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Op-ed: Let’s Ban Nasty Practice of Trapping

House Bill Would Make Commercial Trapping a Crime - Albuquerque Journal, February 20, 2013  (posted 02/22/13)

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Note: We include this Op-ed about a bill to ban commercial trapping in New Mexico, because of the impacts of allowing trapping on public lands inhabited by endangered Mexican wolves. New Mexico permits trapping in the Mexican gray wolf recovery area, but the Endangered Species Act prohibits trapping of protected species. Yet, cruel, indiscriminate traps set in the Mexican gray wolf recovery area have harmed over a dozen wolves. Traps have injured or killed 14 Mexican gray wolves (in 15 separate incidents) since 2002. Two wolves died. Two had entire limbs amputated. One endured a partial foot amputation.


- By Representative Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales , Taos Democrat

In Taos County, we are uniquely blessed with the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains, national forest lands and the Rio Grande Gorge. As residents, we all personally benefit from the wide variety of local recreation available, including hiking, camping, rafting, fishing and hunting.

Additionally, the incomes of many Taoseños and, overall, much our local economy are supported by recreation and the hosting of both New Mexicans and out-of-state tourists and sportsmen. For these reasons, there has been much recent concern over animal trapping as practiced on New Mexico’s wild spaces.

Commercial trapping is legally conducted on public lands in New Mexico, including the Carson National Forest. Regulations on the placement of traps are minimal — devices may be set only 25 yards from a public road or trail and only a quarter-mile from a dwelling without the landowner’s permission.

This destructive and poorly regulated practice is overdue for serious critical review that has unfortunately been lacking at the state level. The state Game and Fish Department and Game Commission, in their most recent review of the Furbearer Rule, which dictates trapping policy, refused to acknowledge the widespread public opposition to legal trapping and instead voted unanimously to expand trapping opportunities across New Mexico, including the opening of the Wild Rivers Recreation Area to coyote trapping.

This is despite the fact that around 2,000 trapping licenses are sold every year, many to out-of-state trappers. While relatively few New Mexicans engage in trapping, the practice has negative effects for many others who utilize our landscapes.

My office has sponsored and introduced House Bill 579, the N.M. Wildlife Protection and Public Safety Act, which will enact civil and criminal penalties on individuals engaging in commercial trapping. Acting on behalf of my constituents and the Taos County Commission, which passed a memorial in 2011 supporting a ban on trapping, I believe the Legislature must take direct action in mitigating the damage done to our wild and domestic animals, ecology and recreational economy by this practice. I am also working to respond to the concerns of my district’s residents who have had unexpected and traumatic experiences with traps in recent years.

In December 2010, Arifa Goodman of San Cristóbal was walking her large breed dogs in an area of the national forest near the village. In the course of the walk, two of the dogs were caught in clamping foothold trap devices. With her dogs panicking from pain, Goodman worked to free them from the devices, injuring her hand in attempting to open the steel traps. After seeking help from neighbors and a difficult trip to the veterinarian, Goodman incurred significant veterinary bills for her dogs. Later, Goodman called her experience “horrific” and described her shock that such dangerous devices can be present on any of New Mexico’s public lands.

This past February, another San Cristóbal resident found herself facing down a frantic dog caught in a coyote trap. Maya Anthony, then a senior a Taos High School, was hiking in the national forest with her mother and her pit bull-mix. When the dog stepped in to a scent-baited trap, Maya and her mother struggled to apply enough pressure against the soft soil to release him. In his panic, her dog bit down hard on Maya’s arm, leaving a deep puncture.

These incidents and others are inexcusable violations of my constituents’ right to public safety and enjoyment of their public lands. In the 21st century, we must work as a state to balance all uses of our public lands and ensure that humane, scientific wildlife management is promoted over needless cruelty.

Please join me in urging the passage of the N.M. Wildlife Protection and Public Safety Act at the 2013 legislative session so that New Mexico can join the other Western states — Arizona, Colorado, California and Washington — that have banned the appalling practice of commercial trapping.

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Read WildEarth Guardians’ press release on the House bill here.

This Op-Ed was published in the February 20 edition of the Albuquerque Journal.  
(Non-subscribers can scroll down and use the Trial Access button)

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Please write a letter to the editor of the Albuquerque Journal responding to this Op-Ed today!  Letters submitted soon after an article runs have a much better chance of being published.

The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Tips and talking points for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.


Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points

Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly-your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to info@mexicanwolves.org
* Start by thanking the paper for publishing the article. This makes your letter relevant and increases its chance of being published.

*  Only 75 Mexican wolves remain in the wild.  With a population this small, every individual wolf is essential.

* New Mexico permits trapping in the Mexican gray wolf recovery area, but the Endangered Species Act prohibits trapping of protected species.  As an Endangered Species, Mexican gray wolves should not be subjected to trapping.

* Express your support for N.M. Wildlife Protection and Public Safety Act (House Bill 579) at the 2013 legislative session so that New Mexico can join the other Western states — Arizona, Colorado, California and Washington — that have banned the appalling practice of commercial trapping.

* Cruel, indiscriminate traps set in the Mexican gray wolf recovery area have harmed over a dozen wolves. Traps have injured or killed 14 Mexican gray wolves (in 15 separate incidents) since 2002. Two wolves died. Two had entire limbs amputated. One endured a partial foot amputation.

* Leg hold traps pose a significant risk to endangered Mexican Gray wolves, pets, and the Public.

* Leg hold traps are inhumane and have been banned in 80 Counties and several states, including Arizona.

* Wolves are magnificent creatures that keep watersheds and ecosystems healthy.  The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone has been a boon to the environment there.

* Biologists know that once they are fully restored, Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of southwest ecosystems.

* Wolves are native to New Mexico and inhabited most of the state prior to aggressive extermination the last century.

* We have a moral, economic and scientific responsibility to restore endangered species like the Mexican gray wolf.

Letters to the Albuquerque Journal can be submitted here.

Thank you, and please share any letters you submit with us: info@mexicanwolves.org. We are happy to review your letter with you before you send it to the paper, if you’d like help.


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