Charges filed in high-profile New Mexico trapping case

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico wildlife authorities say charges have been filed in a trapping case that is fueling this year’s debate among lawmakers over whether the practice should be banned on public lands.

The state Game and Fish Department announced Wednesday that while Marty Cordova had a valid license, he’s accused of running illegal trap lines that resulted in the unlawful harvest of wildlife and the death of a dog named Roxy.

The legislation named after Roxy is pending in the House. It’s sponsored by three Democrats from northern New Mexico.

Conservation officers served a search warrant at Cordova’s home in January and seized snares and foot-hold traps that weren’t properly marked. They also found bobcat pelts and skulls as well as fox, badger and ringtail pelts.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the 42-year-old Chimayo man had a lawyer.

Thanks to governor for battling climate change

Thanks to governor for battling climate change
Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

In an exciting stroke of the pen, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that New Mexico will join the U.S. Climate Alliance, adding New Mexico to the growing list of states pledging to embrace the necessary and ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement (“On climate, Lujan Grisham starts to deliver,” Our View, Jan. 31). Surrounded by environmental advocates, young people from the Santa Fe-based Global Warming Express, and heads of state agencies, we were honored to stand near the governor as she specifically named methane capture as a focal point in the state’s effort to combat climate change.

Climate change is a big, complex issue that can be difficult to understand. Within this complicated issue, methane has been overlooked and action on it has been consistently delayed or even rolled back. Gov. Lujan Grisham understands this and her actions demonstrate the crucial role that methane capture will play in the fight against climate change. The impacts of climate change pose dramatic challenges for New Mexico, including fires, flooding, drought, health impacts, and dramatic shifts in our state’s climate that will cause cascading damages to the state’s ecosystems and cultural resources.

The most recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights the narrow 12-year window we have to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Because of its potency as a greenhouse gas, regulating methane emissions is one of the most promising ways to make dramatic short-term changes to the atmosphere that could be the difference between manageable climate impacts and disastrous ones.

We are proud to have a governor that is taking such decisive action, and we are proud to be part of the diverse coalition keeping climate change in the forefront of the state’s legislative agenda. Over the past couple of years, Climate Advocates/Voces Unidas, known as CAVU, has worked hard to inform a wide audience about the the impacts of methane emissions to New Mexico. Our Unearthed film series continues to bring together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss the opportunities and challenges presented by oil and gas development in our state. By creating dialogue, we can work toward common sense solutions that protect our environment and move our economy forward. It is encouraging to see this work translate into policy.

On behalf of CAVU and the many organizations working to make New Mexico a leader in climate policy, we want to thank the governor for taking the lead with this executive order. As she said herself, “It’s up to us” to face this problem head on.

Twelve years will pass in the blink of an eye. For the sake of our children, we look forward to finding solutions to the most pressing issue of our time.

Jordan Vaughan Smith and David Smith are the founders of Climate Advocates/Voces Unidas. They live in Santa Fe.

Trapping bill highlights state’s urban-rural divide

  • Updated

Mary Katherine Ray has seen traps up close.

One caught the leg of her dog Greta while they were hiking.

“I will never forget the sound of Greta’s screaming,” Ray told a New Mexico legislative committee on Thursday.

It was a story lawmakers heard over and over again — a story of beautiful days outdoors turned bloody by traps lurking in the brush.

Animal welfare advocates and others are renewing a yearslong effort to ban trapping on New Mexico public lands. And with House Bill 366, lawmakers are reigniting a visceral debate over the humane treatment of animals and deep-rooted traditions.

Critics argue that banning trapping on public land would not stop the sort of illegal trapping that usually spurs outrage.

Trappers legally are supposed to get a license from the state, mark their traps with an identifying number and abide by rules about where they can place their traps.

Banning the practice, ranchers say, would only deprive them of a method that is key to defending their cattle from predators such as coyotes.

“This bill is government overreach and hinders cattle growers from protecting their livestock,” said Randell Major, president of the New Mexico Cattlegrowers Association.

In turn, ranchers say banning the practice would amount to one more blow to a way of life many of them already view as under threat.

But proponents of the ban argue that trapping has been ineffective, pointing to the coyote’s spread across North America.

Neighboring Arizona and Colorado have banned trapping on public lands. And a range of groups, including hikers, birders, and search and rescue teams, have raised concerns about the dangers of allowing the practice in New Mexico.

“Wildlife management needs to advance in New Mexico. We’re not controlling coyotes with these methods,” said former Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, chairman of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter.

When the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee took testimony from the public about the issue Thursday, however, the biggest argument against trapping was simply that it is cruel.

