Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
From time to time, Christine Landers would encounter the same “beautiful” male bobcat in her Placitas barn early in the morning when she awoke to feed her horses and do other chores.
They would briefly make eye contact before the cat scampered off.
That didn’t happen Jan. 12, when Landers entered her barn and saw the familiar bobcat, who at first seemed unconcerned and detached.
“This time, he just laid there on the bottom row of hay and looked at me,” she recalled. “I opened a gate going into the barn thinking he would run off. Instead, he jumped up onto the next higher row of hay, and that’s when I saw it. His right rear foot was stuck in a trap that was still attached to a chain.”
A stake at the end the chain, used to secure the trap to the ground, indicated the 20-pound cat likely tugged against his steel constraint with enough force to dislodge it from the earth.
“He obviously dragged it into my barn because, I think, he felt comfortable there and it was familiar to him,” Landers said. “I called 911 because I didn’t know what to do, and they told me they would contact somebody.”
A warden from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish arrived, sedated the bobcat with a dart gun and pried open what appeared to be an illegal foothold trap, sometimes called a steel jaw trap. It was only then that the extensive damage to the animal’s leg could fully be seen.
“The warden said the bobcat would never be able to hunt on its own again and would likely have to be euthanized,” Landers said.
The animal was still alive when it was placed in a cage and driven away in the game warden’s truck.
On Friday, Game and Fish spokesman Dan Williams confirmed that “the injuries were too severe to save the cat, so it was removed from the property and euthanized.”
According to Game and Fish, trapping bobcats is legal in New Mexico from Nov. 1 through March 15. A local taxidermist told the Journal that a bobcat pelt can currently fetch from $300 to $500, depending on the size of the pelt and the fur market.
But trappers are required to have a license and comply with various regulations, including those related to placement, monitoring and proper trap identification.
Williams said traps must have the trapper’s name or customer identification number stamped into the frame or on a tag securely fastened to the trap.
The trap that ensnared the bobcat found in Landers’ barn had no identification markings – which also makes finding the person who set the trap and determining where it originally was placed extremely difficult, Williams said.
Asked if Game and Fish wardens were encountering more illegally set animal traps, Williams said the department didn’t have enough information or reports to draw that conclusion.
Less than two months ago, an Albuquerque pet owner walking with his dog in the Sandia Mountains near Tree Spring Trailhead had to free the dog after it got caught in a foothold trap. That trap also lacked any identifying labels or markings, Game and Fish said at the time. Though howling in pain, the dog avoided permanent injury.
The bobcat was not so lucky.
Landers, a broker for a local real estate firm, said the scenario left her sad and disappointed.
“My parents hunted deer in Maine, but that was for meat. This was for a pelt and that’s just cruel, particularly the way it was done using this kind of trap,” she said.
“We see animals all the time out here – coyotes, rabbits, wild horses and bobcats. It’s fun, we like these things and it’s one of the reasons people live in Placitas,” she said.
“I’ve just never seen anything like this before, so it was pretty traumatic. I cried for a while.”