Santa Fe’s native animals are running out of time, due to massive development projects, lack of concern for local wild life, and destruction of habitat by a city government which currently cares little or nothing about remaining Nature. Increasing hot temperatures are also creating hardship for prairie dogs and the other wild animals who co-exist with them on remaining open areas within Santa Fe City/County limits.
There is a small area with trees next to this new fast-food wonder, where prairie dogs lived. Many people enjoyed watching them, some fed them, because this area was so denuded of vegetation, littered with human trash. These prairie dogs were refugees from other development in the area, and had no other place they could escape to when the bulldozers started. Most of them perished due to the construction. No effort was made to help them by the city.
A construction worker at the site reported to me that the city of Santa Fe “had ordered the placement of large rocks over the prairie dog holes” — most likely suffocating many of these animals.
In 2001, the city adopted a prairie dog relocation ordinance that remains part of the land-use code. Rather than killing these animals outright, the city has interpreted the ordinance as an excuse to remove prairie dogs from the city. With continued rampant sprawl, native wild animals don’t stand a chance of survival. As Santa Fe kills off prairie dogs, it also kills burrowing owls, snakes, song birds, trees, etc.
Santa Fe depends on tourism. Visitors marvel at the physical beauty, the “nature” that is still here — but it’s fast disappearing as we concrete everything over.
Mayor Alan Webber says we should be “nature-friendly.” Let’s help him do this by protecting remaining native wildlife. Now that the city of Santa Fe owns the old College of Santa Fe site, the open space should become a preserve for remaining wild species. Among the plethora of plans for the College of Santa Fe “midtown” is a trendy progressive “ecodistrict.”
The city needs to observe the following official ecodistrict guide, which should include prairie dog habitat:
Goal: Enable flourishing ecosystems and restore natural capital.
Objectives: Healthy soils, water, trees and wildlife habitat; accessible nature; natural processes integrated into the built environment.
We must demand the city change its destructive attitude toward native wildlife in the area, protecting existing habitat and creating wildlife-friendly areas for prairie dogs and other wild species to live. The campus site is an excellent place to begin, especially since prairie dogs were poisoned there in the late 1990s. Now is our chance to correct our history of our abuse of nature. If the city of Santa Fe cannot provide protection for its native wildlife and ecosystems, it can no longer claim to be the City Different.
Rosemary Lowe is a wildlife/environmental activist and co-founder of People for Native Ecosystems, among other groups.
A body found Saturday in the Pecos River is that of an Albuquerque man who went missing while hunting in November, his family confirmed Monday.
The body of Stanley Vigil, 54, was found about 2 p.m. by an off-duty state police officer who was fishing near the village of San Jose in San Miguel County, state police spokeswoman Lt. Elizabeth Armijo said.
Armijo said investigators transported the body to Albuquerque for an autopsy.
Darcy Vigil said police contacted her Monday afternoon and confirmed the body was that of her missing brother. She said police told her he had drowned and showed signs of head trauma and broken ribs.
She said authorities did not tell her how long he had been dead or in the river.
Stanley Vigil was last seen on Nov. 7 near Barillas Peak, east of Pecos, during a hunting trip with his family.
Darcy Vigil, 37, said Stanley Vigil had been with their father and other family members driving through the mountains when Stanley spotted a deer. He jumped out of the truck and began tracking the animal, which she said was not unusual for their hunting party.
The group waited but within five minutes snow and fog spread through the area, diminishing their field of view to about 10 yards, Darcy Vigil said. After 15 minutes, she said the alarmed hunting party started calling her brother’s name, honking and firing shots in the air. They heard a shot fired back but farther away.
Stanley Vigil never returned.
Members of the hunting party called for search and rescue and the help of the state police, but Vigil could not be located.
State police said Monday afternoon they are still investigating whether foul play was involved and could not provide more information.
According to a television news report in February, Vigil’s family had continued its quest to find him even after state police ended their search. A GoFundMe page was set up to raise money to help finance the independent search. Darcy Vigil said searchers used drones to help cover the area to no avail.
