that she was caught in a trap! Apparently, a predator HAD gotten her, but not a four-legged one.
We were able to release her, my husband carried her to the car, and we rushed her to the vet. She was going into shock and her paw was tender but otherwise not injured. The bigger problem is that while we searched for her, she bit at the trap to get loose and broke two of her teeth to the gum line, exposing nerves, and extremely painful. Besides all the trauma this caused all of us, this will run us about $1000 for the vet visits (each one a three hour round trip) and tooth extraction surgery.
This trapper broke four laws: The trap had been baited, it was well within 25 yards of the road, it had no identifying marks, and as we revisited the site, we could tell the trapper didn’t return for three more days. We noticed several other trap sites in the area, all with bait.
I reported this the next morning to the Game & Fish department, and they assured me an officer would contact me to investigate by the next day. I never heard from them. It’s bad enough that legal trapping is so dangerous, but the fact that they don’t follow up on blatant illegal trapping is especially egregious. This trapper is still trapping illegally in that area, with no repercussions.
–Sandoval County, Forest Service land, NM
This story appeared in the Jemez Daily Post on January 12, 2016.
Years ago we had a hound named Strawberry. She went missing for about five days. Then one day she showed up, thin, weak and with eyes full of sand. She stumbled in through the dog door then turned and stumbled back out. She was delirious but we caught her and brought her into the house. That’s when we realized she had been caught in a coyote snare and had an open wound circling her body just ahead of her back legs. We took her to Santa Fe to our vet, Stan Heyman, and he cleaned her up and cut away proud flesh. For the next week we had to cut more proud flesh daily. She was such a strong girl. We’d lay her out on the kitchen table and she’d grimace at the pain as we worked but never resisted the painful job. She recovered fully and spent several more years with us until she was called to the Rainbow Bridge.
–Western Taos County, NM
I have never encountered such a thing before today. I still can’t believe it’s legal! While walking my dogs on a trail we’ve been on for years one of them suddenly shrieked and yelped repeatedly. His paw was caught in a steel leg hold trap. I got bitten in the process, but I managed to calm him down and get his leg loose. I still can’t believe these things are allowed!
–Las Cruces, NM
We have had numerous pets caught in traps in the Four Corners area. They are lucky if they are found before they die of starvation. People do not check traps as they are supposed to, no matter what anyone says. Trapping is barbaric and unnecessary, eagles, hawks, in fact, all animals are susceptible to being caught in traps. Let’s move forward not back.
–Four Corners Area
Where I am from, trapping is common unfortunately. There have been instances of pets being found in traps, and they have died or been injured so badly that they have had to be put down. If it is cruelty for pets, it is cruelty for wildlife. No animal should be made to endure being maimed, or legs chewed off in a frantic bid to escape.
In January 2013, I was hiking with my three dogs in the Sacramento Mountains about 20 miles south of Cloudcroft. We had just gotten out of the truck and were heading to a hiking trail we had been on many times before when I heard one of my dogs crying out in pain. I ran up the hill and found Maxi, my Brittany Spaniel, with his foot caught in a steel trap. I was able to free him quickly before severe damage was done to his foot. The trap had a chain on it with a grappling hook on the end. The hook was caught up under a rock.
After researching trapping in New Mexico I was shocked to learn that it was legal to set traps within 25 yards of a hiking trail. What’s more shocking is that in today’s time, allowing these horrible steel traps to be used to trap any animal is inhuman and should be against the law in all states.
–Lincoln National Forest, Otero County, NM
I was hiking up a well-defined game trail I frequently travel with my dog. (I visit the trail every evening in summer & every weekend in winter). When hiking that Sunday, my dog was lured to a hidden, scented steel trap and it snapped shut on my dog’s paw. I heard him screaming in pain and ran down trail to find him freaking out, trying to free his leg. After about 5 minutes, I was able to free him, but not until after he bit me in the wrist (he was scared and probably trying to help me remove the trap). My dog was relatively uninjured, though his paw remained swollen for several days and he no doubt had deep bruising.
His personality definitely changed after the incident, less the happy-go-lucky fella that he was. I had to get a tetanus shot for the puncture wound and arm remained bruised for more than two weeks. In meantime, the Game Warden asked me to take him to where the trap was. I led him up the trail two weeks later and the trap was still there, hidden under the tree rocks I had placed on it, indicating the trap owner had not bothered to check it every 24 hrs as required by law.
This incident was quite offensive and upsetting to me and makes me leery about returning to a favorite trail near my home, thus greatly affecting my quality of life. It’s bad enough that 45,000 acres of our forest land was consumed by the Big Bear Fire of 2012, greatly reducing our recreational areas. Much of the fall the remaining forest areas are now filled with elk and turkey hunters. I’m careful of them and wear orange and put a jingle bell on dog’s collar. I’m willing to share the forest and realize we all have our own recreational interests. But this trapping is grossly unfair, indiscriminant, sneaky, dangerous, just downright odious. Trapping really should not be allowed in what remains of the Lincoln County National Forest, and ifit is to remain legal, than signage MUST be posted in the area where the trap is set.
–Nogal area, Lincoln County, National Forest, NM
Encounter with the so-called “dog-proof raccoon trap”
Here are the pictures that I took when the cat came in with the trap attached. It is certainly stronger than a gopher trap as it took two of us to release the bar holding the cat’s mummified leg. The cat was gone from home on North Mesa for six weeks and came home with the trap attached. The front leg was amputated and the cat recovered.
