By Mary Katherine Ray,
Rio Grande Chapter Wildlife Chair
Trapping season officially opened on November 1, but trappers usually are most active from December through February. That is when animal pelts are the thickest and most lucrative for sale. And it is when hikers are most likely to encounter traps while recreating on public land. Already we have had reports of traps near Santa Fe, Jemez and Las Cruces. At least three dogs have been caught. Traps need only be 25 yards from roads and trails — not more than a few bounds for a dog. Unofficial trails and user-created roads don’t count.
Legally, only the trap owner may interfere with his or her own trap, including any animal that is captured. However, hikers are allowed to rescue their dogs. This can be difficult, as traps slam closed very tightly and the springs are very strong. Please visit trapfreenm.org to see how to open a trap.
If a dog is caught, the more quickly the trap can be removed, the better. Even so, injuries such as broken teeth from biting at the trap and dislocations from the struggle can happen in the blink of an eye. Try to cover dogs with a jacket, because they often will bite at everything, including their rescuers, in the frantic pain of the moment, and a cover can be calming and protective.
If you find a trap, please report it to New Mexico Game and Fish and ask that a warden check its legality. As hard as it is to leave a trap in the field, if removed, evidence of infractions are lost. Traps must also be marked with the trapper’s ID, and compliance with other rules should be checked. You can call 800-432-4263 at Game and Fish for assistance. Also, please let us know if you have encountered a trap. New Mexico Game and Fish does not know where traps are being set or how many. They do not keep records of instances where dogs or other non-target wildlife are trapped. You may send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. TrapFree New Mexico is a group effort to stop trapping that includes our Sierra Club chapter.
The coming session at the Legislature is only 30 days and limited to budget issues or the governor’s call, so a bill to rectify trapping cannot come until January of 2017.
What else can be done in the meantime? After signing the TrapFree NM petition at trapfreenm.org, be sure you are registered to vote. Voting is the single most important act you can take for wildlife and wild places next year. If you are not registered, contact your county clerk’s office. Please do it now! The primary election in New Mexico is June 2016. Every seat in the state Legislature is up for grabs. The election is next Novemeber. Find out what legislative district you are in, who is running, and their stances on trapping.
Current legislator contact info is here: www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/legislator_search.aspx. Talk to them! They represent you and also ultimately hold the key to change.
Learn more: NM Furbearers at Game & Fish
Photo by Patti Foy in the Jemez Daily Post