SANTA FE – Investigators used trail cameras to help nab an Española-area suspect in an illegal trapping case that’s being highlighted as part of a proposed bill currently making its way through the Legislature.
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish announced Wednesday that it has charged 42-year-old Marty Cordova, of Chimayo, with 34 counts of illegal trapping activities. He is charged with 14 counts of unlawful possession of a protected species, 10 counts of failure to mark traps, and five counts each for trapping within 25 yards of a roadway and failure to check traps on a daily basis.
A neck snare trap investigators believe was illegally set by Cordova snagged Dave Clark’s 8-year-old heeler mix last November while he and his dog were out for a walk at Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Center, which is located on federal Bureau of Land Management property near Española. The dog, named Roxy, strangled to death while Clark desperately tried to free her from the trap.
A bill that last weekend passed out of the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee would make trapping illegal on public lands. House Bill 366, called “Roxy’s Law” in memory of Clark’s dog, still must make it through the House Judiciary Committee before lawmakers could take up a vote in the House.
“I guess I could say I feel some justice has been served, but just some,” Clark said in a phone interview Wednesday.
According to court documents, a Game and Fish employee and two BLM officers set up trail cameras in the same area where Clark’s dog was snared. When they retrieved the cameras a few days later, they found that the cameras had captured pictures of both the pickup truck and the individual they believe set the traps.
That led to them to visit Cordova at his home and a search warrant for his cellphone. During a search of his home in January, investigators found numerous traps of various kinds and 10 frozen bobcat skulls, six frozen bobcat hides, five frozen fox hides, as well as frozen hides of a ringtail cat and badger.
“Protected species” are those covered by Game and Fish regulations. The animals whose skulls and hides were found at Cordova’s home all can be trapped with a license during “open season,” the Game and Fish website says.
The Feb. 1 search warrant on Cordova’s cellphone turned up more incriminating evidence.
“Through reviewing the contents of the phone, multiple conversations about the trapping of animals were exchanged and multiple photoes of animals in traps were discovered,” the charging documents say.
Some of the photos were selfies of Cordova with animals still in the traps.
Jessica Johnson, executive director of Animal Protection Voters, a group advocating for the passage of Roxy’s Law, said she was grateful for the work Game and Fish and BLM officers did to catch the suspect. But “at the end of the day, despite the violations of those technical trapping rules, the fact of the matter is the way Roxy died, strangled in a neck snare, are very much legal on public lands, and that puts the public at risk,” she said.
An arraignment hearing for Cordova has been set for March 4 in Santa Fe Magistrate Court.