State Game and Fish Department officers have charged a Chimayó man with more than 30 criminal counts in connection with illegal trapping — a case spurred by an investigation into how an Española man’s dog had been killed by an illegal snare trap at Santa Cruz Lake.
Marty Cordova, 42, is facing five counts of trapping within 25 yards of a road, 10 counts of failure to properly mark traps, five counts of failing to check traps every calendar day and 14 counts of unlawful possession of a protected species. All charges are misdemeanors or petty misdemeanors.
The case that launched the investigation was the death of Roxy, an 8-year-old heeler mix owned by Dave Clark of Española. Roxy was strangled by a trap.
Roxy’s death has prompted the introduction of a bill titled “Roxy’s Law,” an anti-trapping measure introduced by state Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo. House Bill 366 is making its way through the Legislature.
In January, after identifying Cordova from surveillance camera images captured at the trapping site where Roxy died, Game and Fish officers served a search warrant on the man’s residence in Chimayó, resulting in the seizure of snares and foothold traps that were not properly marked.
Officers also confiscated 10 bobcat pelts and skulls, six fox pelts, badger and ringtail pelts, cellphones, a camera and a firearm.
“I’m hopeful justice will be served,” Clark, a retired mine regulator, said Wednesday. He praised investigators from the state Department of Game and Fish and the federal Bureau of Land Management.
“I was impressed by law enforcement from the beginning,” Clark said.
In addition to the charges issued by Game and Fish, BLM also issued charges for illegal activity on federal land, a news release said.
Clark, in an interview last month, said he’d been hiking with his dogs around Santa Cruz Lake, a reservoir about 15 miles east of Española, for about 20 years.
During a hike with Roxy on Nov. 25, he said, he decided to take a slightly different path than normal as he was about 100 to 150 yards from where he had parked his pickup. Roxy wasn’t on a leash.
“She was behind me and running to catch up,” Clark said. “I heard this sound and I turned around. She’d been caught in a snare trap. I couldn’t figure how to get it off. She was strangled while I was trying to remove it.”
Clark was able to untie the trap from a nearby tree. As he was carrying his dog back to his truck, he said, he heard another noise and found a bobcat caught in another trap. A game warden later euthanized the bobcat, he said.
An affidavit for a search warrant said that after removing the trap at Santa Cruz Lake, Game and Fish Officer Christian Marrujo noticed there was no identification on the device, as required by state law. Marrujo set up surveillance cameras that eventually captured images of a man checking and removing traps.
In searches of the area where Roxy had been killed, Marrujo and another game officer found several snare traps and a foothold trap, and five places where traps had been set and removed. Two of the traps were about 10 yards from N.M. 503, “set directly in two separate culverts,” according to Marrujo’s affidavit.
The affidavit said the officers discovered the person setting the traps was using a rooster to attract predators to the area. They found two fox carcasses, which had been skinned, as well as the paw of a bobcat.
On Jan. 9, the officers found a blue pickup that matched one that appeared in surveillance camera images. It was a Chevrolet that belongs to Cordova.
Ten days later, the officers searched Cordova’s home.
Cordova is scheduled to appear March 4 in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court.
Jessica Johnson of Animal Protection Voters said in a statement Wednesday, “We commend the Department of Game & Fish for their successful investigation and arrest of Roxy’s killer, and we hope that just prosecution will take place to hold that individual accountable.
“However,” Johnson said, “aside from technical violations of trapping rules that the trapper has been charged with, the way Roxy died is otherwise completely legal on vast stretches of New Mexico public land. Public safety and wildlife populations remain subject to the indiscriminate threat of traps, snares and poisons on the land we all share.”
Johnson urged the Legislature to pass McQueen’s bill, which would restrict traps on public land. HB 366 recently passed the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on an 8-4 vote. It goes next to the House Judiciary Committee.