By Denise Fort,
Wildlife Team volunteer
The trapping of wildlife is barbaric, a relic of a time when species were extirpated in the West to supply fashion houses across the world. As wildlife populations shrink in New Mexico and the value of wildlife viewing is beginning to be understood, it is long past time for the state to ban trapping. The painful encounters of dogs and other animals in traps is bringing this practice to widespread condemnation.
A constellation of unfortunate policies has taken us to this place. The regulation of hunting is in the hands of state game commissions. New Mexico’s Game Commission, as Sierrans know, is appointed by the governor and reflects a narrow range of anti-wildlife positions. The problem is deeper than this governor; it is that the state does not protect ecological value or wildlife, so the focus is on killing in the guise of managment of (and revenues from) “game” species.
A second policy is that of federal deference to these pro-hunting state commissions. Thus, if states fail to protect nongame species from hunting and trapping, federal land managers follow, and wildlife on our federal lands are no better managed than are state and private lands.
If this issue touches you, there are several ways you can make a difference.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer has introduced legislation to prohibit certain traps on federal lands (LIFT for Public Safety). Let’s get our House members to sign on. All — Reps. Ben Ray Lujan, Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Steve Pearce — have contact forms on their websites.
A coalition of groups, including our Sierra Club chapter, will be back in the Legislature this January with legislation to stop trapping on public lands and to end animal-killing contests. Now is the time to speak to your state legislators and try to line up support from chambers of commerce, newspapers, etc. The economic value of wildlife viewing is becoming evident around the state; why wouldn’t we provide more opportunities to New Mexico’s visitors and residents?
These issues also highlight the importance of your vote! Check our endorsements page for the Sierra Club list of endorsed candidates, all of whom have voiced their opposition to trapping. Who is elected will make the difference on whether these bills can prevail!
Third, we are examining whether the BLM and Forest Service will close an area of high recreational use to trapping using existing regulatory authority. Santa Fe’s Caja del Rio is one such area, where we hike, picnic and enjoy splendid views. Noodles, a border collie mix, was taking her human on a hike up the mesa when she was caught in a leg-hold trap.
This and similar occurrences on other recreational lands is unacceptable; why should those who profit from selling coyote skins to foreign buyers outweigh the interests of everyone else? Speak to those who are managing your national forests and public lands and ask them to use their authority to restrict trapping. You can join the mailing list for the Santa Fe National Forest Plan Revision by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I never understand why a fight grabs my attention, in the midst of polluting electric companies, water grabs, and so much more, but I’ve seen too much cruelty to animals to be silent. Together, we can and will win these battles to protect and restore wildlife in our state.
To volunteer for our anti-trapping efforts, write to Mary Katherine Ray at email@example.com.
Featured image – coyote leg trap, photo by Joyce Fay.