–Los Alamos, NM
On New Years Day in 2013 I was out hiking with my fiancé and 3 little dogs. We were walking through a ravine when I heard one of my pups screaming in pain. We scrambled up the side of the ravine to find him screaming and biting at his leg. Wiley had gotten his front right leg caught in a trap. The trappers had hung up squirrels made out of Sherpa, which my poor dog has mistaken for toys. My fiancé attempted to hold his head up while I tried to free his leg. When we finally got him out, he was just limp in my arms and his face was covered with blood (which we later learned was my fiance’s due to bite marks covering his hands). We rushed him out of the forest to an Emergency Vet clinic an hour away (only vet open on New Years was in Los Lunas, NM). He ended up wearing a cast for several weeks and the visit cost me well over 500 dollars. We later proceeded to get the traps and GPS coordinates and turn them into Game and Fish, but nothing was ever done. The trappers phone number had been on the traps and he was from Los Lunas. This was a horrible experience that I would not wish on any living creature. To see how much he suffered in the few minutes it took to get him out, I can not imagine something suffering like that for days!
–Cibola National Forest Area north of Socorro, NM
My dog Griz had the misfortune of becoming trapped in a steel jawed leg-hold trap. Although I found him before he died, he was never the same. He had obviously been in major pain and suffered trauma, and a limp that stayed with him for life.
Please join the other communities in our area that have adopted this or similar resolutions. I believe that any type of trapping is cruel, barbaric, uncalled for and unnecessary.
–Sante Fe National Forest, Jemez District
My Experience with a Trap
On a brisk mid-winter morning the three of us filled our day packs with water and lunch and headed down one of our favorite canyons in the Gila National Forest north of Silver City. It’s a hike we took often with our friend and her dogs.
The dogs stay with us most of the time but occasionally go sniffing up along the slopes. We could see them moving through the trees above us stopping now and then when their expert noses found something of interest. If we got out of sight they’d soon come bounding down the hill to reconnect with us.
It was as nice a day as we could ask for. The air warmed as the sun filled the canyon and we stopped for lunch on a rocky terrace along the stream. The dogs gathered around for their treats and a share of our lunch, too, if a raised eye brow, cocked head or a tail wag got our attention and earned them a nibble. They lay lounging at our feet until we began packing up and they knew it was time to go.
We headed back up the canyon with our canine escort, talking, laughing and enjoying the beauty of the forest. What can be better than a day spent with friends? As we got closer to the end of our hike the dogs ran ahead knowing we were almost there.
Suddenly we heard it and it stopped us in our tracks. The howling was one of pain and fear and came from a forested knoll about 50 feet above us. My friend called the dogs to us, one was missing. With dogs in the lead we climbed the rocky slope, crashing through the undergrowth.
When we came upon him at the top of the knoll he was thrashing about, his leg caught in a steel trap. The others were whining and circling nervously. It’s a hard thing to get a dog out of a trap but she calmed him and we opened the trap. It could have been worse and was better than we hoped. The paw was bloody but whole and he would walk on it with a limp the short way back. We took the trap, too.
This type of incident could happen to anyone’s pet, and indeed has happened to many pets and even people. Traps are indiscriminate. This isn’t the 1800’s and traps don’t belong and shouldn’t be on our public lands.
Traps are a cruel way to take an animal leaving it to die in pain or starvation if not retrieved quickly. I won’t pass judgment here on the people that use them. I do think our land management agencies, federal and state alike should ban their use on our public lands. We should continue to petition these agencies to move toward this correct and justified management policy.
–Grant County, New Mexico
My husband and I were hiking along a canyon in the Burro Mountains with our dog. We have hiked this canyon for many years. Suddenly, our dog started sniffing at a bone hung from a branch. It didn’t immediately occur to me that this was bait for a trap. My husband pulled our dog away (she was leashed) before she could step in the trap.
We are disgusted that bait was hung right off the trail and no marker for the trap. We no longer hike this canyon. When trapping is allowed, we all lose, except the trapper making money off the wildlife found on our public lands.
–Burro Mountains, Gila National Forest, New Mexico
A Desolate Landscape
I am a wildlife biologist. Currently and in the recent past, all across New Mexico, I am seeing desolate landscapes. Where wildlife once was abundant, it is now scarce. Our wild land ecosystems have been assaulted from every direction: drought, fragmentation, fire, disease, hunting pressures, wildlife killing contests, and increasing recreational use. The land and the animals are really suffering. I am concerned about this loss, as well as the continuing aggressive removal of predators and other wild animals from our natural landscapes. Traps, poisons, and snares are archaic and cruel. They kill and maim wildlife and domestic animals indiscriminately while causing unimaginable suffering. The trappers that set these traps are able to take as much wildlife as they want from our public lands, there is no “bag” limit. It deeply offends me that our Game and Fish Department would allow such take and indiscriminate killing on public lands that belong to all of us, not just a cruel few. I want to see wildlife alive! Shall I pay for a permit to have this privilege? I seriously question the science and values behind the issuance of trapping permits by NMDGF. I, and the majority of New Mexicans; not to mention our tourists, want to see a stop to this exploitation of New Mexico wildlife. Wildlife should be left alone. Survival these days is hard enough without mankind further darkening the horizon with cruel and inhumane methods of killing.
I was hiking up the Alli Canyon trail form the Forest Service parking lot off hwy 35. There was a trap by the cabin (the cabin is located about 3 to 4 miles in on the trail) which had been set and sprung by a squirrel. The squirrel was trying desperately to get out and trying to chew off its leg. I was able to free the squirrel and he/she went up the tree apparently still able to use its leg. What surprised me about the trap and its location was that this cabin is on forest service property and in fact is used occasionally by staff. The trap was fairly hefty and if I remember correctly it had a serrated edge (claw like). I have been back there since but I didn’t see the trap.