A New Mexico woman and wildlife advocate who works to ban trapping recently encountered a steel foothold trap up close and personal while walking in the Cibola National Forest.
Mary Katherine Ray of Winston said she was walking her two leashed dogs on Tuesday, along a game trail they frequently use in the San Mateo Mountains, when her shepherd mix, Greta, began to scream in pain.
“Until you’ve heard it, it is unimaginable,” said Ray, who works with the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club.
She quickly realized Greta’s left front paw was caught in a trap.
Ray is the wildlife chairwoman for the club and routinely teaches people how to release traps should their pets be caught, so she knew what to do.
She threw her jacket over Greta to protect herself but still received a few bites from the panicked dog.
After pushing down – hard – on the release levers on both sides of the trap, Greta was free.
Ray said Greta limped for a few hours and has since recovered, but the incident has left her shaken.
“I can’t imagine people who are just out hiking, not knowing what I do about traps,” she said.
She said a game warden she informed about the incident inspected the trap and told her there was nothing illegal about it.
Trapping of foxes, badgers, weasels, ringtails and bobcats is legal on public lands from Nov. 1 to March 15.
The trap was placed in the middle of the game trail, but that’s legal, because it’s not an official walking trail on any map.
It was also farther than the required 25 yards from any public road.
“Until March 15, I’m going to be staying inside,” Ray said.
Ray said she also carries a pair of cable cutters in case one of her dogs is caught in a snare, another legal means of catching fur-bearers.
Last month, a man found himself in hot water after releasing a trapped fox near Placitas and nursing it back to health.
A bill to make trapping and poisoning animals on public lands illegal was introduced in the state’s 2017 legislative session, but it died in committee.
According to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, nearly 5,000 protected fur-bearers, including beavers, foxes, badgers and raccoons, were harvested during the 2016-2017 season.
Trappers are permitted through Game and Fish, which did not respond to requests for comment.
• You can kill as many non-game animals – porcupines, prairie dogs, rabbits, ground squirrels, Himalayan tahrs, skunks, feral hogs, bobcats and coyotes – as you like without a permit, sometimes for cash and fabulous prizes.
Just what does this say about our state?
New Mexico’s government-sponsored animal cruelty came to light again this week when a Placitas man released a fox from a foot-hold trap. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish told Gary Miles, the founder and owner of Placitas Animal Rescue, who responded to a runner’s call about the fox, that he could be arrested for being in possession of the fox.
Miles said the fox “escaped” after “it healed up real nice.”
State statute 220.127.116.11 (C) says, in part, “It shall be illegal to destroy, disturb or remove any trap, snare or trapped wildlife belonging to a licensed trapper without permission of the owner of the trap or snare.” It raises the question why, in 2018, New Mexico endorses the use of leg-hold and other traps on public land, devices that were invented in the 1800s and have been banned in more than 80 countries, and banned or severely restricted in at least eight states.
They were banned because they are archaic, cruel and indiscriminate.
The fox story came to light around a week after an Albuquerque gun shop sponsored a coyote-killing contest outside Bernalillo County. And while that contest was on private land, the arguments that the shooters are removing a predatory threat or gathering pelts and meat or a trophy are used to disguise the real intent: killing for killing’s sake. Many times, the carcasses are piled up and left to rot.
Coyotes, like bobcats, are keystone species and compensatory breeders; kill too many, and they not only will make more to fill the gap, but in the interim the rodent population explodes.
But hey, that’s just what wildlife biologists say. Why let science get in the way of blood sport?
The New Mexico Legislature stepped up and banned cockfighting because lawmakers saw it for what it is: barbaric cruelty that has no place in our state’s proud cultures.
They need to do the same for trapping and killing contests.
Published: 3:00 am
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A previously introduced proposal seeks to ban coyote-hunting competitions in New Mexico.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn would outlaw coyote-killing contests after a number of recent competitions draw anger from animal rights advocates.
