A man who recently released a fox from a foot-hold trap near Placitas found himself in a bind after the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish learned about the incident.
Gary Miles, founder and owner of Placitas Animal Rescue, said a Game and Fish officer called him and told him that he could be arrested for being in possession of the fox.
“He wanted to come and get (the fox), and I said no because he would not tell me what he was going to do with it,” Miles said.
Miles was concerned the animal would be destroyed. The fox, which was found in the trap on Dec. 30, is once more free.
“Officially, it escaped (on Tuesday), ” Miles said. “Its skin was broken (by the trap), but it healed up real nice. He ran up a hill on all fours. He was not limping or screeching.”
Trapping, with certain restrictions, is legal on public lands in New Mexico if the trapper is licensed. Open season for trapping fox, badger, weasel, ringtail and bobcat is Nov. 1 to March 15.
It is illegal to possess live furbearers, such as foxes, in New Mexico. One reason for that, said Dan Williams, Game and Fish Department spokesman, is that wild animals, particularly foxes and raccoons, are subject to diseases such as rabies, parvo and distemper.
It is also illegal to release wildlife from a trap belonging to a licensed trapper. State law requires that legal traps be marked either with the trapper’s name and address or trapper ID number, but it is not known whether the trap that snared this fox was legal or illegal.
“Because the trap site was disturbed and the trap destroyed, officers have no way of knowing the identity of the trapper,” Williams said.
In response to a Journal inquiry, Game and Fish released the following statement:
“The Department of Game and Fish is investigating an incident in which a grey fox reportedly was released from a foot-hold trap Dec. 30 in the Cibola National Forest south of Placitas. According to witnesses and conservation officers, a man released the fox, placed it in a crate and took it to a location he would not disclose. He reportedly refused to surrender the fox to a conservation officer, which is a violation of state law.
“Hikers and others who use lands that are furbearer habitat should be aware that trapping is a legal and highly regulated activity in New Mexico. During trapping season, hikers and others should be aware of their surroundings and leash their pets. Anyone who discovers an animal in a trap they believe to be illegal should call the Department of Game and Fish.”
This story started about 8 a.m. Dec. 30 as Placitas resident Lauri Dodge and a friend were running, as they do most weeks, in Las Huertas Canyon near Placitas.
Dodge said her two dogs, which were running ahead of her and her friend, started barking, and she heard screaming and a clanking sound.
“At first, I was panicking, thinking my dogs were getting attacked by some animal,” she said. “But then we found the fox in the trap and I went into help-the-fox mode.”
Dodge said the fox was much too agitated for her and her friend to risk releasing the animal, so she called Miles. Miles founded Placitas Animal Rescue in 1988. The organization specializes in rescuing stray and feral animals.
“I had called Gary before for stray dogs up in the canyon and a wild horse that was sick, that sort of thing,” Dodge said.
Miles, who told the Journal he has been trained in wildlife rescue, came to the site with a crate, blankets and gloves, and he managed to release the fox. He said he called a veterinarian noted for caring for injured wild animals. She told him state law required her to notify Game and Fish before treating such an animal.
“I didn’t expect to be treated as a criminal for rescuing a fox,” Miles said. “If I see an animal in a leg trap, even if it is a legal trap, I don’t have a problem releasing it. I think that is just the cruelest thing. No one should be in fear for their security or their freedom just because they rescue an animal.”