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Press Release: New Mexico Hires DC Law Firm to Defend Trapping in Lobo Country

Allocates $385,000 for Legal Fight for Policy that Kills Mexican Wolves

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Wild Earth Guardians
Monday, June 4, 2012

Contact: Wendy Keefover 505.988-9126 Ext. 1162


Santa Fe, NM. WildEarth Guardians has released records received from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish indicating that the state has reserved $385,000 in public funds to hire outside counsel to defend its current and ongoing authorization of coyote, skunk, and “furbearer” trapping within the Mexican gray wolf recovery area.

The state has hired both a local firm (Keleher & McLeod) and a large “K Street” law firm in Washington, D.C. (Kelly Drye & Warren) to defend against an action brought by WildEarth Guardians alleging that trapping in Mexican wolf range violates both the Endangered Species Act and rules concerning management of wild Mexican wolves.

While state officials defend trapping Mexican wolf range, most citizens likely do not support the policy. A 2008 poll showed that 69 percent of voters support Mexican wolf recovery.

“Instead of conserving the State’s beautiful lobo, New Mexico may squander nearly half a million dollars to defend a despicable policy,” stated Wendy Keefover, Director of the Carnivore Protection Program for WildEarth Guardians. “So far, the State has spent about $20,000 on the case and we’re just getting started.”

Traps have injured or killed 14 Mexican gray wolves (in 15 separate incidents) since 2002 in New Mexico and Arizona. (Thirteen incidents occurred in New Mexico as Arizona voters banned traps on public lands in 1994.) Two wolves died. Two had entire limbs amputated. One endured a partial foot amputation. Traps may have harmed even more wolves. Some of the dozens of illegally-dispatched lobos have simply vanished.

New Mexico allows both regulated trapping of “furbearers” during set seasons as well as unregulated, year-round trapping of coyotes and skunks. WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit alleges that both types of trapping are illegal because New Mexico has not exercised “due care” to prevent harm to wolves as required by the Endangered Species Act.

Wolves captured in body-gripping traps endure physiological and psychological trauma, dehydration, and exposure. Trapped wolves sustain tissue damage and other injuries that reduce their fitness and chance for continued existence. Further, adult wolves provision their pups for months after birth. Those harmed or killed by traps cannot adequately feed and nurture their pups.

Numerous interveners—from trapping associations to hunting clubs to livestock industry groups—have also joined the case to defend trapping within Mexican wolf range.

“Mexican wolves have just their wits and their feet to survive, but now they have to contend against a phalanx of lawyers who have joined forces to defend New Mexico’s brutal and asinine trapping policies,” remarked Keefover.

View NMDGF procurement records.