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Lawsuit Filed In Opposition to Expanded Mountain Lion Trapping in New Mexico

NEW MEXICO — Arguing that the New Mexico State Game Commission violated the federal Endangered Species Act by authorizing cougar trapping that will harm endangered Mexican wolves and jaguars in New Mexico, The Humane Society of the United States, Animal Protection of New Mexico and longtime Mexican wolf enthusiasts Peter and Jean Ossorio filed a complaint in New Mexico federal court today. The lawsuit seeks to invalidate the upcoming cougar trapping season—currently scheduled to begin November 1, 2016— to protect these endangered species from cruel and indiscriminate traps and snares.

“New Mexicans are overwhelmingly against expanding cougar trapping in New Mexico,” said Jessica Johnson, chief legislative officer for APNM. “By more than a three-to-one margin, New Mexico voters oppose cougar trapping on both private and public lands, not only because it results in cruelty to targeted cougars, but also because it poses a clear threat to non-target endangered species like Mexican wolves and jaguars.”

“The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish’s proposal to allow recreational cougar trapping for the first time in nearly five decades elicited statewide outcry, yet the Commission voted unanimously to allow the use of steel-jawed leghold traps and snares throughout the state, including in Mexican wolf and jaguar habitat. Cougar trapping in these areas presents a mortal and unlawful threat to these endangered animals because—due to their similarity in size, prey and habitat preference—they will inevitably be caught in traps set for cougars. As of February 2016, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that only 97 Mexican wolves remained in the wild in the United States.”

Allowing trapping of mountain lions opens up public lands to larger traps which are more likely to catch pets and endangered wildlife.  The New Mexico Game and Fish Commission has repeatedly ignored the public’s opposition to trapping of mountain lions and gone ahead with the plan to begin trapping in the fall of 2016.  Traps are indiscriminate in the animals they take and will surely catch nursing mothers and their kittens.  Mountain lions will usually fight when in traps and break teeth and rip out claws in order to escape.  Even if mountain lions are released from traps, they often end up dying later due to injuries sustained while in the trap.

This excerpt from a news story by Tom Knudson from Reveal News illustrates how injuries from a trap can lead to the death of a mountain lion.

She roamed the rough country near the Sweetwater Mountains in western Nevada. She feasted on mule deer and rabbits. And two years ago she died violently, as mountain lions in Nevada often do.

Yet there is something about her life that sets her apart from other mountain lions, an unfortunate turn of events that illustrates the brutal and indiscriminate nature of fur trapping.

In Nevada, trapping mountain lions is illegal. This cat was trapped twice by mistake in traps set to catch bobcats. The second time, a state wildlife official snapped pictures. In one, she sits in a tree, snarling and defiant. In the photo above, she has been sedated and hangs helpless from a branch, her paw in a trap, before eventually being released.

After that incident, trap-related injuries – including a mangled paw and missing claws – began to take a toll. Six feet long, she weighed only 75 pounds. She was in pain. She was hungry. And she was desperate.

That is what led her to into the crosshairs of dangers, to a ranch where – unable to bring down natural prey – she began killing sheep and goats. And that is where a rancher shot and killed her on March 27, 2014.

We know such details from documents and photos maintained by the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “Very gaunt and thin,” wrote an official who investigated her death. “Left front foot badly damaged from recent trap season wound. Missing two toes. Left bottom canine recently broken.”

-Tom Knudson, senior reporter

Full story of lawsuit here.

Photo courtesy of Tom Mangelsen.  Visit this link for Tom’s new book, Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek.

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