By Rebecca Rose
SANTA FE - A six-month trapping ban will go into effect on Nov. 1, part of an effort to protect Mexican Grey Wolves. The ban is a result of an executive order from Governor Bill Richardson issued on July 1 of this year.
Richardson ordered the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to prohibit trapping for at least six months, while they conduct a study to how trapping impacts resettled wolves. According to Dan Williams of NMDGF, “It’s an effort to protect Mexican Grey Wolves. The department will assess the risks the exact risks trapping poses to the survival of the wolf population.”
The ban applies primarily to the Blue Range Recovery Area in the Southwest part of New Mexico. Williams also points out that the order does not apply to all of the selected region.“The ban won’t apply to any of the private land.” he said.
Richardson stated he was enacting the ban to “increase the likelihood for the wolves to survive and flourish”. The wolves were reintroduced to portions of the Gila and Apache National Forests 12 years ago as part of a program by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Alarie Ray-Garcia, Communications director, explained the Governor’s reasoning for the ban. “The goal was to restore at least 100 free-roaming Mexican Gray Wolves by 2005, but the population has not grown as planned,” Ray-Garcia said, “Today only 39 of them are surviving in the wild. Trapping and snaring that occurs within the recovery area may well be negatively impacting the animal’s recovery.”
Opponents of the ban question its purpose. Laura Schneberger, President of the Gila Livestock Growers Association, questions the . “How are you supposed to study the impacts of trapping on Mexican wolves if you ban trapping for a minimum of 6 months? How is the area supposed to deal with the rabies outbreak if our trappers are no longer identifying hot spots and reporting them?”, she stated. Schneberger also expressed doubt as to whether the majority of the traps where Mexican wolves were being caught in were government or private owned.
Governor Richardson’s Executive Order marks the first times a temporary ban on trapping and snaring has been issued by Executive Order in New Mexico.
In his statement, Richardson emphasized his belief that the traps and snares harm efforts to reintroduce the wolves tot their native habitats. “The indiscriminate traps and snares in the Recovery Area are harming efforts to reintroduce the Mexican Gray Wolf to its native habitat,” the Governor said, “I am ordering this temporary ban to protect the wolves and increase the likelihood for the wolves to survive and flourish.”
“Afterwards, we expect the Department will pursue appropriate regulations to again allow trapping within the recovery area in the Gila and Apache national Forests only by use of traps and snares that pose minimal risk of harm or injury to these endangered animals,” Ray-Garcia said.
The governor’s study also directs the Department of Tourism to conduct a study on wolf related eco-tourism and possible economic benefits to the State.
In related news, hunter education classes are now available online. Young hunters can now register for mandatory education classes through the Internet, using the Department of Game and Fish’s new program. All that is required is a customer identification number, the same number used to purchase hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. Identification numbers are free, and are obtained through the Department’s website, www.wildlife.state.nm.us, which also has a detailed list of classes available online.
New Mexico requires persons under 18 to complete mandatory hunter education programs in order to apply for certain types of hunting permits and licenses.
Interested students can call the Hunter Education Program at (505) 222-4731.
A comprehensive guide to the trapping ban is available at the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish’s website.