In what world does a man charged with 34 counts of illegal trapping – brought to light by the gruesome strangling of a family pet in a snare as her owner tried in vain to free her – get off scot-free because the state bungled the case?
New Mexico, that’s where.
Chimayó trapper Marty Cordova was charged with 14 counts of unlawful possession of a protected species, 10 counts of failure to mark traps, and five counts each of trapping within 25 yards of a roadway and failure to check traps on a daily basis. A Santa Fe magistrate judge threw out the evidence and dismissed the case because the New Mexico Game and Fish Department failed to serve Cordova with a search warrant and failed to preserve evidence.
And oh, what evidence it was.
Game and Fish and BLM surveillance camera images captured Cordova and his pickup truck at the Santa Cruz lake trapping site where Roxy, an 8-year-old heeler mix owned by Dave Clark of Española, was strangled in November 2018.
And as reported by the Journal’s T.S. Last on Oct 15, the search of Cordova’s property turned up 10 bobcat skulls and hides from six bobcats, five foxes, a ringtail cat and a badger, all frozen. Those “protected” species can be trapped, but only in season and with a permit. Also found: Cordova’s cellphone, allegedly containing selfies of himself alongside some of the animals caught in traps.
It’s unsettling but not surprising that Game and Fish did not dot its “i”s and cross its “t”s to make the safety of domesticated animals and wildlife a priority. Roxy is just one of the many pets and wild animals New Mexicans have freed from traps and snares on public lands.
Perhaps the officer who forgot to give Cordova a copy of the search warrant affidavit or read him his Miranda rights, as required by law, was just having an off day. Ditto for the officer who tossed out the labeled plastic bags and containers that the carcasses and pelts were found in. And for the officer who deleted select images from the trail cameras.
Three strikes, and once again a safe public landscape in New Mexico is out.
As we wait for state lawmakers to finally grasp that public lands need to be safe for all the public – once again a trapping ban failed to make it out of the Legislature this year – it is all the more important for New Mexicans to weigh in. Proposed trapping rules dance around the gruesome reality that even with the updates it will still be legal to:
• Litter public lands with spring-loaded steel-jaw traps and snares, including along trails and roads and ½ mile from picnic areas, rest areas and campgrounds.
• Set out traps for coyotes or skunks, classified as unprotected furbearers, without getting a license.
And while it will be clarified it is illegal to take mink, river otter, black-footed ferret, coatimundi and American marten, traps, snares and poisons are as indiscriminate as they are deadly.
Ask Roxy’s owner.
New Mexico is so much better than allowing a vocal minority to inflict needless suffering and brutal deaths on animals in the name of “tradition.” We should live up to being the Land of Enchantment, not the Land of Entrapment.
That’s why New Mexicans need to speak up from 6 to 7:30 Wednesday night at the Department of Game and Fish office, 7816 Alamo Road NW. Or send comments to New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Attn: Furbearer Rule Development, P.O. Box 25112, Santa Fe, NM, 87504; emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.