SANTA FE, N.M. — A dog was caught in a wildlife trap during a family hike north of Taos on Feb. 26, not far from where a couple of dogs were caught in traps in late 2010.
In the most recent case, one of the dog’s owners — 17-year-old Maya Anthony of San Cristobal — was hurt more seriously than her pet. Joker, a border collie-pit bull mix, bit Anthony as she tried to get the frantic dog’s paw out of the leg-hold trap.
“I still get flashbacks when I look at my arm because it was so unreal. I had to smack his nose to get him to release me,” Anthony said.
Her mom, Nina Anthony, had her jeans torn by the dog and got a scrape across her knee in the struggle to release Joker.
The dog ended up suffering in the trap for about a half-hour after Maya and Nina responded to the dog’s screams. Maya had to drive home from Garrapata Canyon, off N.M. 522 on the edge of the Carson National Forest, to get her father, who came back and helped release the pet as Maya and Nina held down Joker with towels over the dog’s head.
Maya said she got a “pretty deep puncture wound” on her arm in the struggle to free Joker. A neighbor who is a doctor gave her antibiotics. “It’s starting to get full motion again,” she said of her arm.
Joker is doing well. The dog’s foot was tender for a day or two but he’s walking around now. Maya said the dog was lucky he was caught on his paw rather than higher on his leg, which could have been broken by the trap.
Another San Cristobal resident had two dogs caught in leg-hold traps during a December 2010 hike near the village, and that owner injured her fingers freeing the dogs.
The 2010 case became part of a debate over state regulation of trapping in New Mexico as the Game and Fish Department’s trapping rule was open to review.
Conservationists pushed for a ban on all recreational and commercial trapping on public lands in New Mexico.
The Game Commission did not approve a ban and instead expanded trapping opportunities by lifting a temporary ban on trapping in the wolf recovery area in southeast New Mexico. The WildEarth Guardians group has filed a lawsuit challenging that decision.
Game and Fish commissioners decided that trapping had a minimal impact on wolves. Game and Fish officials also said that trapping has declined dramatically in New Mexico in recent years, and trappers maintain modern equipment is less painful for animals, such as bobcats sought for their pelts.
Maya Anthony, a senior at Taos High School, was among those who gathered petition signatures in support of a trapping ban last year. “I was really involved in that, so we were pretty familiar with the threat,” she said.
When Joker was caught in the trap baited with a big cotton ball saturated with skunk scent, her mother “kept saying, ‘I can’t believe I let my guard down,’ ” Maya said.
Maya said that as a result of her participation in the anti-trapping effort, she’d watched videos on how to get an animal out of a leg-hold trap. But she and her mother couldn’t free Joker because soft, loamy ground made it difficult to clamp down the trap release.
“I just hope this can help drive the motion toward getting (trapping) banned in the state,” Maya said of what happened with Joker. “I really think it needs to happen. I’ll keep working toward that.”
An officer of the National Trappers Association in New Mexico referred questions Monday to Tom McDowell of Corrales, former president of the association. McDowell couldn’t be reached, but he has said previously that trapping is regulated well for public safety and that trapping has benefits in wildlife management and income opportunity. Last year, he was skeptical of claims of trapped dogs leading up to the Game Commission’s consideration of trapping rules.
A Game and Fish spokesman said a department agent would try to look into what happened to Joker. State law says traps can’t be placed within 25 yards of Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management trails or the shoulder of public roads, or within a quarter mile of occupied dwellings.
WildEarth Guardians provided a statement Monday commenting on what happened to Joker.
“Traps are indiscriminate, dangerous, and set everywhere on New Mexico’s public lands, which can endanger hikers, campers, hunters, and their companion animals,” said Wendy Keefover, director of carnivore protection for WildEarth Guardians. “Maya and Nina’s incident is a terrible reminder of how our public lands have become unsafe to explore because of widespread trapping.”