–Grant County, New Mexico
In late January 2014, my husband and I and our two dogs were hiking in the forest area in La Madera, NM. We encountered a couple and spoke to them briefly as we hiked uphill. We didn’t think much about the encounter until we found a trap set near a tree on our way back down. The trap was right near where we had met the couple, and we assume they were the ones who had set the trap, as they were on an ATV and wearing camouflage. But they hadn’t said anything to us about the trap, despite the fact that our dogs were loose at the time. Our dogs could easily have been caught in the trap if we hadn’t noticed it before the dogs got too close.
–La Madera, New Mexico
Walking my two dogs in the Burros, where I walk 5-6 days a week, my blue heeler started SCREAMING!! I have never heard anything like it!! Just off the forest road I found her in a trap. I didn’t know how to get her out. I pulled and tugged and finally took sometime to examine the trap all the while she was SCREAMING!! I pushed down on each side of the trap and she wiggled her foot out. She has a raw spot on her leg, but no permanent damage. It has made my morning walks very stressful. I have found at least 10 traps in this area, and I know there are more!! When I encountered the trapper he said it was my fault for not having my dogs on a leash.
–Burro Mountains, Gila National Forest, New Mexico
I have personally known dogs who were killed by M44 cyanide devices and dogs that were caught in leghold traps. Several dogs I knew personally have died of thirst while caught in traps and one had to have his front leg amputated due to gangrene in the foot. Obviously the trapper never checked the traps after setting them.
–Farmington, New Mexico
My wife and I were taking our dogs for a ride in our ATV and we stopped at a fork in the BLM trail and let the dogs jump off to take a break. All of a sudden our youngest Pup began to scream and we found him caught in a steel spring-jawed trap right on the trail. We were able to get the trap off and took it with us to the Vet. Fortunately, there were no broken bones but our dog would not put weight on that leg for several days. We took in Buster as a rescue just several months before this incident and the poor guy just didn’t need this added trauma in his life. Having traps immediately on a trail or pathway is illegal and it was a drag type trap, so any captured animal might drag it off somewhere and just starve to death; a particularly cruel fate.
–Santa Fe County, New Mexico
I was walking alone, with my 3 dogs along a road that borders our property, I walk this frequently, with my dogs, to check our fence line for damage. One of my dogs began screaming/howling, a horrible sound, she was in the road, I ran up to her and she was in a trap cabled to a tree, this trap I guess was within the legal distance from our property line. There were 2 traps, I set off the other one so she would not get her other leg trapped. I could not figure out how to release the trap, and of course my dog tried to bite me. So I used the other trap to figure the damn thing out. I was able to lean on the sides with my hands to open it enough for her to get her leg out. I had never seen a trap, so the whole things was very scary. I carried my dog home, her leg was bloody and she was limping.
I ran my dog to the vet right away. Luckily, because my dog was not in the trap for long (although it seemed like forever), her leg was OK, she is just sore.
I hate to think of any living creature getting caught in one of these, it is so inhumane.
–Taos County, New Mexico
I had a dog trapped in El Dorado. He lost his leg and nearly died.
–Santa Fe, New Mexico
I lost my dog in a trap; two legs with gangrene.
–Santa Fe, New Mexico
My dog almost lost his foot due to a steel-jaw trap. I dislike them very much.
–Jemez Springs, New Mexico
A friend’s dog was caught in a leg-hold trap near Chama.
–Santa Fe, New Mexico
Having been with a dog whose leg was caught, I can testify how painful it is.
–Albuquerque, New Mexico
My neighbor’s dog was caught in one while he was with my dog. Terrible.
–Tesuque, New Mexico
How to Release a Coyote Trap
Trapping ruins the balance—too many rodents if no coyotes. Trappers also set their traps too close to homes—some of which have children. And they don’t check as required.
Having seen the nasty results of these traps on pets and wildlife, I strongly urge the prohibition of these inhumane devices.
As a county commissioner, I sponsored a resolution in support of banning traps on public land. It passed!
Both my dogs were caught in coyote traps in an area we frequent less than one mile from my home… It was a traumatic experience. Once I realized I couldn’t release the dogs from the traps on my own, I had to leave them to run back to my house, get in my car, drive to find the sheep herder and then drive us back to my dogs. (The sheep herder did not set the traps. They were just as upset as I because it easily could have been their animals that got caught. They use dogs and llamas to protect their herd.) That took well over half an hour. Seeing my dogs caught, bloody and screaming was horrific. The level of panic and pain is inhumane. It took more than a month to regain my confidence enough to enjoy our daily hikes through Carson National Forest that surrounds the property where I live. Both dogs have healed without serious repercussions–some scarring and a lost tooth… My vet bill was $94 and I missed half a day of work.
Personally, I enjoy the presence of the predators that are the main victims of this trapping and have asked the neighbors not to hunt them on our land. That doesn’t mean I don’t take precautions against their natural impulses such as bringing my dogs inside at night. That said, I nearly lost one of our dogs two years ago to a trap that had been set for coyotes in the (National) forest behind our place leading me to believe that the traps are more dangerous than the coyotes… I was saddened to hear that a local boy has trapped four or more bobcats near us this season. I loved seeing them watch me over their shoulder when they (leisurely) retreated into cover if I was lucky enough to catch one on my walks or rides. And I can only imagine how many other creatures the boy trapped to get those four valuable skins.
