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Press Release: Lawsuit Launched to Protect Mexican Gray Wolves From Leghold Traps

New Mexico Officials Approved Traps, Ignoring Injured and Killed Wolves

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Center for Biological Diversity, August 17, 2011


Contact: Michael Robinson
Center for Biological Diversity
(575) 534-0360

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the New Mexico State Game Commission and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish over the commission’s recent vote to resume recreational trapping in the Gila National Forest, where federally protected, endangered Mexican gray wolves live. Besides being listed under the Endangered Species Act, the wolves are also listed as endangered under state law.

“With only 50 animals and just two breeding pairs surviving in the wild, Mexican wolves can’t afford more losses to
these cruel leghold traps,” said the Center’s Michael Robinson. “Responsible hunters know their targets, but trapping
is indiscriminate. And while hunters aim for a clean and quick kill, trapped wolves can suffer debilitating and even
fatal injuries while struggling to get free.”

A recent report disclosed that, since wolf reintroduction began in 1998, five Mexican wolves have sustained injuries
— including some requiring foot and leg amputations — and two other wolves have died as a result of trapping by
private parties in the Gila National Forest. This does not include wolves trapped by federal officials on behalf of the
livestock industry, which has not occurred since 2007 and is not at issue in today’s notice.

Recreational trapping in the Gila National Forest was halted by the game commission in November 2010 to protect
endangered wolves. But on July 21, upon recommendation of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, the
game commission voted to allow trapping in the Gila to resume, while misrepresenting the report documenting the
five wolf injuries and two fatalities to trapping as somehow providing justification.

The Endangered Species Act was signed into law in 1973 to conserve imperiled species and their ecosystems; it
specifically bans trapping of endangered animals. Yet the Game Commission and Department’s recent decision
authorizes trapping that is known to capture protected wolves, causing illegal “take” (harassment, harm or killing) to
occur.

While the 1998 federal rule authorizing reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves allowed some “accidental” trapping of wolves, trapping a wolf within its known range “will not be considered unavoidable, accidental, or unintentional take,
unless due care was exercised to avoid taking a wolf.” In allowing trapping again, the game commission has not
exercised due care.

Photo: Three-legged Mexican gray wolf courtesy of the Interagency Field Team