The measure would make the contests illegal in the state but not prevent landowners for hunting the predators on their property.
In recent years, a southeastern New Mexico gun shop drew criticism for hosting a coyote hunting competition. It was one of many gun shops that have hosted similar events where winners receive prizes like firearms.
The bill would not outlaw hunting contest of other unprotected species.
Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
No one knows for sure what happened, and the people who do aren’t talking about it.
Five miles north of the Mexican border on a remote West Texas ranch, a New Mexico hunting guide and his client were wounded over the weekend in an alleged gunfight that a family friend described as an attack by “illegal aliens” and an attempted kidnapping.
The Presidio County Sheriff’s Office appeared to question that account in a statement Monday, saying “there is no evidence to support allegations of ‘cross-border violence.’” A Border Patrol spokesman called the alleged incident “highly unusual for our part of the border.”
The following is an account of the events.
Hunting guide Walker Daugherty, 26, of Chloride, N.M. – a ranching community about three hours southwest of Albuquerque near the Gila National Forest – was guiding an exotic big game hunt near Candelaria, Texas, on the border when his party was allegedly attacked by unknown assailants.
Daugherty and his fiancée, another hunting guide and his wife were staying in a lodge at the Circle Dug Ranch. Edwin Roberts, the hunter, and his wife were asleep in a rented RV nearby when gunmen attempted to take the vehicle by force.
Daugherty was shot in the abdomen when he tried to stop the assailants from taking the RV with his clients inside, according to a statement issued by the Gila Livestock Growers Association that described the attack as a kidnapping attempt. Roberts, 59, was shot in the arm.
The RV was “riddled with bullet holes,” the statement said.
Daugherty and Roberts were taken to an El Paso hospital and were in stable condition Monday.
Rancher and Gila Livestock Growers Association President Laura Schneberger issued a news release about the attack, based on the Daugherty family’s account. In addition to their hunting business, Redwing Outfitters, the Daugherty family runs a ranch near the Gila National Forest. The family could not be reached Monday.
“The attack has the family concerned that the attack was not just an attempt to rob the property,” the growers association statement said. “They believe the assailants intended to kill all the party. The attackers were strategically placed around the lodge, and the men were fired upon from different areas.”
The Presidio County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call around 9:30 p.m. Friday from the Circle Dug Ranch, a two-hour drive from the Presidio County seat, Marfa. Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Joel Nunez responded to the scene.
“We are still investigating details of the shooting,” Sheriff Danny Dominguez said in a statement. “However, there is no evidence to support allegations of ‘cross-border violence’ as released by some media sources.”
The terrain of Presidio County, near Big Bend National Park, is rugged like New Mexico’s Bootheel and notoriously difficult to patrol for both local law enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol.
The sheriff is tasked with securing more than 3,800 square miles – New Mexico’s Hidalgo County is about 3,400 square miles, by comparison – and the area is a known corridor for drug mules and smugglers leading migrants illegally over the border.
By phone, Dominguez said that despite the illegal traffic through the area, violent incidents like this one haven’t happened.
“This is out of the blue,” he said. “Like they say it happened, something violent like this – no.”
Border Patrol Special Operations Supervisor Rush Carter said agents aided sheriff’s deputies in securing the scene.
“It’s highly unusual for our part of the border,” Carter said. “Any kind of gun violence just doesn’t happen. I wouldn’t say ‘at all,’ but very, very few incidents. If we have gunplay in our area of operation, it’s not folks coming from Mexico doing that.
“We just don’t see it in people who are trying to smuggle aliens or narcotics. If you think about it, when something like that happens, you see the amount of law enforcement presence that comes into an area and the attention it gets, which is bad for them. It will make it that much tougher for them” to make their illegal crossings.
The Big Bend area of West Texas is a magnet for hunters and hikers. Tourism is big business from the hip, artsy town of Marfa into the wild reaches of the Big Bend National Park, which borders Mexico.