I have been a hunter myself. I understand the pleasures of the hunt and of having game on hand for the freezer. I object to the unrestricted slaughter of animals, particularly predators, and particularly on public lands…
I was out walking my dog, a black and tan Doberman by the name of Nina. We were out walking in a large arroyo that sits above the dam that is located north of the airport, and west of Picacho Peak. We had been there a while enjoying the warm fall afternoon sunshine when all of a sudden I here her yelp, then cry out in pain. As I looked towards where she was I saw something long attached to her, and immediately thought that she had been bitten by a rattlesnake. She fell to the ground crying in pain and as I ran up I realized that it was not a snake like I had first thought but a steel cable attached on one end to a mesquite bush and the other end to a coyote trap which was now clamped on my dogs bloody front paw.
Nina, in trying to get away had stretched the cable tight and was now laying on the trap and her hurt foot. The cable was so tight that I could not get to the trap to get it off her foot. Every time I would try Nina would cry out, and instinctively bite at me because of the pain. Eventually I was able to get enough slack in the cable that I was able to remove the trap. Thankfully there was no permanent damage to Nina’s foot but it is amazing to me that someone can leave a trap that can indiscriminately trap, hurt, or even kill an animal it was not made for, even someone’s pet. Surely there has to be a better way to accomplish what the trappers are trying to do.
–Dona Ana County
I had my dogs out walking in the Box Canyon behind Picacho Mtn. There was a beautiful tree in an area that looked very serene; I specifically remember thinking how lovely it was as I walked past it. After I passed it, one of my dogs began to yelp/scream continuously. I flung off my backpack and ran back to find my little Jack Russell caught in a trap under that beautiful tree. The trap was chained to the ground. I lay down to unhook it so I could get to her and pull her out. I held her and the trap together to try to get the pressure off her leg. By that time I was pretty freaked out. I wasn’t sure I would be able to apply enough pressure to get the trap off her leg and I didn’t have a cell phone signal at the bottom of the canyon. So….holding her and the trap and trying not hurt her any more than she already was I climbed the nearest hill to use my cell phone to call a friend to come and help me.
By that point my adrenaline was flowing and once I knew help was coming I was able to apply enough pressure to open the trap and get her leg out.
I carried her and the trap back up to the road to wait for my friend. Her leg was scraped and bruised but luckily not broken.
–Dona Ana County
We were walking on a forest road on Mt. Taylor on a beautiful day. Our group of dogs was slightly ahead when we heard what can only be described as one of the dogs ‘screaming’. At first we thought the dog had been bitten but then we saw the trap. In trying to get it off, two of us were bitten and bloodied by the dog who was hurting so badly he couldn’t help it. I was able to get the stakes out of the ground so I could get the dog in a position to get the trap off which I was able to do eventually. The trap was unmarked and only 2 feet from the road.
I don’t know what animal was meant for this trap. My dog is coyote sized. I will never forget the sound my dog made and I never want to back to that place when there is no way to know where traps might be.
I was walking parallel to the Forest Road that runs up the side of the canyon. I was in the canyon bottom when I saw two 4-wheelers driving down the canyon even further off the road than I was walking. I remember thinking oh no, I bet they are trapping. And sure enough I came to their truck parked where the road crosses the canyon. I could see where their 4-wheelers’ tracks had gone right by the ‘no motor vehicles’ sign put up by the Forest Service. The back of the truck was full of traps and there was one dead fox, a dead coyote and a dead tassel-eared squirrel. It isn’t legal to trap squirrels- but a squirrel is just part of the hapless bycatch in a trap big enough for a coyote. The non-targets were running 33% that day. These trappers have made 4-wheeler tracks all over the canyon bottom that will be there long after they leave which can’t be soon enough.
December 12, I was in the Santa Fe National Forest (on the Dome Road approximately 5 miles up from its junction with Highway 22 near Cochiti Pueblo) and my dog got her foot caught in an animal trap. The trap was less than 100′ from the road and was baited with fresh meat. We managed to get her out and she was relatively unscathed but it was an incredibly awful experience for all involved.
On Sunday afternoon I followed a truck transporting foxes down Walnut Creek away from Gomez Peak. They appeared to be sleeping. My research revealed New Mexico’s hunting and trapping season with no limits on foxes and bobcats from November 1- March 15… It was a wake-up call for me, who naively hiked with my dog on public lands thinking rattlesnakes were the problem, while the real danger is New Mexico’s trapping rules and the interests of commercially trafficking of animal skins… –Grant County
My dog was caught in a steel trap today, less than 25 yards from a road outside Pinos Altos, NM..
I’m monitoring my animals very closely during trapping season. We no longer hike the forest trails during this time of year… a neighbor’s dog, “Rufus”, was savagely killed about this time last year in a trap, legally set near her home. The trapper was from Missouri and had set hundreds of traps all around our area. Another neighbor had two dogs caught in traps, their legs broken. That same trapper shot them and dumped their carcasses on the side of a forest road.
Six of us hikers were heading up to the popular Tonuco petroglyphs when we encountered a man with bags of Swift Fox carcasses in his truck & he volunteered that he had traps set all over the area. The visuals were sickening. Upon checking the NM laws on trapping, I find they are virtually lax to the point of a free for all. With these existing laws, trappers having no conscience or compassion, could wipe out an entire species in an area.
–Dona Ana County
I was hiking in Socorro County when I came upon a white-sided jackrabbit caught in a steel leg-hold trap designed for coyotes. This is a protected species in NM! I was trying to see about how to free it when I noticed that one front paw had been severed and the other hung only by ligaments. I gave it a quick and humane death with my pistol and hid the poor animal, then dropped the trap down a mine shaft to a watery grave. While I can’t advocate destruction of property, I have to say it was the most satisfying thing I’ve done all week. As a hunter myself, I find trappers and trapping unconscionable.
