Trap Free New Mexico is a coalition of four different environmental groups (Animal Protection of New Mexico, Born Free USA, Wild Earth Guardians, and Sierra Club- Rio Grande Chapter) that is pushing for a trapping ban on public lands in New Mexico. The group opposes trapping on the basis of its threat to public safety and native wildlife, including recovering, endangered species such as the Mexican Wolf, and notes that 63% of New Mexico voters think trapping should be reduced or eliminated. Trap Free NM has repeatedly requested that the New Mexico Game Commission:
- Ban trapping on public lands
- Create a regular, public rulemaking process
- Impose stronger regulations on traps and
- Grant coyotes and skunks special protections.
However, the NM Game Commission has instead decided to increase trapping (including in endangered species habitat).
Trapping (that is not capture-and-release and used for biological study) involves the use of body-gripping devices that ensnare or kill animals, usually for the purpose of obtaining their fur. Restraining traps (such as legholds), prevent the animal from leaving until someone arrives to kill it, causing the animal immense pain and anguish as it tries to free itself. Kill traps (such as Conibears) are designed to kill the animal immediately, but only work as advertised 15% of the time, causing tortuous injuries in cases of mis-strike. Trapping is indiscriminate in its execution and affects non-targeted species the majority of the time (such as cougar kittens, black bears, swift foxes and domestic pets, like cats and dogs).
Trapping is currently legal on all NM public lands, including U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and state-owned land. In New Mexico, trapping may occur year-round without quantity limits. Trappers may place devices anywhere except for:
- within 25 yards of a designated public hiking trail
- within 25 yards of a public road shoulder
- within 50 yards of a livestock/wildlife watering area
- within 1/4 mile of a dwelling, public picnic site, campground, or boating area and
- in Los Alamos County, Rio Grande Recreation Area (Taos County), the Valle Vidal Unit of the Carson National Forest, McGregor Military Range and the Valles Caldera National Preserve.
Trappers may place traps in the water as well and aren’t required to post warning signs to the public or share trap locations. Thus, if you’re recreating on the public lands that we all own, you and your pets are at risk of encountering a trap (this is important to know, as a 2005 New Mexico survey found that over half of respondents were unaware that trapping was even legal).
New Mexico annually receives over 350,000 tourists who come to view the state’s natural wonders and wildlife, and trapping not only reduces wildlife numbers, but puts tourists at risk. Furthermore, trapping in the recovery areas of the endangered Mexican Grey Wolf (of which there are only 58 in the wild) has caught over 14 wolves in the past ten years, killing at least 2 and maiming the rest. However, the New Mexico Game Commission (which is Governor-appointed), has not responded to public comments and petitions seeking to restrict and ban trapping, and instead has sided with smaller group interests, ignoring the greater environmental and public good.
To learn more about trapping and take action:
- Visit the Trap Free New Mexico website and Facebook page for up-to-date news on their work to ban trapping
- SIGN TRAP FREE NEW MEXICO’S PETITION (Remember- public lands belong to all of us, even those of us residing in other states!)
- Read the 2011 People’s Forum Panel on New Mexico Public Lands Trapping
- Read the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter’s Personal Stories of New Mexico Trapping Encounters
- Email accounts of negative experiences with traps on New Mexico public land to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact your state department of natural resources to find out if trapping is allowed on your public land.
Thank you to Trap Free New Mexico for educating the public on this lesser-known issue.