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Placitas fox-rescuer wants record cleared

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

A man who released a fox from a foot-hold trap near Placitas recently has filed an appeal that seeks to have his record cleared of a criminal complaint made against him by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

The complaint, filed Jan. 11 in Sandoval County magistrate court, charges Gary Miles with possession of a live furbearer. The charge, a misdemeanor, was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it could be refiled.

“I can’t believe they did this,” Miles said of the criminal complaint. “We should not be bullied for having an animal and trying to get it care.”

Miles, founder and owner of Placitas Animal Rescue, attempted, unsuccessfully, to get veterinary care for the fox after releasing it from the trap. He said the animal “escaped” after its left forefoot, which had been injured by the trap, healed.

On Thursday, Miles filed an appeal in Sandoval County’s 13th Judicial District Court asking that his record be cleared of the charge. Miles told the Journal he is especially upset about the complaint because online court records list the offense as “unlawful hunting and fishing.”

“I’m not against hunting and fishing if it is done properly,” he said. “But I don’t do it. It hurts my reputation because I’m in the animal-rescue business.”

In his appeal, Miles writes that he has operated Placitas Animal Rescue for 30 years and has a reputation as a friend to all animals. He notes that the unlawful hunting and fishing charge could damage that reputation and negatively affect donations to his rescue operation.

Miles released the gray fox on Dec. 30 after being called by Placitas resident Lauri Dodge, who discovered the trapped animal while running in Las Huertas Canyon near Placitas.

People trap animals for their fur, which has commercial value, and trapping, with certain restrictions, is legal on public lands in New Mexico as long as the trapper is licensed.

It is illegal to release wildlife from a trap belonging to a licensed trapper.

Dan Williams, Game and Fish Department spokesman, said it is not known if the trap that snared this fox is legal because the trap was destroyed during the animal’s release, making it impossible to find trapper ID information required for all licensed traps.

But it is also illegal to possess live furbearers such as foxes.

Miles told the Journal he refused to surrender the fox to a Game and Fish conservation officer because he was concerned the animal would be destroyed. Williams said Game and Fish filed the criminal complaint because Miles not only broke the law by having the animal in his possession but also declined to turn over the fox “when given the chance to be reasonable.”

Miles also was served with a warning citation for releasing and retaining a fox and interfering with a foot-hold trap. Dodge received a warning citation for interfering with a foot-hold trap. Both said the experience has made them determined to work to change New Mexico trapping laws.

Dodge, a health care professional, said if she ever again finds a trapped animal, she will call for help to get it released.

“I could not walk past a sick or suffering animal without trying to help,” she said. “We need to work to get rid of these archaic and barbaric laws. New Mexico needs to be more progressive.”