SANTA FE – New restrictions on wildlife foot traps and wire snares were proposed Thursday by regulators seeking to resolve conflicts over trapping traditions and evolving attitudes about animal suffering.
The New Mexico Department of Game & Fish outlined a proposal to ban traps and snares on select tracts of public lands outside Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Taos, along with a half-mile no-trapping buffer at officially recognized hiking trailheads.
The proposal includes mountainous areas east of Albuquerque that are popular for outdoor recreation, along with swaths of national forest along mountain highways leading to ski areas near Santa Fe and Taos.
Trappers would be required to attend training.
Also, design specifications for traps and snares are being suggested to reduce the risk of animals being maimed by snares and to ensure they don’t walk away with traps attached.
The proposal kicks off a months-long rulemaking process that includes public comment. Rule changes are decided by the state Game Commission, appointed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The suggestions stop far short of major proposed trapping restrictions that touched off emotionally-charged debates at the state Legislature earlier this year. A bill dubbed “Roxy’s Law” after a dog that was strangled by a poacher’s illegal snare on a lakeside trail would have banned traps, snares and animal poison on public land with few exceptions, but it never came to a floor vote.
Jessica Johnson of Animal Protection Voters said the proposed rule changes don’t do enough, while Chris Smith of Wild Earth Guardians described the proposed trapping-ban areas as minuscule.
Trapper Tom Fisher of Tierra Amarilla warned coyotes may seek out areas where trapping is banned, with unpredictable consequences.
Independent trappers licensed by the state are frequently called on to help protect private livestock, or set out to harvest and sell the pelts of coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, badgers and beavers.
Game & Fish says it follows a management model that prevents the commercial exploitation of animals that are sought after for their pelts and doesn’t allow trapping that would create a long-term decline of any species.
Separately, the Game Commission is considering a decrease in the permitted number of cougars that can be killed for sport across much of the state, along with an outright ban on trapping cougars for sport.
Wildlife Management Division chief Stewart Liley said cougar population has changed little since the 1970s but that the current harvest limits could be unsustainably high. A vote is not expected until November.
New Mexico last year limited the number of cougars that can be harvested to 740, charging up to $290 per permit. An estimated 344 cougars were killed during the last annual season ending this spring.