SANTA FE, N.M. — In New Mexico, some wildlife outranks others, with mountain lions landing near the bottom of the pack. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the solitary Puma concolor enjoys the status of rats or “trash fish” – which is how New Mexico’s wildlife department characterizes carp.
Late last month, the New Mexico Game and Fish Department unveiled its latest proposal to benefit hunters who think lions are taking too many deer and elk: leg-hold traps. Though they would be permitted only on private land, these traps are known to cause terrible suffering; some unfortunate animals are so desperate that they even bite off their own legs in order to escape.
But lions seem to be considered expendable and this bias against the big cats is sadly common in most states, including Montana, Colorado, Arizona and South Dakota. Though each state claims to study lions, none can tell us with any clarity how many there are and each has set goals to dramatically reduce their numbers, with little or no science to guide this politically driven destruction.
South Dakota’s anti-lion policy is clearly working. The state is said to be home to an estimated 225 lions, but that number may be too high. The game commission significantly upped the number of available deer and elk tags in the Black Hills in a state that already sells over 55,000 deer tags annually.