–Socorro County, NM
I live in a remote area of Socorro county and have been horrified that a trapper has taken over the canyon where I love to hike and walk with my dogs. I feel like a prisoner in my own home. It takes him 6 hours to check all his traps–there must be hundreds of them and he has been here for weeks already. It will probably be years before I see a bobcat again.
–Socorro County, NM
I was hiking in the Quebradas region east of Socorro last weekend when my beautiful, border collie mix female dog was caught in a coyote leg trap. It was horrifying. The screams and cries of pain she made will haunt me for a very long time.
The Quebradas Back country by-way is a scenic region run by the BLM. The brochure (available on-line) invites hikers, bikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts to explore this public area. The BLM advocates a Leave-No-Trace philosophy, and one of the tenets is to “respect wildlife”. How can these heinous trapping devices be part of that mission?
–Socorro County, NM
My dog Jesse is a terrier mix and was about five months old when this happened. We hiked into Wind Canyon (west of Silver City about 5 miles, on the south side of 180) and hiked east until we were within a half mile of houses at Tyrone. It was obviously an area that lots of folks recreate in – dirt bike trails, etc. I began walking back west toward my vehicle along a dirt road which followed a sandy draw, sometimes in it and sometimes alongside it.
I was standing maybe six inches from Jesse wondering what that “funny smell” was when a trap came up out of the sand like a rattler and got her by the front leg midway between wrist and elbow. I extricated her quickly and carried her up the side of the hill, away from any other hidden traps, and after some time, maybe an hour of comforting her, we were able to limp back to the vehicle.
I think her young malleable bones were why the trap didn’t break her leg. This was such an awful experience. As for me, I am retired and hike several hours every day. I study maps in the evenings and see all these blank places I’d like to explore with my dogs. But this experience has made me fearful of going anywhere with them except in the rec area at Little Walnut and the refuge east of town. (And even there, about 2 years ago we were no more than a quarter mile outside it when my other dog tripped a trap but didn’t get caught in it.) I find this very confining and am angry that I must be afraid of using public land.
–Grant County, NM
While hiking west of Las Cruces near the edge of the Aden Lava Flow WSA (Wilderness Study Area), one of my golden retrievers stepped in a leg trap. She yelped and frantically tried to get free. With some difficulty, since I have no experience with traps and my dog was in distress and very active, I was able to free her. She limped for a time but had no serious injury. I was furious. I destroyed the trap and hid it where it will never be found. Thank you for the work you are doing on this issue.
On Christmas day we were hiking along our favorite road near the Continental Divide Trail. The dogs were running scent trails back and forth across the road, as they usually do, while I was making my way along the road. All of a sudden from off to the right I heard a snap, like a branch breaking or an animal crashing through the brush and then one of the dogs began screaming as if they were in extreme pain…I raced towards the sound…As I got closer, I discovered what the issue was. One of my dogs had a leg-hold trap attached to his left front foot.
The adrenaline helped me to have the strength to remove the trap from his foot. I did get bitten in the process, but since he was in pain, I didn’t mind the nip. As soon as he was released, he raced off seemingly unharmed. Upon further inspection later I determined that the trap had hit his head first and then ended up on his foot. He received cuts above his left eye and along the left side of his muzzle…I was not happy and I will be choosing my hiking areas a little more carefully until trapping season is over.
I recently encountered coyotes that had been in traps for at least 36 hours on private land where I work. I just talked to a friend who was also working in the same area last week. He saw both of the coyotes Tuesday morning and shot them both to put them out of their misery on Wednesday night (he didn’t have his gun with him earlier). They had been in there since Monday night at least.
As disturbing it is to me to shoot a trapped animal, I feel it is better than suffering for days more and I assume they would be lame after so long in a trap. The carcasses laid there until sometime Friday evening or Saturday morning, they were gone mid morning Saturday. Which means (the trapper) is checking once a week. Disgusting lazy man!
I know a woman in Sierra County who always lets the coyotes she traps die in the traps: she says they are easier to deal with when they are dead. She sets the traps around her house. Her kids torment the animals in the traps.
–Elephant Butte, NM
Found a jackrabbit with two broken legs. Had to put it out of its misery.
I almost stepped in a large trap while our hiking group was hiking on public land. Five minutes later, a dog owned by on of our member got caught in the trap and my partner was bitten by the dog when he freed it from the trap.
I was appalled when my dog came home dragging a trap on her leg. It took two men to remove it.
–Las Cruces, NM
Two foxes were recently found in a trap near Jemez Springs in an area where people frequently walk with their dogs. This fox family gave great pleasure to nearby residents who enjoyed watching them. They felt their loss deeply.
–Jemez Pueblo, NM
We’ve had/seen some pretty nasty trapping incidents on BLM land. A coyote trap laid in the Trails area west of San Ysidro caught our dog. In the Scenic Byway breaks East of Socorro there was a bobcat in a trap still alive. A mountain lion (was) trapped down by the Ladrones. The trap cable and the cat’s skeleton remained with the head, paws and skin removed. The cat, in its struggles had nearly destroyed the juniper it was cabled to.
My family is in the meat business and I grew up around trapping and understand how unnecessary the torture of traps is.
A hiker from Hillsboro was in the Warm Springs area and found the remains of a fox in a leg-hold trap. The trapper, another Hillsboro resident, apparently checks his traps infrequently at best. A complaint was made to the NM Dept. of Game and Fish, but as far as we know, no action was taken.
I had a dog who stumbled into a trap and was trapped by on of those clamps. Luckily, my dog was saved by me and my husband as we pried off the clamp, but it was a frightening experience. It is very inhumane.
