- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Game Commission on Thursday approved new rules that will clear the way for expanded hunting and trapping of bears and cougars around the state.

The commission’s vote was unanimous despite passionate pleas from wildlife advocates and other critics who questioned the population data the state Game and Fish Department used to justify the new hunting limits.

Some of those packed into the meeting room shouted at commissioners following the vote, saying they should be ashamed. They were also upset because public comment was limited to an hour.

Phil Carter with Animal Protection New Mexico, one of the groups critical of the changes, said the commission dismissed public comments as well as a recent survey commissioned by the group that found a 3-to-1 margin of opposition to the hunting proposals among the more than 1,000 voters questioned.

“Clearly the Game Commission and the governor’s office is out of step with New Mexico’s public on the opposition to trapping, the public safety risks and the exploitation of animals and wildlife,” he said.

The Game and Fish Department has argued that new population data for the two species warranted an update of the hunting limits, and the livestock industry has urged state wildlife managers to keep predator populations in check as a means of limiting threats to cattle and sheep.

All big game hunting rules are revised every four years. As part of the process, the department conducted a handful of public meetings earlier this year.

The new rules will allow for more black bear hunting in all but two of the state’s game management districts as well as the doubling of cougar hunting limits. The trapping and snaring of cougars on private land and state trust land will also be allowed without special permits.

Critics argued that more hunting will have negative long-term effects on animal populations and that clearing the way for trapping on state trust land could endanger the public and other wildlife for which the traps are not meant.

Game officials told the commission that existing harvest limits for cougars are not met in 85 percent of the state’s management zones. In some of those areas, less than three cougars are killed each season, representing just a fraction of the sustainable harvest limit.

They also said the density of black bears in the northern Sangre de Cristo and Sandia mountain ranges is substantially higher than the estimates used by the Game and Fish Department to establish previous hunting limits. They did note that the density of the species is lower in the southern Sacramento Mountains.

The new bear and cougar hunting rules will take effect beginning next year.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide