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Guest Column: My view: Return to rigorous science for game decisions

Santa Fe New Mexican 8/16/15

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- John Wilson
The board of Amigos de la Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge recently discussed issues before the New Mexico Game Commission. It is the opinion of the board that the commission could be doing a better job planning management of our state’s cougars and bears.

Aldo Leopold was a great New Mexican (from 1909 to 1924) who wrote one of the seminal works on the ecology of huntable wildlife in 1933, Game Management. He used his strong academic background to set the tone for scientific game management. He would likely take issue with the work the commission has been doing lately. He should be the guide for your actions, not public opinion or political pressure.

The lack of a clear understanding of the status of both species in question is an obvious barrier to intelligent decision-making. We feel one cannot make good decisions without that knowledge.

In addition, the suggestion that some of the taking of top predators — cougars — could take place without recording, is irresponsible in the extreme. The idea that taking cougars on private land falls outside the purview of the commission is unthinkable.

Bears also are poorly understood in the state, although better understood than the cougars. Opening the gates to higher takes of this species is premature without more knowledge.

Finally, we have great concerns about the use of snares and leghold traps in the taking of both these species. Significant numbers of non-target animals, both wild and domestic, will be put at risk. Endangered species such as the Mexican gray wolf especially need to be protected from this scattergun approach to removing animals from the population.

The board of Amigos de la Sevilleta offers these comments with a strong encouragement that the New Mexico Game Commission look to the roots of scientific game management, which are part of our state heritage, and return to rigorous science rather than emotional and politically expedient motivations.

John Wilson retired to Magdalena after working as a teacher, then as a naturalist for the National Audubon Society in Ohio. He is a graduate of Miami University’s Institute of Environmental Studies. He serves on the board of the Amigos de la Sevilleta, the Friends group for Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.


This Guest Column was published in the Santa Fe New Mexican on August 26, 2015.
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