LAS CRUCES, N.M.— The New Mexico Game Commission today approved trapping of bobcats, foxes and other wildlife throughout nearly all of the state, disappointing wildlife and public-safety advocates who sought to ban a practice long criticized as inhumane and indiscriminate.
The decision reauthorizes the use of leghold traps, body-crushing traps and strangulation snares that have killed and maimed endangered Mexican wolves and countless other animals. Last year five wolves in New Mexico were caught by private trappers. Such trapping is legal as long as the intention is to catch some other kind of animal.
“Endangered Mexican wolves are repeatedly losing limbs and sometimes their lives in leghold traps, but the state shrugged that off,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Other species contribute to ecological health too and shouldn’t be killed in such a cruel fashion for the sale of their pelts.”
“It’s clear that this is a bigger problem than what the Game Commission is willing to solve,” said Chris Smith, Southern Rockies wildlife advocate at WildEarth Guardians. “New Mexico’s wildlife and its residents deserve an end to commercial and recreational trapping on public lands.”
The commission’s decision came despite the submission of thousands of comments from the public deploring the setting of traps, which have been banned or restricted in other states, including neighboring Colorado and Arizona.
“It is unconscionable that not only wildlife but humans and their companion dogs will continue to endure the suffering traps inflict,” said Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair for the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Nothing is being managed in any responsible or meaningful way by this exploitation.”
The commission’s rules create minor setbacks where trapping is not allowed near trailheads, as well as small areas outside of Albuquerque and Las Cruces. These restrictions would not protect wolves or the domestic dogs that are repeatedly caught in traps throughout the state.
“Today’s action makes it clear: It’s now up to the state Legislature to respond to the public’s concern about animal cruelty and public safety by passing Roxy’s Law in the 2021 legislative session,” said Jessica Johnson, chief legislative officer for Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection Voters. “Until then, our outdoor recreation, tourism industries and the wellbeing of New Mexico’s families and ecosystems remain under threat by trapping on public lands.”
Legislation was introduced last year to ban trapping on public lands in New Mexico, but after committee approval the bill ran out of time for a floor vote in the state House of Representatives.
Trapping on public lands is legal in New Mexico. No bag limits exist for furbearer species. The law does not require trap locations to be marked, 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. The new regulations leave all of these problems in place.
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 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, critically imperiled Mexican gray wolves, coyotes and other animals.