Hikers Encounter Coyote Crushed in Leg-hold Trap Groups Call for Trapping Reforms
Winston, NM. Amidst growing public pressure to ban barbaric traps on public lands in New Mexico,
Winston, NM. Amidst growing public pressure to ban barbaric traps on public lands
in New Mexico, last Saturday, a group of Sierra Club hikers stumbled
upon a coyote that had its leg crushed in a steel-jawed, leg-hold trap.
coyote’s leg was horribly mangled. We saw bone fragments and torn
flesh,” Mary Katherine Ray, the trip leader observed. “I am no stranger
to trapping issues, but seeing a live animal captured and injured in
that brutal device was absolutely grievous and deplorable.”
Sierra Club hikers had been exploring the Cuchillo Mountains north of
Winston, New Mexico. “Before the encounter, we had been marveled,” Ray
recounted. “We had spied elk and hawks. But the beauty of the day
completely unraveled when we dropped into a deep arroyo and found the
captured coyote, who was struggling with all her might in a leg-hold
Ray, a Sierra Club volunteer for many
years, opposes trapping. Once, her dogs were nearly caught, and she
receives reports from other hikers who have not been so lucky. She has
been on the anti-trapping campaign ever since.
beautiful little coyote just wanted to escape. She kept lunging away
from us, and each time was tripped when she got to the end of the trap
chain. We realized there was nothing we could do. We just had to walk
away and leave her. That is one the hardest things I have ever done. I
just felt so helpless and sad.”
The group noted
that the trapper did not appear to have been around in days to check
the trap as there were no tire marks or footprints in the soft soil or
melting snow on the two-track road. The hike ended abruptly after the
encounter. No one had the heart to go on. All the participants
repeatedly checked for cell phone service on the way back, but the area
was too remote.
Later, when in a service area,
Ray reached a New Mexico Game and Fish game warden, who agreed to meet
her the next day, even on his day off. Another hiker also joined them.
When they returned, they discovered that the coyote had vanished, but
that the trap remained with its jaws slammed shut. Still, no new
vehicle tracks were evident. The coyote had apparently struggled out of
the trap and escaped with her badly mangled leg.
game warden took measurements and noted that the trap failed to
identify the trapper—as is required by state regulation. The warden
also noted that the trap seemed fairly new and did not appear to have
been out for long. No other traps were found in the area. The trapper
had, apparently, forgotten the trap, which he or she had left set.
of citizens’ initiatives, body-gripping traps for purposes of commerce
or recreation are illegal in both Arizona or Colorado,” stated Wendy
Keefover, of WildEarth Guardians. “These devices need to be outlawed in
New Mexico too,” she added, “because traps are inherently non-selective
and barbaric. They have no place in the modern world.”
December, the New Mexico State Game Commission voted to open the
trapping rules for review after failing to do so since 2006.
Ironically, they had been pressured by Ray, on behalf of the local
Sierra Club, along with WildEarth Guardians and Animal Protection of New
The groups are not only concerned
about the dangers traps pose to hikers and non-target wildlife, but also
for the populations of the animals which are trapped for the fur
market, particularly bobcats and foxes. In December alone, at least two
incidents involving traps occurred in northern New Mexico. In one
incident near San Cristobal, Arifa Goodman and her two dogs were caught
in leg-hold traps, and in another, Maggie Craw’s dog was ensnared.
New Mexico, there are no limits to how many of these animals trappers
can kill nor are there any limits to how many traps they can set out.
But trappers are required to check their traps every day.
a theoretical level I know what happens to a trapped animal”, Ray said,
“but to witness it is unbelievably heartsickening. I’ll never know the
fate of that beautiful injured coyote, but her yellow-green eyes haunt
Comments about the trapping rules can be sent to NM Game and Fish at www.wildlife.state.nm.us
Traps Ensnare Hiker and Dogs in Two Separate NM Incidents:
Gov. Richardson Issues Executive Order: Traps Banned in Lobo Country
NM Game and Fish Defied Gov. Richardson & Game Commission’s Unanimous Order
WildEarth Guardians et al. Request that USFS and USFWS Issue Emergency Trap Bans in Lobo Country
Groups’ 2009 Request to the Game Commission to Open Rules Re: Trapped Animals
Mary Katherine Ray | Sierra Club – Rio Grande Chapter | 575-772-5655
Wendy Keefover-Ring | WildEarth Guardians | 505.988.9126, Ext. 1162