In a packed hearing room, critics of trapping recounted stories like Ray’s of dogs or people caught in traps.

HB 366 has become known as Roxy’s Law, in honor of an 8-year-old heeler mix strangled in a trap last month at Santa Cruz Lake.

But perhaps more than any other bill in the Legislature this year, the proposal reveals the divide between urban and rural New Mexico.

Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, has convened groups from opposing sides of the issue during the past couple of years to try to forge some sort of consensus. He proposed a ban a couple of years ago that foundered in the Legislature, and he remembers how divisive the issue was. This year, he has Senate Bill 390, which would ensure the State Game Commission can address issues of trapping on public land.

But groups including Animal Protection Voters are rallying behind HB 366, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Matthew McQueen of Galisteo, Christine Chandler of Los Alamos and Bobby Gonzales of Taos.

McQueen put forward a series of mostly technical changes when the bill received its first hearing Thursday, ensuring the law would not apply to corral traps, for example, to tribal governments or to spay-and-neuter programs that catch and release feral cats.

The committee is scheduled to vote on the bill Saturday.

While the bill is likely to make it out of the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, trapping bans have faltered in the Senate, leaving its outlook uncertain.

NM Land commissioner bans killing contests on state property

Prohibition impacts coyote killing contests on 9 million acres of state land

Many hunters abhor killing contests and the carcasses they leave behind. | Matt Grubs | Matt Grubs

Calling animal killing contests “brutal, barbaric and inhumane,” new State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard banned the practice on state trust land Thursday.

She made the prohibition by executive order, signed at a news conference.

“If you want to hold a contest to see who can accumulate the most coyote carcasses … from today forward, you will not be able to do that on state trust land,” Garcia Richard, who took office Jan. 1, said to a small group of staff and advocates.

Her office oversees more than 9 million surface acres of state trust land. Much of it is checkerboarded among private property and other government agencies, which will likely present a challenge for enforcing the ban. Garcia Richard said the office’s legal team can file action against those who violate the ban. She told reporters she’s also considered implementing a fee structure for hunters who are caught participating in the contests. Any new criminal penalities would likely have to be adopted by the state Legislature.

The ban impacts “unregulated” species like coyotes, and does not impact animals which hunters need a permit to pursue. Those hunters fall under the purview of the state Department of Game and Fish and its officers.

Animal advocates with Animal Protection Voters, Project Coyote, WildEarth Guardians, the Sierra Club and others applauded the order. Many members  stood behind the land commissioner as she made the announcement.

“She knows that healthy ecosystems and sustainable land use rely on robust interconnected wildlife populations,” said Jessica Johnson of Animal Protection Voters.

“This is not to say that NMSLO does not support hunters; hunters who hunt ethically, hunters who use practices that follow the law and include fair chase, hunters who use what they kill,” Garcia Richard said during the news conference. “This is not to say that our 3,000 agricultural lessees are going to be dissuaded from humanely combating depredation on their land to livestock and other companion animals. That’s not what today is about.”

Tiger Espinoza, vice president of the New Mexico chapter of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, tells SFR the group has purposely avoided taking a stance on political issues like the contests.

“We don’t either support or not support this ban,” he says over the phone from Farmington. “I will say that Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife 100 percent supports predator control. And if that involves killing a few coyotes, then that’s what it involves.”

The lifelong hunter says there are “thousands upon thousands” of coyotes in the state and that sometimes the public misunderstands their place in the food chain. “People think that they are not little baby deer, fawn killers. In all reality they are. I have seen that with my own eyes. It’s not just mountain lions. I’ve seen coyotes take down a buck deer with my own eyes.”

Opponents of the contest agree with people like Espinoza, who says the events don’t put a dent in coyote populations.

“There is no documented scientific evidence that coyote killing contests permanently reduce coyote abundance, increase populations of deer or other game species, or prevent conflicts between predators, humans and livestock,” Dave Parsons of Project Coyote said in a statement Thursday.

The anti-contest group plans to hold screenings of “Killing Games: Wildlife in the Crosshairs” tonight in Las Cruces and Saturday afternoon at the South Broadway Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Both shows have panel discussions planned after the film.

The order isn’t the first such ban on state trust lands. Former commissioners Ray Powell and Jim Baca also implemented such a prohibition during their terms.

Dog loses leg after caught in trap, prompting renewed calls to ban trapping

WARNING: Some pictures in this story are graphic.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a hotly debated topic in New Mexico: whether or not to ban animal trapping. Now, a local rescue group is pushing for the ban after a lost pup barely escaped with his life.

