Carnivores, from wolves to cougars to bears to bobcats, are part of our wild heritage. These creatures are not villains, vermin or trash. They are essential to provide healthy ecosystems for all New Mexicans.
Yet, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is recommending that the State Game Commission increase the number of bears and cougars that can be killed in our state by hunters and trappers. This represents the politicization of wildlife management by the Martinez administration in response to a small minority. Wildlife management is too important to be based on prejudice, animus and hearsay data regarding our wildlife.
Previously, Game and Fish recommended that endangered Mexican wolves not be permitted at Ted Turner’s private Ladder Ranch holding facility and also that they not be allowed to be released into the wild at all by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service charged with Mexican wolf reintroduction — not only denying new permits but also denying the allowance under existing permits. This comes despite Mexican wolves being protected as a state endangered species. State law, in addition to federal law, requires their conservation in the wild.
This anti-carnivore attitude is now presented in department proposals governing the hunting of bears and cougars. The rules for these species come up for review every four years, and four years ago, the quotas for each were raised drastically: 67 percent more bears and 51 percent more cougars were given to hunters to kill.
Despite the increase in kill numbers for cougars, hunters have not been able to kill that many more than the old quotas provided. The science behind the 2011 kill quotas was very limited and remains so. The game commission raised the bag limit to two from one and implemented year-round hunting in 2013. Now there is no time of year when cougars can’t be shot. They get no respite during breeding season, when mothers are trying to raise kittens, nor during the dry time of summer or cold of winter.
Now the agency wants to allow cougar-trapping on private land and state-owned trust lands. Traps can’t distinguish between males or females, adults or kittens. Traps can’t even distinguish between species and will catch anything from javelina to porcupines. Traps already ensnare cougars in their bycatch because they are legal for other animals, but this proposal will ensure that even more of these cruel devices litter wild places and that even more cougars will die.
It’s even worse for bears. Hunters began killing so many bears after the 2011 increase, more than 2,200 of them in the first three years, that last year’s kill dropped by 28 percent. Yet, now Game and Fish wants to raise the quotas even more to allow a whopping 804 bears to be killed each year. The agency claims that a new study indicates that bear densities are higher than thought. But that study does no such thing.
What the agency has done is remap bear habitat using satellite images to claim that bears in New Mexico have more places to live than they thought. None of the “new” habitat has been surveyed to see if bears really are living there. You can’t count acorns from the sky. And if the agency is wrong, the new kill numbers could threaten their continued existence in our state. This is an abuse of scientific method in wildlife management.
Wildlife management and hunting is supposed to be about conservation, about ensuring that all species continue to enrich our wild places and play their role in nature. It should not be about eradicating New Mexico wildlife to please a few.
You can help by urging the State Game Commission to say no to these irresponsible increases in killing by attending the Thursday commission meeting at Santa Fe Community College. The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m., and wildlife advocates will gather at 8 a.m. to show support for our wild carnivores. I’ll be there, and I hope you can join me.
David Coss is the former mayor of Santa Fe, wildlife biologist and hunter who currently serves as executive committee chairman for the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.
During the New Mexico Game Commission meeting that David Coss references above, the New Mexico Game Commission delayed a decision on an appeal filed by federal officials who are seeking to release endangered Mexican gray wolves as part of recovery efforts in the Southwest. The Commission is expected to address the Fish and Wildlife Service’s appeal, as well as Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch permit to hold Mexican wolves at their September 29th meeting.
Please join us to stand for wolves and other carnivores.
Tell Governor Martinez: Stop Taking Aim at Endangered Wolves
Contact the Governor’s office and request respectfully that she put an end to her Commission’s anti-carnivore state wildlife policies, grant the Mexican wolf permit to Ladder Ranch, and rescind the rule giving the Commission this authority.
Calls are most effective: 505-476-2200
The Governor's office may try to tell you to contact the Commission. Please tell them politely, but firmly, that Governor Martinez is responsible for the actions of her Game Commission and your message is for her.
You can also sign a petition to the Governor here.
Want to do more to help save Mexican wolves?
Contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe as well.
I am calling to urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to exercise its federal authority over the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction and stop allowing state game commissions in New Mexico and Arizona to undermine wolf recovery. The Service should be doing all in its power to ensure the recovery of endangered Mexican gray wolves. This includes going far beyond risky cross-fostering. Please expedite the release of adult wolves and wolf families to improve the wild population’s genetic health.
Calls are most effective. Just tell whoever answers that you have a message for Director Ashe: 202-208-4717
Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for acting to prevent the extinction of our native Mexican gray wolves!
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