LAS CRUCES — The New Mexico State Game Commission voted 5-2 to extend certain restrictions on trapping during its public meeting in Las Cruces Friday.
The change mandates that anyone purchasing a trapping license undergo a mandatory trapping education course that includes training on New Mexico regulations and identifying local species.
Among other changes, the rule prohibits traps in the eastern area of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument as well as the Sandia Ranger district and near state highways in the Santa Fe and Carson national forests.
Commissioners Jimmy Bates and Gail Cramer both objected to new setbacks requiring half a mile of distance from designated trailheads, roadside rest areas, picnic areas, occupied dwellings unless the traps are permitted or set by the occupant, and maintained public campgrounds or boat-launching areas.
Cramer said the setback rules presented an “extreme hardship” for trappers, commenting that trapping is already heavily regulated.
Under new requirements, snare traps on land must include breakaway devices and at least two separate swivel points, including one within 6 inches of the trap. Another required feature would be anchoring systems to prevent wildlife from escaping with a trap and increasing the likelihood of serious or worsening injuries.
The change also converts the trapping rule from a permanent rule to a 4-year rule requiring review by the commission.
Stewart Liley of New Mexico’s game and fish department told the commissioners the new rule would require trappers to report to the agency when they capture a wolf.
Debating traps on public lands
During public comments on the issue, some speakers argued for abolishing trapping on public lands entirely, describing it as cruel to wildlife and dangerous to domestic animals and people.
Southwest Environmental Center director Kevin Bixby argued, “It just doesn’t make sense to continue recreational and commercial trapping.”
New Mexico state Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, joined Bixby in appealing to the commission to postpone action and draft a brand new rule.
Ferrary doubted that requirements for checking traps were enforceable without additional staff. “It’s important that you maybe start over … and make sure that we consider also just banning trapping altogether,” she said.