gray fox

New map shows extent of illegal trapping in NM 

Map shows that trapping incidents involving companion animals and endangered species occur across the state

SANTA FE, NM—The TrapFree New Mexico coalition (of which SWEC is a member) released a map this week detailing trapping incidents around the state. The map shows trapping’s toll all across New Mexico, demonstrating that trapping is an ongoing problem for companion animals, endangered species, and law enforcement alike. The trapping incident map includes detailed descriptions, locations, dates, and photos of events involving family dogs, Mexican gray wolves, and illegally set traps. Other incidents include outdoor recreationists finding dead, dying, or injured animals suffering in traps.

The map shows that trapping incidents have occurred in 22 counties in New Mexico. At least 78 companion animals have been reported trapped. There were at least 23 documented illegal trapping incidents in the 2015-2018 trapping seasons. On January 5, 2017, an endangered Mexican gray wolf was caught in a commercial trap and released. The wolf was recaptured 19 days later and was euthanized due to extensive damage and necrosis on the trapped foot. In November, 2018, a dog named Roxy was caught in a snare while out on a walk with her owner. Unable to free her in time, Roxy’s owner watched as she strangled to death in his arms. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is currently considering trivial changes to the state’s trapping regulations, but these changes would do nothing to address the majority of the incidents documented on the map.

“This map highlights the reality of trapping: it is indiscriminate, cruel, and has a major, negative impact on people and animals throughout New Mexico,” said Mikaila Wireman, who created the map for WildEarth Guardians. “The negligible changes proposed by the Department of Game and Fish do nothing to address the real problems that trapping imposes. Until traps and snares are banned on all public lands, devastating confrontations with traps will carry on and this map will only continue to grow.”

“The New Mexico Game and Fish Department must do more to prevent the state’s animal life – companion and wild animals alike – from falling victim to horrific traps,” said Joe Newman, Santa Fe resident and creative associate for Project Coyote. “Holding our public lands hostage to a cruel and brutal historical reenactment hobby by indulging a miniscule fringe element is unacceptable. Primitive, indiscriminate traps on our public lands must go.”

“These incidents are just the tip of an iceberg,” said Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair for the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. “No official agency collects this information or requires reporting when a trap inadvertently catches the family dog or any of the many non-target species that are vulnerable to them. No one records the extent of the injuries that animals suffer when they are trapped. To see so many incidents should be a wake-up call about how pervasive this problem is.”

The trapping incident map serves as a resource for New Mexicans who have had negative encounters with traps as well as individuals wanting to learn more about the reality of trapping in New Mexico. TrapFree New Mexico will continue working to end the types of incidents catalogued in this map.

The map will be updated as new information becomes available.    

Background:

Trapping on public lands is legal in New Mexico. There are no bag limits for furbearer species. The law does not require trap locations to be marked, signed, or for any warnings to be present. No gross receipts tax is levied on fur and pelts sold by trappers. No penalties exist for trappers who unintentionally trap non-target species including endangered species, protected species, domestic animals, pets, humans, or livestock.

No database or official record is kept by any public entity and no requirement exists that trappers report when they have captured a dog in their traps. The pattern these incidents follow are usually similar; dogs screaming and frantically biting at the person desperately trying to rescue them. Veterinary and even human medical treatment along with associated expenses can result, as can long-lasting psychological trauma.

The true toll that trapping takes on native wildlife is difficult to know. Reporting requirements exist for some species, but not for often-trapped so-called “unprotected furbearers” like coyotes and skunks. The accuracy of reporting is unverifiable and numbers do not adequately articulate the suffering and carnage that traps wreak on bobcats, foxes, imperiled Mexican gray wolves, coyotes, and other animals.

The almost singular excuse for the above-mentioned incidents is that trapping is necessary to control carnivore populations, but scientific studies do not support this assertion. In fact, scientific studies show that trapping and lethally removing carnivore species, like coyotes, often exacerbate conflicts such as those with livestock (see Using Coyotes to Protect Livestock. Wait. What?, Randy Comeleo, Oregon Small Farm News, Vol. XIII No. 2, p. 2, http://ow.ly/Pj8k30k3wTF (Spring 2018)).

The existence of trapping by a minuscule subset of the population using New Mexico’s public lands is in direct conflict with one of the state’s most valuable economic strengths: outdoor recreation. Highlighted by the recent New Mexico Outdoor Economics Conference in Las Cruces, the outdoor recreation economy in New Mexico is a current and future boon—diversifying and stabilizing the state’s economy while creating 99,000 direct jobs in the process. Outdoor recreation includes hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, hunting, horseback riding, angling, trail running, and bicycling. This economy is not bolstered by piles of dead animals discarded by public roadways or by the thousands of wild animals taken from New Mexico’s diverse public landscapes for personal profit.