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Forum Planned To Discuss N.M. Trapping

The debate over whether New Mexico should prohibit the trapping of bobcats, raccoons and other fur-bearing animals on public lands is far from over.

Conservation groups scheduled a forum Wednesday evening to talk about trapping and a recent decision by the state Game Commission to lift a trapping ban in southwestern New Mexico, where the federal government has reintroduced the endangered Mexican gray wolf.

The groups have labeled trapping as cruel and barbaric. They want state and federal officials to consider their appeals for ending the practice on public lands.

“The Game Commission ignored 12,000 people who asked that traps be banned on public lands. Since we were ignored, we’re providing a forum for people to be heard,” said Wendy Keefover of the Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians.

“We hope to really create a stir about trapping in New Mexico because what’s going on is completely under-regulated, and it affects so many people, and it has ecosystem affects,” she said.

Trappers are digging in their heels and taking issue with how the practice is being portrayed.

“These are scare tactics that hit on people’s emotions,” Tom McDowell, a member of the New Mexico Trappers Association, said, referring to the groups’ claims of the potential danger of getting tangled up in a trap in the woods.

Conservationists are also concerned about the fate of the Mexican gray wolf. They sent thousands of letters and emails to the commission this summer in hopes that the panel would keep in place the ban in the wolf recovery area that was spurred last year by former Gov. Bill Richardson.

Since its beginnings in 1998, the wolf program has been stymied by everything from illegal shootings, court battles and complaints from ranchers and environmentalists. About 50 wolves are in the wild in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

Commissioners lifted the trapping ban after the Game Department made a recommendation based on a recent federal study that found trapping accounts for only a fraction of documented wolf injuries and deaths in the recovery area.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal