After hearing nearly 2½ hours of often passionate public comment from dozens of people both for and against a bill that would make it illegal to trap, snare or poison wildlife on public lands, the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday put off a vote on the bill.
Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, the committee chairman and co-sponsor of the bill, said the hearing will resume at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Roundhouse.
Before the public hearing started, another co-sponsor, Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, gave an overview of the House Bill 366, which she said was meant to provide “reasonable and humane management of wildlife” and prevent unintended injury or death of domestic animals.
Chandler said people should expect to safely enjoy the outdoors without fear of their pets getting caught in a trap. She said the bill is in line with similar laws in Arizona and Colorado that banned trapping on public lands.
Trapping would still be allowed on private and tribal lands.
The proposed bill is being called Roxy’s Law in honor of an 8-year-old heeler mix that in November was strangled in a neck snare trap just off a trail at federal Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area near Española. Roxy’s owner, Dave Clark, desperately tried to save the dog.
At Thursday’s meeting, He was one of several supporters of the bill who made the point that traps don’t always catch the animals they’re intended to catch.
“The trapper who killed my dog was operating illegally,” he said. “Indiscriminate killing should not be condoned.” Clark has said before that Roxy was trapped on a portion of the recreation area that was off-limits to trapping.
Others said New Mexico’s trapping law is outdated and inhumane and amounts to animal cruelty and is not the way to control the coyote population.
“This is a barbaric relic of a past age,” said Peter Schoenberg, an attorney who is on the board of directors for WildEarth Guradians. “We can’t trap our way out of the coyote problem.”
Ranchers blame coyotes and other predators for loss of cattle. A few gave graphic testimony of watching newborn calves being eaten alive. Randell Major of Magdelena called the proposed ban “government overreach.”
“This law will prevent ranchers from protecting their livestock,” he said.
One 43-year-old man said he traps to earn extra money to pursue his dream of owning his own ranch. He said the proposed bill would “cripple my dream” if it were to pass.
He was followed by Shelly Thedford of Doña Ana County, whose family relies on trapping coyotes and bobcats on public land to supplement their income through the sale of pelts. “If you take this away from us, you’re actually taking food off my table,” she said.
Both sides argued that public lands “are there for all of us.”
The committee did vote to approve amendments to clear up what McQueen called “technical issues.” The chairman also signaled that corral traps would likely be removed from the bill.
The bill already allows for some exceptions, including traps used to control gophers, moles, rock squirrels, mice and rats. It also allows for state and federal agencies to trap if they are acting to manage the ecosystem.