Dec 02 2018

Trapping Wars

by Caren Cowan, Executive Director,
New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association
Read this article & more in New Mexico Stockman Magazine

A cow carcass lying near popular hiking trails in Santa Fe National Forest is sparking concerns about predators, particularly after reports on social media that an unleashed dog went missing while walking ahead of its owner on the Borrego Trail, according to a Santa Fe New Mexican story by Sami Edge.

Lily Azures, a former hunter who now runs an operation called Paw Trackers that helps track down lost pets, thinks Toby, the missing 40-pound terrier mix, might have been taken by a mountain lion.

Azures said she hiked with Toby’s owner to the site where the dog disappeared and saw several big cat tracks in the area. Earlier this week, she placed cameras near the carcass to test her theory.

Footage Azures uploaded to the Paw Trackers Facebook page appears to prove her right: The videos, with time stamps from the afternoon and evening of November 20, show at least one large cat ambling about and feasting on the cow remains.

Azures hopes the videos will warn people away from the area or, at the very least, convince hikers to keep their animals leashed so they don’t get nabbed by a large predator.

“A cat and human encounter is dangerous, any way you cut it. … They are powerful animals,” Azures said. “I needed to get those cameras down there to show them, ‘This is what I saw,’ and the cameras didn’t fail me.”

However, no one at the Albuquerque public comment meeting on the potential of the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish (NMDGF) opening the Trapping Rule seemed to know anything about this.

The meeting was surprisingly small with only about six anti-trapping folks there. They were well outnumbered by trappers and their supporters who did an excellent job of explaining why trapping is necessary. The comments ranged from predator control to the economic benefit to individuals and rural communities.

That didn’t deter those folks who didn’t seem to know much about trapping rules and were focused on their emotional folderol about how society had evolved from the need for trapping, and for one lady, even hunting and fishing. In her eyes nothing should ever be killed. There was one woman who is a “certified wildlife biologist” from Oregon. She now lives in New Mexico and works for the New Mexico Environment Department as a scientist… we know this to be true because she said it about five times. She did take a break to wave and say “hello” to the private camera filming from the back of the room.

As a certified wildlife biologist, now certified in New Mexico, and a scientist, she does not believe that there is enough science to support trapping in the state. However, she didn’t have an answer on where the science is on how many dogs have been caught in traps or what the circumstances were surrounding the few incidents that take place according to local news.

In most places it is the law of the land that dogs be kept on leashes and in control of the handler, usually of no more than six feet. In Albuquerque that is true even if you are on your own private property.

One recent dog/trap incident was one where the dog was on leash and was caught in a trap. Clearly the leash laws/regulations were broken in this event. The handler did not have control of the leash or the animal. The excuse was that the dog was curious and so was the handler.

You will hear this story during the upcoming Legislature ad nauseam. Without a doubt the trapping ban bill will be on the docket complete with all the histrionics of years past.

Back to the substance of the proposed rule change for trapping. In 2017 and 2018 there was a group called together at the request of a memorial passed by Senator Pete Compos. The memorial was introduced in 2017 after Senator Compos pulled his anti-trapping bill. The purpose of the measure was to bring people together to see if there was any common ground that could be reached between trapper supporters and deniers.

Although it was clear at the first meeting, on a holiday weekend, that no matter what came out of the group, there were those antis who were going to bring the bill forward. Yet there was a fairly devoted crew who gave up three more Saturdays and another holiday weekend to work on something for Senator Compos.

The meetings were grueling at best. The third meeting was the worst and I will admit that I totally lost it. At each meeting we were all asked to make some comment about ourselves as part of our introduction. At the third meeting the request was to say something about what we had learned about each other at the previous meetings. Miss Sierra Club was one of the first to speak. What she had learned, and she said it was terrible, was that trapping supporters hated animals. I was so mad by the time my turn came that I didn’t even say my name, let alone say something about the group… who knows what I might have said.

Then it got worse. During the meeting, Miss Sierra Club said that set-backs from road and high use areas didn’t really matter what the distance was. The only reason the antis cared about set-backs was to make things more difficult for trappers – it had nothing to do with safety.

Somewhere about this time I got a call that our dear Sharon King didn’t have long to be with us. Already being upset, I certainly didn’t give a rat’s posterior about what anybody thought the rest of the meeting.