A Grant County woman stepped in a leg-hold trap in the Gila National Forest after she attempted to open another trap in which her dog had been caught. She was wearing sandals at the time, and luckily was able to pull back quickly so the trap only grazed her toes, drawing some blood, before it clamped onto the end of one sandal. The woman asked to remain anonymous, saying she feared retribution from the trapper.
–Silver City Sun-News November 2005
A Silver City resident found a bobcat in a leg-hold trap adjacent to his driveway. On the end of the chain opposite the trap, the prongs that are designed to secure the trap had obviously come loose from whatever it had been attached to and become hung up in a chain near the driveway. NM Game and Fish was sending someone to handle the situation, but by late afternoon, nobody had arrived. The resident was frustrated that nothing was done for the animal for an entire day.
–Silver City Sun-News December 2005
FOLLOW UP: The bobcat was found to have severe foot injuries from the trap and was euthanized the next day.
About a week ago I was walking BLM lands in New Mexico with my husband, my father and my dog. My dog had just jumped out of the truck and within a few seconds had been sniffing something with great interest, just a few feet off the parking area. In an instant, we heard a snap, he yelped, jumped into the air and took off running through the brush with something trailing immediately behind him.
Horrified, we called to him trying to get him to stop running. He had become ensnared in a leg-hold trap, which had been hidden under the soil. Fortunately, the trap must have caught only a bit of flesh and mostly fur because after running madly for about a minute, he freed himself from the trap and came running back to us. He was shaking and licking at his hind leg. I checked him and with great relief, found no blood.
My husband traced his path and found the steel leg-hold trap with our dog’s fur caught in it. We found four more traps, all hidden under soil, all placed illegally between three and twenty feet from the edge of the road. We decided to report the incident. The Fish & Game authority did not contact us until noon the following day. Upon speaking with him I quickly realized that he was only interested in finding out where we lived so that he could pick up the traps we had found. He did not even know the law regarding placement of traps, made it clear that he was not concerned about the plight of the public, but in fact was more interested in protecting the practice of trapping at any cost…
I told him I had just learned that several people had contacted him with similar problems in the past week and he replied, “yeah, three or four dogs were caught in the traps – it happens but its no big deal…”
We headed up a dry creek bed perhaps a few hundred feet when my dog got caught in a leg-hold trap placed under a tree on an animal path alongside the dry creek… We freed the dog, who was unhurt… I left a note for the trapper on the trap. On our way out we encountered a man and woman who identified themselves as the trappers… We continued on our way.
They came out a few minutes later and drove up to our truck, the man threw my note at us and then sped off in a cloud of dust. My speculation is that they run their traplines along the roadways at the minimum distance required by law so they can reach them primarily by vehicle with a small amount of walking…The trapping is for commercial purposes and they know NM laws are so lax that they can get away with this lazy, dangerous practice of trapping from the road.
–Knight’s Peak, Burro Mountains
On Thursday, December 1, 2005, we were hiking on public land when one of our dogs got caught in a steel leg-hold trap. It was not along the road, but was in the middle of an obviously well-used trail up a dry wash. We have hiked in that area several times before and often see other hikers in the area.
The person who was able to free the dog from the trap angrily threw the trap into the bushes. Fortunately, the dog was not seriously injured. His leg was bleeding, but he was able to walk OK. The dog’s owner left with him immediately to take him to the vet. She is now afraid to hike with us anymore…
I have read in the papers about other pets that have been caught in these traps and of people being injured by them. We sometimes bring our grand-children along on our hikes and this trap was of a size that could easily snare a child’s foot… These trappers obviously have no regard for other people or animals.
–Near the Continental Divide in Southwestern NM
Traps are NOT humane, the animals are NOT sleeping peacefully, and trappers DO catch a lot of wrong game, a lot of eagles, hawks, all kinds of predator birds, and deer, not to mention domestic animals. How much of a supply there is, is open for argument. The trappers with the big money making trap lines are NOT checking everyday, and the only fortunate thing is that most trappers don’t catch much.
It takes a good amount of woodsmanship and wildlife knowledge to actually catch the targeted game. And with soaring costs it is becoming less lucrative. But if the traps are out there, they are catching domestics as well as wrong wildlife. The scent is noticed by all animals. A lot of them are curious so they go see. Trapping should be just plain outlawed all around.
–A former trapper in Southern NM
As a former trapper, I feel the pain inflicted does not justify any profit that could be produced.
The public land in the area where I live is not regulated properly and trappers are free to break any rules they wish… this includes the use of illegal traps, traps being placed illegally on public lands and private property and trapping out of season.
–Burro Mountains, New Mexico
My father and grandfather were at one time the largest fur merchants in Canada. Given that, I strongly believe that the trapping of animals is immoral and unconscionable.
–Santa Fe, NM
I was out enjoying a walk with my dogs on BLM land on a nice January afternoon. I went to an area where I have been many times before. One of my dogs suddenly started crying and snapping at her foot… I found her caught in a leg-hold trap and my leisurely walk took a horrifying turn. I had no idea what to do. Fortunately, we were not far from the car and I ran back to get some tools to pry it open. When I got back to my dog, she was biting the trap and blood was flying everywhere.
I attempted numerous times to release the trap with a variety of tools, none of which worked. I cried for help, but of course, no one came. I ran back to the car and was able to drive it over the land to be near her… I finally gave up on trying to get her leg free and I discovered that the trap was attached to rebar in the ground. I dug it up and she jumped to the safety of the car.
