CIBOLA NATIONAL FOREST – John Ussery and his 25-pound dog Cub were finishing a hike in the Cibola National Forest on Saturday when Ussery heard “terrible screaming.”
Ussery and a friend rushed from the road and through the forest brush to find the unleashed Cub, his front right leg stuck in a metal animal trap.
They freed him while Cub nipped at their hands. The device didn’t break Cub’s skin, and he only limped for a few hours. On Sunday, he was rollicking with no clear sign of a previous injury.
“He was in terrible pain,” Ussery told the Journal on Sunday. “Those things are indiscriminate. Those things catch anything that comes along.”
Ussery said he fears other dogs – or maybe even an adventurous child – might step on the trap because it is close to a popular trail.
It’s hard to spot the device, or the required identification of the person who placed it, since the metal trap is covered in dirt and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish forbids tampering with traps.
It is tucked amid stringy weeds and fallen, decaying trees about 80 feet from N.M. 536, the winding road to the Sandia Crest. Standing near the trap, a hiker can see the road, a picnic table and the beginning of the Tree Spring Trail.
In New Mexico, trappers can place traps on national forest land, but not nearby picnic areas, dwellings or public roads or trail. According to the state department’s 2016-17 rules and information, traps must be placed at least a quarter of a mile from rest or picnic areas and at least half a mile from a public camp ground.
It’s also against the law to place a trap within 25 yards, or 75 feet, of a public road.
As of Sunday, Ussery, a commercial real estate agent who lives in Sandia Park, had not yet reported the trap to Game and Fish, the agency that oversees hunting in New Mexico.
The department did not return calls or emails on Sunday. The U.S. Forest Service also did not a return a call.
Trapping game in New Mexico has been a contentious issue.
In August 2015, the New Mexico State Game Commission adopted a revision to the Bear and Cougar Rule that repealed a ban on recreational trapping and snaring of cougars. The revision allowed additional trapping on private land and on 9 million acres of state trust land.
Animal Protection of New Mexico and the Humane Society of the United States in June 2016 filed a lawsuit asking a U.S. District Court to prevent state officials implementing the change.
The Department of Game and Fish is in charge of licensure for trapping. A license to trap for a New Mexico resident costs $20. According to a Game and Fish harvest report for 2015-16, there were 10 animals caught through a trapping license in Bernalillo County. About 1,670 trapping licenses were sold statewide in the 2015-16 reporting period.