Cougars, traps, Game Commission

SILVER CITY, N.M.— Eight conservation organizations in the TrapFree New Mexico coalition sent a letter on May 1 urging state game commissioners to reject the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish’s proposed cougar-trapping season. The coalition letter highlights the dangers traps pose to outdoor enthusiasts, nontarget animals and pets like the dog caught in a trap last month in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.

Owners of accidentally trapped pets can face extensive veterinary expenses and risk injury rescuing their own dogs. Dogs that aid with search and rescue, livestock protection, hunting and herding are all vulnerable to being trapped by these archaic and painful devices.

“Allowing traps for cougars in addition to all the traps that are now allowed to be scattered across public land for other species would be irresponsible,” said Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair for the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, who has direct experience encountering traps on public land. “Not only would recreationists face the danger of even more traps, but cougar traps would be larger and more damaging to non-target animals including hiker’s dogs.”

Last year the New Mexico Game Commission increased the cougar bag limit to two, and cougars can now be hunted year-round, yet the Department of Game and Fish wants to increase cougar-killing even further. The agency is set to review its cougar policies in the coming months, a review that’s required for all big-game species management practices every four years. The proposal to allow cougar trapping in addition to the generous hunting already in place is especially irresponsible since New Mexico does not scientifically know the state of its cougar population.

“Trapping is an incredibly cruel, archaic practice posing unreasonable risk to imperiled wildlife, people and companion animals because traps do not discriminate among species,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “New Mexico already bears the shame of being amongst the worst states in allowing cruelty on our public lands; expanding trapping further would be unconscionable.”

Phil Carter, wildlife campaign manager for Animal Protection of New Mexico, said: “Moreover, trapping is not like hunting. It is not possible to identify the target before the trap slams shut — the trapper isn’t even present. Trapping isn’t fair chase and traps are undeniably cruel in the injury and stress they inflict on wildlife.”

“Cougars will regulate their own numbers,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Adult cougars keep their own populations in check by defending territory and keeping out other cougars who try to trespass.”

“Killing too many cougars casts their social structure into disarray, which can lead to an influx of juvenile males looking to establish territories and potentially result in more conflict with people and livestock,” added Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center.

Judy Paulsen, New Mexico representative for Project Coyote, said, “Killing even more cougars especially using brutal and indiscriminate traps would turn New Mexico in the wrong direction.” Texas is currently the only state in the nation that allows recreational cougar trapping.

Trapping is very unpopular with the public at large. A 2005 poll found that New Mexican voters oppose traps on public land by a 3:1 margin. A bill to prohibit both traps and poisons on public land was prevented from progressing by legislators protecting livestock and hunting interests in the most recent legislative session.

The State Game Commission will begin considering the cougar trapping proposal at the May 7 meeting in Farmington at the civic center, which begins at 9 a.m.

The Department of Game and Fish will host five public meetings on the proposal:

Las Cruces: 6 p.m. May 4, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Southwest Area Office, 2715 Northrise Drive, Las Cruces. 

Albuquerque: 6 p.m. May 5, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Northwest Area Office, 3841 Midway Place NE, Albuquerque. 

Ruidoso: 6 p.m. May 27, U.S. Forest Service Fire Control Bldg., 901 Mechem Drive, Ruidoso. 

Silver City: 6.p.m. May 28, Grant County Administration Center, County Commissioner Meeting Room, 1400 Highway 180 East, Silver City. 

Raton: 6 p.m. June 1, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Northeast Area Office, 215 York Canyon Road, Raton. 

The public is urged to attend these meetings and speak against cougar trapping.

Featured photo “Puma face” by Bas Lammers – originally posted to Flickr as Puma.
Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Groups ask Game Commission to oppose cougar-trapping