We dashed to the nearest town 30 miles away and went to a very dear veterinarian. He calmly led her into the office, sedated her, and was able to use all of his strength to finally release the trap. He admitted I would never have been able to do this, especially under the chaos of the situation. The story has a happy ending – she ended up with no permanent leg damage although she has broken all her middle teeth. –Los Pinos Mountains.
The other day I walked a dog at the local Humane Society who had been caught in one of these traps and required extensive surgery to repair his leg and the muscles right up into his chest He had lain there for many hours before he was found.
–El Prado, NM
All the bobcats are gone from my neighborhood and it’s a shame.
I have dogs and horses and am often in the mountains. For years, I have worried about one of us being caught in a trap. So far, the ones we’ve found were already sprung.
My 40 pound Australian Shepherd dog got her leg caught in a trap once on the Lincoln National Forest.
Encountered traps volunteering for AMRC (Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council) and Rails to Trails in Cloudcroft.
Traps are gross. I’ve seen carcasses rotting in the sun.
–Animas Creek, NM
Have had two dogs lose legs to traps – a tragedy!
–Las Cruces, NM
As a hunting and outdoors enthusiast, I do not understand the need for trapping on public land in New Mexico. I have hunted elk and deer in N.M. off and on for the last 20 years. Public lands are intended to be used by everyone. Having dangerous traps lying on the ground that potentially could lead to a disaster for me of some other unsuspecting individual does not make much sense.
I totally believe in game management and have personally seen the benefits, but when innocent people are affected, the losses outweigh the benefits. I have seen and heard of many cases of Bighorn sheep, deer and elk being killed by these traps… As someone who cares about wildlife, hunting and the overall success of our public lands, I hope trapping on public lands in New Mexico is prohibited.
I have personally experienced this – my dog was caught in an old unattended trap. She was hurt and frightened, biting at us as we tried to remove her from the trap.
I have personally seen how animals can be cruelly trapped and still alive. Several years ago, we rescued a fox whose paw was caught and dangling. We cut off the paw with a pocket knife and hope it survived.
My friend’s dog was caught in a trap and it took years of physical therapy to help her walk. She still has a limp and it has affected her personality. I’m very much against traps of any kind.
Some neighbors discovered a coyote with a trap attached to her leg by the barest remnant of sinew and skin. It turned out that she had been dragging it around for a month and was nearly spent from her inability to hunt or behave normally… The coyote survived her ordeal, now three-legged, but we were still disgusted at the unnecessary suffering she endured.
To allow unlimited numbers of traps to be set on public land and unlimited numbers of animals to be taken, many or most of which are subjected to this kind of torture, is unconscionable. I personally do not think we owe public lands ranchers this option. If ranchers insist on using traps on their private lands, it is sad, but to allow it in the public domain, where land is held for many uses and purposes is wrong.
–Santa Fe, NM
I had a dog get in one. She was a miniature dachshund. It was awful. Luckily I was there and able to get her out, but not without her frantically biting me and her own leg… I have also heard about a calf being caught in one. Of course it had died and its poor mother had hung around for ages.
Coyotes had a nice time with this… I live near the National Forest, I hike and ride horses. During trapping “season”, I don’t go into the forest very often for fear of the traps. Why should I be kept out of our National Forest because some cruel person feels a need to put traps out there…?
–Silver City, NM
My beloved dog “Hopi” was caught in one of these horrible traps. We were on a peaceful walk in the wilderness. I would like to see one of these trappers caught in one of these horrors. My feelings were of helplessness – how to open it?
–Truth or Consequences, NM
Having trapped, they are cruel.
–Las Cruces, NM
I have found animals in leg traps–including a roadrunner, the state bird–and its not a pretty sight.
–Las Cruces, NM
My husband and I are both hunters as well as outdoor enthusiasts. We know the meaning of a clean kill and the proper use of the meat afterwards. In my mind, the use of leg-hold traps is neither of the above. We recently had an incident while walking through the Gila Forest. Our Blue Heeler dog got caught in one of those steel leg-hold traps. Fortunately, I was not there to hear him scream. However, my husband was and he said it is a sound that will forever stay with him.
Luckily, he was able to get him to the vet immediately and our dog survived… I have had the opportunity to speak with a rancher, just to see what his side of the story was. Of course, he was against the banning of any leg-hold traps. He tells me those coyotes are wily and they are difficult to shoot. So the only means the rancher has is to use the traps. I have been told the coyotes are attacking their cattle.
I might agree with the rancher as long as he uses them on his private lands. However, the national forest is not his land. It belongs to all of us. There are far more people hiking and walking the forest these days because there has been an influx in population… Traps should be banned.
I was on a ride in the Burro Mountains accompanied by my border collie and golden retriever. We were all having a nice time when suddenly my golden cried out loudly in pain and jumped back. We were in a large arroyo which is a major drain and path into a beautiful canyon. This arroyo is used by many humans and animals. At first I thought my dog had been bitten by a rattlesnake. I then quickly discovered she was tethered to the ground by heavy chain attached to a trap which had been covered with sand.
I was horrified, especially when I discovered that no matter how hard I tried, I could not release the trap. She was completely terrified and thrashing around. I removed my Leatherman from the saddlebags, and slowly chewed away at the large chain with the little wire cutters on it. My theory was that if I could hold up the trap, maybe she could hobble down the arroyo into the canyon where we could get help.
This was tricky, leading a nervous horse who had also been upset by the screaming dog and trying to hold up a heavy trap and encourage a terrified dog to come with me. This is a very sweet dog who can be quite stoic, but she has large bones and the pressure on her ankle was tremendous, so she just lay in the sand crying. I then decided I would have to leave her and ride for help. I did so, reluctant to look back at her, until I heard her howling. When I looked back, she was thrashing around in the sand, so upset at being left that I knew she would be severely hurt from this thrashing.
