For Immediate Release, August 17, 2011
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360
Lawsuit Launched to Protect Mexican Gray Wolves From Leghold Traps
New Mexico Officials Approved Traps, Ignoring Injured and Killed Wolves
SILVER CITY, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the New Mexico State Game Commission and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish over the commission’s recent vote to resume recreational trapping in the Gila National Forest, where federally protected, endangered Mexican gray wolves live. Besides being listed under the Endangered Species Act, the wolves are also listed as endangered under state law.
“With only 50 animals and just two breeding pairs surviving in the wild, Mexican wolves can’t afford more losses to these cruel leghold traps,” said the Center’s Michael Robinson. “Responsible hunters know their targets, but trapping is indiscriminate. And while hunters aim for a clean and quick kill, trapped wolves can suffer debilitating and even fatal injuries while struggling to get free.”
A recent report disclosed that, since wolf reintroduction began in 1998, five Mexican wolves have sustained injuries — including some requiring foot and leg amputations — and two other wolves have died as a result of trapping by private parties in the Gila National Forest. This does not include wolves trapped by federal officials on behalf of the livestock industry, which has not occurred since 2007 and is not at issue in today’s notice.
Recreational trapping in the Gila National Forest was halted by the game commission in November 2010 to protect endangered wolves. But on July 21, upon recommendation of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, the game commission voted to allow trapping in the Gila to resume, while misrepresenting the report documenting the five wolf injuries and two fatalities to trapping as somehow providing justification.
The Endangered Species Act was signed into law in 1973 to conserve imperiled species and their ecosystems; it specifically bans trapping of endangered animals. Yet the Game Commission and Department’s recent decision authorizes trapping that is known to capture protected wolves, causing illegal “take” (harassment, harm or killing) to occur.
While the 1998 federal rule authorizing reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves allowed some “accidental” trapping of wolves, trapping a wolf within its known range “will not be considered unavoidable, accidental, or unintentional take, unless due care was exercised to avoid taking a wolf.” In allowing trapping again, the game commission has not exercised due care.