Then it got more irritating. As each of the breakout groups reported their progress or lack thereof, one of the recommendations was for more education. For the anti-trappers, that education was only to be for the trapping community. For the rest of us it was more public education working toward avoiding future conflict. I expressed that sentiment.

Then Miss Animal Protection of New Mexico yelled that if the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association wanted to pay for the development of public education that was fine, but she and her group refused to have any part of it. I wasn’t very nice until the end of the meeting, in fact the meeting ended shortly thereafter.

These Albuquerque comment meeting had its’ own shocking moments… one was when a new Miss Sierra Club, who honestly seems like a nice person, informed the NMDGF that they had the worst “f-ing” website ever. I agree that I have some difficulty navigating the site, but my feelings are nowhere near that strong!

The proposed changes for the trapping rule all came out of the working group. They are:

Mandatory Trapper Education. New Mexico has some of the strongest trapper education in the nation. Mandatory education might help in identify those who are trapping illegally.

Changing set-back from 25 to 50 feet, in effect doubling the distance for trappers… and doubling the time it will take to check traps and halving the number of traps that could be run. The trappers were necessarily opposed to this change… but they want the 24-hour trap check rule changed to 72 hours which would give them time back to allow more traps.

Allowing the Director to close high use areas to trapping.

Signage at trailheads so that hikers and dog walkers would at least know there were traps in the area. During the group meetings, the antis wanted signs on each trap. Duh…

Better definition of what is a “trail.”

The Game Commission was to decide at their November 30 meeting on whether to open the rule to make these changes. Stay tuned!

Mid-Term Elections & the 2019 Legislature

As happens every two years, the elections have come and gone. In 2018 all the state-wide offices were up as well as the State House of Representatives. There were winners and losers.

We have plenty of opportunities to make new friends, renew old acquaintances and build stronger relationships. We won’t say good bye, but see you later, to old friends who have well-served New Mexicans for years.

There will be new faces in House Committees and there will be lots of opportunity for education and exchange. That’s where you come in.

If you don’t already know who your legislators are, please take the time to get to know them before we get to Santa Fe in mid-January. It will make communicating with them during Session a lot easier.

We are expecting many bills to be back like the anti-trapping measure, changing the name and the mission of the Game Department, anti-coyote calling, a State Environmental Policy Act, changing how the Game Commission is selected, the conservation special use valuation, adding animals like coyote to the furbearers listed in statute, an increase of the inspection fee for the New Mexico Livestock Board, feral horses… and much, much more. Surely there will be something that sparks your interest.

We will need your help on each and every day of the 60-day Session. Please set aside some time now. If you would like to be one of the 10-for-10 bill readers who help make sure that EVERY bill introduced has eyes on it, please let us know. We have no idea just how many bills will be introduced this Legislature, but it could be a lot more than we have seen in recent years.

Rural Media Comes to New Mexico

A new owner will take over the Don Imus Cattle Ranch in northern New Mexico. Rural Media Group announced its purchase of the Ribera property in late November.

Starting this spring, the ranch will be used in RFD-TV and the Cowboy Channel productions. Filming will kick off with shows like “Best of America By Horseback” and “Debbie Dunning’s Dude Ranch Round-Up.”

Early Shake-Up on NM Oil Conservation Commission

A decision by New Mexico oil and gas regulators to ease restrictions on well locations for a Texas-based company operating in one of the nation’s oldest producing basins has resulted in a shake-up on the regulatory panel and more questions from elected officials about the approval process, according to a story written by Susan Montoya. New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn removed his agency’s appointee to the state Oil Conservation Commission after that staffer voted in favor of the request by Hilcorp Energy Co. during a November 19 hearing.

Dunn cited concerns about Hilcorp’s plans to redevelop thousands of existing wells in the San Juan Basin as the company looks to target a formation known as the Blanco-Mesaverde gas pool.

Farewell to 2018, bring on a better 2019!

It doesn’t seem possible but 2018 is coming to an end… and none too soon for me. This has been a hard year on many fronts. Randy and I have had some major health issues. I am proud to report that I am complete recovered, and Randy is really close… however he still says his back prevents him from dancing with me. We will see about that in the New Year.

We have lost too many friends and loved ones this year. Some of them whose time had come. Some of them we can only trust that the Lord needed them way too early.

The Stockman and its staff want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a better and prosperous New Year.      

Source: New Mexico Stockman, December 2018