2400 public comments result in zero change to rule proposal
ROSWELL, NM—At their November meeting, the New Mexico Game Commission made zero amendments to a set of proposed changes to the trapping rules. Department staff said that approximately 2400 public comments had been submitted on the rule changes. Four public hearings were held across the state. The Albuquerque hearing had roughly 100 participants, almost all of whom requested a ban on commercial trapping across New Mexico’s public lands.
“The Game Commission made the right decision to stop recreational cougar trapping in New Mexico,” stated Laura Bonar, chief program and policy officer for Animal Protection of New Mexico. “Now they need to take the next logical step to prohibit all traps and snares on public lands. Trapping and public lands are incompatible.”
“It’s disappointing that the Game Commission appears to have ignored the voices of New Mexicans who participated in public hearings and submitted comments” said Chris Smith, southern Rockies wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “New Mexicans overwhelmingly oppose trapping and want traps off of public lands, but this Game Commission only feigned interest in what the public wants. This is the same stance as the Governor Martinez regime, just with more lip service to process.”
In the last two months, the state’s two largest papers editorialized against trapping. Polling shows that nearly 70% of New Mexico voters oppose the use of traps altogether.
“It’s sickening that instead of helping to keep the balance by hunting mice and rabbits, more bobcats, foxes and ringtail cats will struggle in traps and end up as skinless carcasses,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The game commission missed a big opportunity to do the right thing and ban trapping.”
The Game Commission will reconvene in January for a simple yes or no vote on the rule changes. The proposal includes closure of 0.5% of public lands to traps, but three of the four closure areas have not seen pet dogs trapped. Many areas across the state where dogs have been trapped, maimed, and even killed remain unprotected. Already this Fall, TrapFree New Mexico has received reports of two dogs who were trapped. The new rules would have had no impact on those two incidents.
TrapFree New Mexico members submitted a letter to Game Commissioners articulating the reasons to end commercial trapping on public lands. The letter received no response and appears to have been ignored by the Game Commissioners.
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 or 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 is 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 to both human and animal victims.
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)).
Allowing 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. 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 do not bolster the economy