Daugherty’s group was hunting aoudad, also known as Barbary sheep, a type of big-horned North African sheep introduced in West Texas. Redwing Outfitters charges $4,900 for a four- to six-day aoudad hunt, according to its website. “In our camps you will find a Christian atmosphere, fun hardworking professional guides and real homecooking,” the website says.
The Circle Dug Ranch, where the party was spending the night, advertises bird-watching, cave exploration and photography workshops and promotes guided hunting packages. An email to the Circle Dug Ranch requesting comment went unanswered Monday.
“It’s a tourist attraction in the Big Bend area, and nobody wants to talk about it, but a lot of ranches have seen a lot of terrible things,” Schneberger said by phone. “This is personal.”
A GoFundMe website account set up to provide financial support to Daugherty had raised more than $18,000 by more than 200 donors in two days. Daugherty is expected to undergo surgery and does not have medical insurance, according to the site.
The U.S. Forest Service is revising its plan for the Santa Fe National Forest. The Mountain Lion Foundation and our partners in New Mexico want to take this opportunity to request that the Forest Service prohibit trapping in the Caja del Rio and other areas of Santa Fe National Forest that are used by recreationalists.
No matter where you live, America’s lion needs your voice.
The lawsuit says “deadly leg-hold traps” set for cougars could snare wolves and jaguars, both protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as female cougars with kittens, which are protected under state law.
There are an estimated 97 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, officials have said, despite a federal program to recover the species. Jaguars — the largest cat species native to the Western Hemisphere — are far more rare in the U.S., after being driven to the brink of extinction by “human-caused factors like poaching and trapping,” the lawsuit says. It also names the state Game and Fish Department as a defendant.
Humane Society attorney Nicholas Arrivo, in a phone interview Tuesday, said the trapping program presents “a pretty unjustifiable risk to nontarget animals.”
Mexican wolves, jaguars and cougars share overlapping territory in New Mexico, Arrivo said. “Traps that are set for cougars are not intelligent. They are indiscriminate machines that will snap shut on any animal unfortunate enough to cross its path,” he said. He likened traps to land mines, saying both are “brutal, unnecessary and indiscriminate as to what they take.”
The State Game Commission could not be reached for comment on the case.
Lance Cherry, a spokesman for the state Game and Fish Department, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the suit “is only a distraction; the rule was crafted after nearly a yearlong process of public and scientific scrutiny, including consideration of potential impacts on endangered species. The Department will vigorously defend the rule, which is part of a world-class effort to manage New Mexico’s wildlife.”
The State Game Commission reviews the rules for hunting and trapping bears and cougars every four years. In 2015, the panel held five public meetings on the topic before approving changes in August that cleared the way for “sport harvest” trapping of cougars on private and state trust lands between Nov. 1 and March 31 without a special permit. The new rule also doubled the number of cougars a hunter or trapper can take in some areas, increasing the kill limit in those lands to four from two.
Representatives of the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides, the New Mexico Trappers Association and the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association spoke in favor of the proposed changes at a hearing in August.
But numerous other residents spoke in opposition, including Animal Protection of New Mexico’s wildlife campaign manager, Phil Carter. He cited a 2015 poll of 1,000 New Mexico voters, saying that “across the board” those surveyed opposed the changes — and trapping in general — by a 3-to-1 margin.
“That is consistent across every congressional district in the state and every political party,” Carter said at the hearing.
Retired elementary school teacher Jean Ossorio and her husband, Peter Ossorio of Las Cruces, have signed on to the suit as plaintiffs. They’ve been Mexican wolf advocates for more than 20 years and have volunteered for many federal wolf recovery efforts, along with outreach and education activities.
According to the complaint, Jean Ossorio has attended “virtually every state and federal public meeting pertaining to Mexico wolf recovery” since 1998.
The couple could not be reached for comment.
Carter, at the August hearing, accused the State Game Commission of using outdated data to draw its conclusions about cougar populations.
“This is not about sportsmanship,” he said. “This is about killing.”