The New Mexico State Game Commission has banned cougar trapping for sport and lowered the number of big cats that can be killed each year in some hunting zones.
The cougar rule changes, approved Thursday in Roswell, mark a departure from regulations enacted in 2015 and will be revisited in four years under a new commission policy.
The commission also approved a ban on traps and snares on public lands around Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos and Las Cruces, and within a half-mile of official trailheads. Training for trappers would be mandatory.
Wildlife advocates lauded the new rules, but said the State Game Commission needs to go further by banning all traps and snares on all public land, which encompasses nearly 30 percent of New Mexico’s land mass.
Laura Bonar, the chief program and policy officer for the nonprofit Animal Protection of New Mexico, said in a news release, “The Commission’s vote to stop cruel recreational cougar trapping was the right decision. We urge the Commission to take the next logical step, which is to prohibit all traps and snares on public lands. Trapping and public lands are incompatible.”
Commission Chairwoman Joanna Prukop said the new rules reflect changing safety standards.
“We’re always criticized for not going far enough, but modern-day trapping is not like Jeremiah Johnson-day trapping,” She said, referring to a 1972 film starring Robert Redford. “The traps have improved; the regulations for how they’re set and how often they’re checked have improved.”
Commissioners next will vote Jan. 17 in Las Cruces on whether to amend another trapping rule, one that addresses animals harvested for their fur.
Recommendations for the fur bearer trapping rule changes stop far short of proposed legislation called Roxy’s Law that failed in the 2019 legislative session. The bill was named after a dog that was fatally strangled in an illegal snare in Santa Fe County. The bill would have banned snares, traps and poison on public land, with a few exceptions.
In September, California became the first state to ban commercial fur trapping. Colorado and Arizona banned using traps and snares on public lands; Colorado goes a step further, prohibiting private landowners from using snares, traps or poison.