Albuquerque Journal Guest Column by SUZANNE REED

Many of us New Mexicans are – or know – people who “fair chase” hunt on our public lands. Our state Department of Game & Fish (DGF) rules give over 80,000 licensed hunters seasonal opportunities to shoot wildlife game by arrow or gun. Some hunt for food, some for a trophy, many to maintain a family tradition.

Soon, our state game commission, which oversees DGF, will vote on a very different set of public land hunting rules – the trapping of “fur bearers.” Existing DGF trapping rules are plagued with environmental, economic and ethical problems. Their victims: native wildlife, taxpayers, and the domesticated animals and humans that use public lands.

It’s time for change.

New Mexico has only a few thousand licensed trappers – 2,037 in the 2017-18 season. Their traps “harvested” over 5,100 “protected furbearers”; 85% were foxes and bobcats.

N.M. trappers pay $20 for a license, typically sell the fur pelts and pay no GRT on them. DGF rules let trappers “bag” – kill – an unlimited number of furbearers – “protected” or not. New Mexicans can also trap unprotected furbearers – e.g., coyotes – year-round without a license.

A trap indiscriminately catches any animal that steps into it – whether it be a fawn, critically endangered Mexican gray wolf, cougar cub, livestock or pet dog.

When the trap’s steel jaw, snare, cage, or leg/foot hold closes onto it, the animal can experience excruciating pain. It is always immobilized. Some animals try to escape by chewing their foot off. Most lie in misery for hours or days before the trapper or another predator comes by to finish them off.

Trapping is not “fair chase” hunting. It is barbaric and cruel. What’s more, the DGF policy that allows trappers to litter our public lands with hidden traps is dangerous – and very difficult and expensive to enforce. A recent example: DGF botching the criminal case against the trapper charged with 34 counts of illegal trapping and killing the pet dog that inspired ‘Roxy’s Law’.

It’s no wonder that 69% of New Mexico voters oppose the use of traps and snares. Yet now, DGF proposes a four-year plan that makes only cosmetic changes to New Mexico trapping rules.

This month our governor’s new game commission is accepting public comments before it votes on the new rules. How can we open their minds and hearts to change New Mexico trapping rules? Here are four things each of us can do now.

Please act now so we can solve the problems with trapping in New Mexico.

Read the Guest Column in the Albuquerque Journal