When Argos Animal Rescue first found Kekoa, they didn’t think he would make it through the night. Now, after a miraculous recovery, he’s acting as their poster pup for change.

“Kekoa means warrior in Hawaiian,” said Kim Domina, Argos Dog Rescue founder. “Strength of a warrior and I think that’s what Kekoa is.”

A warrior who survived days with his leg caught in a steel trap.

“Officer Rico said that he was definitely caught in a leg-hold trap of some kind,” Domina explained. “And that he probably was there for a couple days.”

On November 27, Argos Animal Rescue and K-9 Rehab got a call about the horrific conditions Valencia County Animal Control found Kekoa in.

“He tried to chew his own leg off. He does have pretty horrific injuries,” Domina said. “He had bite wounds all over his entire body. We ended up having to amputate his leg because it was fractured.”

Tracie Dulniak with the K-9 Rehab Institute says this type of injury is becoming more and more common.

“We get a lot of these dogs that are coming in from other counties and other states that have been severely abused or injured through traps,” Dulniak said.

This leaves the injured dogs with emotional, physical and mental scars, a concern that Trap Free New Mexico says should be addressed.

“We shouldn’t have to rely on New Mexican’s dogs stuck in traps until we abolish the practice,” said Christopher Smith, advocate for Trap Free New Mexico.

It is a practice that state legislators have tried to ban before, but has remained legal.

Current laws say a trap must be 25 feet or more from a trail and checked every day. The only possible changes coming to the law, at this point, is that Game and Fish is considering increasing the setback requirement to 50 feet.

“Minor tweaks to the regulations aren’t going to keep people safe,” Smith said. “It’s not going to keep many pets safe but also, it’s not going to keep our native wildlife safe.”

Kekoa’s medical bills have exceeded $3,000. Argos Rescue and K-9 Rehab are now asking for help with those bills and boarding and are searching for a skilled foster parent to care for him because no one has claimed him.

KRQE News 13 reached out to the New Mexico Trappers Association for comment, but did not hear back.

Santa Fe Prairie Dogs Need Our Help!

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.

Just recently, a small colony was decimated in order for Santa Fe  to have a Chik-fil-a fast food restaurant. There may be a few survivors, but not for long, due to the habitat destruction.
Also, just recently, a lovely 8 acre treed lot  off Rodeo Rd. in Santa Fe was bulldozed, now a barren waste land awaiting construction for apartments–a healthy colony was there, but no more. We do not know if any escaped.Trees, grasses and bushes  were bulldozed along with the wild life. Prairie dogs do not exist in a vacuum: with other animals living in symbiosis with them, such as quail, rabbits, snakes, birds, and burrowing owls,  also died.
If wild life & animal groups do not help those of us who are willing to step up and fight for these native wild animals, they will suffer and die.  Any “Nature” left in the Santa Fe area will be obliterated, with wall to wall tacky developments.
Where are the groups willing to help us meet  to the City & County of Santa Fe, to help  revise the present, non-enforceable prairie dog ordinance, which is not even currently honored? Where are the groups who are willing to meet with us, and be present at meetings with these local governments? We are hoping that a few groups will step up and provide some support by being present with these city and county entities–before it’s too late. We would appreciate hearing from you!
Is there anyone out there??
Rosemary Lowe  505-466-4667
Scott Smith
Marc Bedner
Wildlife Activists for Santa Fe

Fast food or prairie dogs? Santa Fe’s choice

Fast food or prairie dogs? Santa Fe’s choice
A prairie dog stands watch at the College of Santa Fe in 2009. New Mexican file photo

 Why did the Santa Fe New Mexican feel it necessary to give a full feature, with color photos, to another fast-food restaurant, so “unique” on the ticky-tacky sprawl of Cerrillos Road (“Camp Chick-fil-A,” April 19)? No mention of the native wildlife that perished beside it.

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.

 The city has never been kind to prairie dogs. Prairie dogs were once common in the Santa Fe area, but poisoning and senseless development denuded their habitat.

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:

Living Infrastructure

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.

Missing hunter’s body is found in Pecos River

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.

Wildlife advocate’s dog snared by trap

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

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.

The foot-hold trap that snared Mary Katherine Ray’s dog.

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.

Mary Katherine Ray was walking in Cibola National Forest when one of her dogs stepped on a foot-hold trap. (Courtesy of Mary Katherine Ray)

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.

Editorial: Trapping, killing contests should have no place in NM

Welcome to the Land of Enchantment, where:• If you find a wild animal caught in a trap, you can neither free it nor put it out of its misery.

• 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 (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.