When I rode back to her, she actually mournfully tried to wag her tail being so relieved at having someone come back to her. I then did the only thing I could think of: I took my horse’s bridle off, tied it to the saddle horn, removed anything that might hang her up and let her go! The border collie took out after the horse, which was further upsetting, but she eventually returned. I hoped the area rancher would find the horse, realize there was a problem and track us back to the arroyo which led off the canyon.
When I heard a vehicle what seemed like a long time later, I used my stock dog whistle as loudly as I could. He heard me, and could see me in the sand with the dog upstream from the mouth of the canyon. After removing the trap, he then went back for a pick-up, as the dog could not walk, so more time went by. She recovered with no permanent damage, but only because someone was there and came looking for us. I was horrified at this whole incident. Believe me when I say I do not have the same feeling when riding softly down a beautiful arroyo or canyon, knowing what is lurking just under the surface.
–Burro Mountains, NM
My dog was caught in a trap while hiking on a maintained trail to a fire tower in the Gila. He was less than 10 feet from the trail when he was caught. The normally mild mannered dog was so frightened and in so much pain that he tried to bite me and my hiking companion when we tried to release him. We had to muzzle him to release him and then had get emergency medical attention for my companion for the bite.
I live in the El Morro-Zuni area and these traps are killing bobcats and trapping our dogs. They are horrific and cruel.
I once had a beautiful dog who was caught in a trap. The trapper later shot and killed my dog.
–Santa Fe, NM
My parents have a cat who was trapped in a trap for three days. He got his name “ahk-ahk” because he cried for so long, he lost his voice and one of his legs.
–Santa Fe, NM
I’ve been with a dog caught in a trap. It was horrific.
–Santa Fe, NM
The screams of my dog were a sound I had never heard from him or any other animal, nor will I ever forget them… He had stepped into a leg-hold trap as he walked beside us and was frantically trying shake himself loose. Since neither my friend nor I had seen a trap up close before, it was difficult to get it off the dog whose mouth was soon bloody from his own attempts to get the trap off.
My first instinct which was that the trap would release by pressing down on each side, turned out to be correct, but one side was stiff and wouldn’t operate so we tried everything else before trying harder to push on it, finally with success…I can assure you from my experience, no tourist whose dog gets caught will remember the trip fondly.
–Winn Mott, the Deming Headlight, 4/20/2005
My neighbors and I have all had negative experiences with traps, some legal, most illegal. Three German tourists, hiking near my house, came upon a coyote struggling to release itself from a trap. They were horrified and called the local game officer. He never showed up. Neither did the trapper. The Germans said they would never return to New Mexico. They also said Germany outlawed trapping forty years ago.
I am alarmed at the lax way the state Game and Fish Department addresses what few laws there are and I feel these traps are a threat to tourists who come to New Mexico. They are a danger to hikers, backpackers, campers and casual visitors to our state and federal public lands. Often, people come upon a decomposing animal in a trap. Needless to say, it’s a traumatic experience, especially for children.
Eighty-nine countries have banned the practice of trapping. Eight states have also banned trapping on public lands. Seven other states have pending legislation…The people visiting New Mexico don’t need to return home with tales of trapping incidents, most quite unpleasant.
–Silver City, NM
I know a family that got two dogs caught by traps in one day… The vet bill was hundreds of dollars. If that happened to me I’d be (words deleted)… I’d be out to get that trapper. I wish one of them would step in his own trap and see how he likes it.
I heard about this rancher out near Eldorado (NM) who uses traps to keep the coyotes down. This place is populated with kids and pet dogs. How can the law allow this? What if one of those kids steps in a trap and gets caught? Can you imagine how the parents would react–or the law suit which would follow?
I took care of injured animals for a wildlife rescue group and among the animals I cared for was a coyote which had lost a leg in a trap. Every day I looked into the eyes of this animal and I saw in it’s eyes the question: “What did I do to deserve this?” This animal was fortunate to have been found and brought in for treatment or it would almost certainly have died from infection or starvation. If it had left coyote pups behind, they would probably have died without their mother to feed and protect them.
We call ourselves “civilized,” but I see nothing civil in torturing an animal to death for the sake of profit – which is what trapping is really about. Trapping is barbaric, no animal should be made to suffer like that. The fact that they are refered to as “furbearers” which can be “harvested” says volumes about the mind-set of those who conduct, condone and legalize trapping.
Wild animals don’t belong to anyone in particular. They should be allowed to live unmolested in their natural habitat where everyone can enjoy them. Trappers comprise a “special interest group” which should not be allowed to cash in at the expense of New Mexicos wildlife.
–DWB, Northern NM
A dumped dog was caught in a coyote leg-hold trap. It occurred on a ranch outside ABQ. The foreman said the dog could have been in the trap up to 48 hours. The dog escaped amputation because the foreman took him to a vet immediately and gave careful treatment, including wholistic medicine. Three vets saw the dog, and two were responsible for not doing amputation.
Trap Victim Stories
Audio Interviews with Trap Victims
Danger to People and Companion Animals
Destruction of Protected and Endangered Species
Trapping Photos & Videos
New Mexico's Outdated Trapping Regulations and "Furbearers"
Your New Mexico state Senator and Representative have the power to ban traps, snares and poisons on public lands. Find out who they are and let them know you oppose trapping on public lands. A simple phone call and email can make all the difference.
The New Mexico Legislature should ban trapping on public lands in New Mexico because traps harm people, animal companions, and whole populations of wildlife including rare species. Most New Mexican voters believe that trapping is cruel and unnecessary.