Endangered lobos could once again fall victim to traps now that the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission has lifted a ban prohibiting their use on habitat in the Apache and Gila National Forests, the Albuquerque Journal reported late last month.
At least 14 endangered Mexican gray wolves have been caught in traps set for other animals, and many have been injured. Two were so badly maimed that their afflicted legs had to be amputated.
We’ve suspected for a while now that New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has no love for lobos. Her Game and Fish Department — in an unprecedented move earlier this summer — walked away from its responsibility to help out with their recovery. But this latest development is downright reprehensible.
Why? During the trapping timeout, then Gov. Bill Richardson asked the U.S. Geological Survey’s New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to investigate potential effects of trapping on the wolves. The study is complete, yet despite being funded with taxpayer dollars and conducted by a public agency, the state’s Game and Fish Department has refused to release the findings.
The Game and Fish Commission then voted to allow trapping in Mexican gray wolf habitat based, in part, on the withheld study.
It’s no secret that the Gov. Martinez wanted to end the trapping ban. Her so-called small business commission made that much clear in an April report. There are around one dozen trappers who set traps in the wolf recovery area.
But by suppressing scientific information and public discourse on a decision that could mean life or death for lobos, Gov. Martinez and company have crossed the line.
Given that only 50 Mexican gray wolves were found in the wild at last count, every one lost or injured is a blow to the species’ survival. With stakes riding so high, decisions like lifting a trapping ban need to be based on sound science and done with transparency.
It’s time for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mexican Wolf Recovery Team to take a look at this “secret study,” the number of wolves injured by traps, and figure out if private trapping is a setback to recovery of the Mexican wolf.