Monday, August 8, 2011

The Mexican Wolf Cannot Best a Leg-Hold Trap

Today, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish reluctantly coughed up the United States Geological Survey’s wolf-trapping study called, Evaluating Trapping Techniques to Reduce Potential for Injury to Mexican Wolves. Twelve days ago, WildEarth Guardians formally requested that study from state and federal officials.

Here’s what the report said: 14 wolves were caught by trappers and livestock growers, and seven were harmed. Two wolves even died from trapping-related harms. The report didn’t say how. But wolves cannot be held in a trap and exposed to extreme heat or cold. Wolves can just die from the stress of being captured in one of those barbaric devices.

Perhaps worse than dying, two wolves were so injured they required full leg amputations and a third had to have toes and part of a foot removed surgically.

Imagine you’re a wolf. You eat because you swiftly pursue your prey – usually elk or deer. Carter Niemeyer, a former wolf specialist for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Damage Control program and a trapping expert, wrote in his new book, Wolfer, “wolves hunt with their feet as much as their mouths, and they have to be able to run to survive.” But what if your leg or foot were gone or maimed? The outcome takes little imagination.

What if less than 55 of your population are left in the wild?

Mexican wolves are beautiful, charismatic creatures on the brink of extinction. Is the life of one highly-endangered wolf worth the head of a domestic cow? What if the wolf-bovine figures are completely erroneous, as we recently documented?

Here’s what really hurts: The New Mexico Game Department, the body charged with protecting the state’s wildlife, had full access to this study, while the public did not. In the dark of night, and after secret meetings with industry groups, the Game Department recommended to the Game Commission (a body appointed by Governor Susana Martinez) that it lift the trapping ban that had been put into place by Governor Bill Richardson.

The Department told the Commission that trapping activities had no effect on the Mexican wolf population – something not even contemplated in the USGS study.

The Game Commission not only failed to interrogate the Department’s erroneous information; it also ignored over 12,000 public comments in favor of a trap ban in New Mexico. At its hearing last month, Gov. Martinez’s Game Commission unanimously lifted the trapping ban in the Mexican wolf recovery area while it expanded trapping across New Mexico even as it disregarded an avalanche of public participation.

At the moment, public policy process in New Mexico happens without the benefit of openness and fairness. As a result, the people, pets, and wildlife have all been harmed. Worse, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has irreparably damaged its own credibility.

1 comment:

  1. This is horrible news. Just met some wolves last night through a sanctuary and they talked about all the benefits wolves provide to the eco-system from chasing deer which aerate the soil to keeping deer and beaver populations down which in turn helps promote healthy river eco-systems. Wolves also kill coyotes, keeping the coyote populations down and are less likely to eat or kill livestock than coyotes are. We need to help wolves recover in order to recover a healthier eco-system.

    Dani @ ONNO Hemp Clothing