APNM Wildlife Campaign Manager Phil Carter
ALBUQUERQUE – New Mexicans of all stripes are opposed to proposed changes to the state Bear & Cougar Rule released Monday by New Mexico Department of Game & Fish (NMDGF).
The ill-conceived and problematic proposals seek to expand the use of cruel trap and snare devices to kill cougars by eliminating the permit requirement for property owners to set traps for the native big cat species and by allowing the use of traps and snares on cougars on State Trust lands, which total nine million acres across New Mexico.
The department also is recommending significant increases in the number of both cougars and bears that can legally be killed across the state. However, Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) and prominent state legislators are calling attention to the fact that, in 2015, NMDGF has not produced any new scientific population data for cougar to support more hunting and trapping.
The Governor-appointed state Game Commission is set to issue a final vote on adopting or rejecting these proposals at the monthly Commission meeting Aug. 27 in Santa Fe.
“In jumping to a conclusion that more cougars must be killed without having the data to prove it, the New Mexico Game & Fish Department is failing in its responsibility for sensible and cautious wildlife management,” Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park said.
Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque also raised concerns about a lack of scientific data and the removal of the permit requirement for trapping of cougars.
“My constituents expect management of the wildlife that is held in the public trust to be responsible and science-based. Changes made in cougar management policies should be supported by scientific evidence to ensure both the long-term conservation of cougars in our state and the safety of the general public who enjoy our public lands,” Pacheco said. “Without a sensible permitting process, we undermine our own sound management of cougars.”
Recently, APNM launched a grassroots campaign to oppose NMDGF’s proposals. APNM created a campaign website (StopCougarTrapping.com) and, starting this week, has placed print ads and billboards in locations across the state, calling for citizens to speak out against unscientific, cruel proposals.
Renowned comedy writer, animal advocate, and New Mexico resident Jack Handey (best known for his “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey” segments on Saturday Night Live throughout the 1990s), has recorded a special public service announcement for StopCougarTrapping.org that is now airing on New Mexico radio stations. In the ad, Handey notes “each year, hundreds of mountain lions (also known as cougars) are killed in my home state of New Mexico. Now, new proposals from state agencies would allow the slaughter of even more of these magnificent creatures through horrific traps and snares.”
So far, thousands of New Mexicans have registered their opposition to the proposal to make it easier to kill more cougars and bears. Cougar hunting is currently legal in New Mexico for individuals on private land with a permit; annual statewide quotas allow for up to 749 animals to be killed by hunters. However, each year hunters have killed around 300 cougars, or 40 per cent of the total quota.
“In claiming that more cougars must be killed when less than half of annual quotas are met and new population data is unavailable, the Game & Fish Department seems to be willfully disregarding the precautionary principle in wildlife management and to be gambling with a vital species,” APNM Wildlife Campaign Manager Phil Carter said.
Further, said APNM, by removing the permit requirement for landowners, NMDGF is willfully discarding one of the only tools used by the department to track the number of cougars killed, essentially undermining what limited cougar management exists.
“The proposals will almost guarantee the species will be treated much like a varmint in the field, resulting in tragic consequences for the cougar population,” Carter: said.
For more information, visit www.StopCougarTrapping.com.