By Mary Katherine Ray
Two county commissions have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Southern New Mexico.
The Doña Ana County Commission voted in April to prohibit using the county’s federal range-improvement funds to pay the federal agency Wildlife Services for lethal removal of wildlife.
Wildlife Services is a euphemistically named agency whose main purpose is killing wildlife, often using cruel means, from leghold traps to snares to cyanide poison bombs to aerial gunning.
Wildlife Services was not happy with Doña Ana’s decision and pressured the county commission to have another vote. In July, the county watered down its decision to concede that lethal action could be taken, but only after the agency tried nonlethal methods of resolving problems at least twice, unless there was an imminent threat to human safety or health.
Wildlife Services was still not happy and refused to sign the contract unless language was added that made these restrictions meaningless. The contract now reads that Wildlife Services must attempt to resolve human-wildlife conflicts non-lethally, “unless the animal poses an imminent threat to human health or safety, property, livestock, companion animals and confirmed depredations.” The amendment passed 3-2, with Commissioners Shannon Reynolds and Manuel Sanchez opposing.
Chair Lynn Ellins, who began the initiative to stop Wildlife Services, inexplicably led the effort to walk it back. After three commission meetings and votes, Doña Ana County is just about where it started in enabling Wildlife Services’ often senseless cycle of cruel killing.
It only took Grant County two meetings in Silver City to prohibit Wildlife Services from using traps and poisons and then to reverse itself under pressure from the agency. The final vote to again allow the use of traps and poisons to kill Grant County wildlife passed 3-2.
Thank you to the many residents in both counties who attended the commission meetings, sent emails and made phone calls. With close votes, input by constituents is vital, and can be more powerful than Wildlife Services’ intimidation tactics.
How did your commissioner vote?
Doña Ana County commissioners who reversed their own restrictions on Wildlife Services’ use of traps and snares:
Commissioners who voted to uphold restrictions on wildlife-killing:
Cougar photo by Mary Katherine Ray