Today marks the second of five public meetings on a proposal to allow trapping of mountain lions on public lands, and it continues what appears to be the New Mexico Game and Fish Department’s standard operating procedure of ignoring vetted science and reliable data in favor of unsubstantiated anecdotes and histrionics.
Because if New Mexico is indeed being overrun by cougars, why are hunters killing only around 225 each year when 750 kills are allowed? Moreover, why would a state that finally said goodbye to strapping razors on roosters for death matches decide the best way to address an alleged overpopulation of a species is a device that can lead to a slow, painful, terrified death for anything that comes in contact with it?
Game and Fish spent 1 million New Mexico tax dollars on a comprehensive, peer-reviewed cougar study that did not support the claims of livestock predation. In fact it showed the opposite, that cougars prefer to dine on mule deer, antelope, rabbits, coyotes, skunks, small rodents, birds and reptiles. And Game and Fish has admitted that attacks on humans are extremely rare. Yet the department instead is proposing more, and more grisly, kills because some ranchers and farmers around the state have voiced concerns about predation.
If there is in fact a cougar-livestock predation problem, why aren’t those ranchers and farmers making a loud, public outcry for help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which spends $100 million a year killing bears, wolves, coyotes and mountain lions to protect livestock? In fact, a USDA booklet says almost twice as many lambs and goats are killed in New Mexico by eagles than cougars.
But there’s not much political traction in killing eagles. And there shouldn’t be any political traction in expanding the archaic use of traps. Eight states – including Arizona and Colorado – have banned or placed severe restrictions on leg-hold and instant-kill traps. No other state except for Texas allows cougar trapping. That’s because traps, like land mines, are indiscriminate in what they catch and put nontargeted species, domesticated animals and children at risk.
Game and Fish is offering up a solution in search of a problem that will create more pain and suffering, not alleviate it. The state can’t even get to a third of the allowed number of cougar kills, yet it alleges there is such a population problem as to necessitate expanding the cruel and random use of traps?
Most of the United States has moved on from using this savage practice for wildlife control. The Game Commission should look at the data, dismiss this proposal and move New Mexico forward as well.
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.