Woodland stream.

Shut Your Big Trap!

By Robert Basler
Reprinted with permission from author and the Santa Fe Reporter.

You wanna play hiking roulette?

For people who love the outdoors, New Mexico is truly a magical place.

You can hike for miles and miles on public land, marvel over indescribable vistas, gasp at exotic wildlife, desperately try to free your faithful dog from a hidden steel trap...

Hold on. Traps on public land? Can that be true? Indeed it can. New Mexico True, as we like to say.

Already this year, dog injuries have been reported in Santa Fe County and elsewhere in the state, thanks to traps that may legally be placed just 25 yards off the trails we all use. Moreover, if the trail is unmapped, the traps don't need to be set back at all. In 2014, a dog walking with its owners in Los Alamos County was injured in a trap hidden just one foot from the trail.

Please explain this insanity to me. Why is it a trapper's right to take a device straight out of a medieval torture chamber and hide it where I go for recreation? That's like sinking live torpedoes in the community swimming hole!

From there, it just gets dumber. I'm afraid dumb is going to have to pass for humor today, but donít worry, I've got plenty of it. The dumb won't run out, my friends.

These traps are not marked with warning signs. Trappers must be afraid some of our smarter wildlife might learn to read, thus avoiding a lingering and painful death.

You think the dumb is finished? Think again. You, as a taxpayer, have virtually no rights when it comes to these traps. If your dog gets caught in one, you may release it, but if you find any other poor animal suffering there, you must leave it until the trapper comes to kill it, maybe today, maybe tomorrow.

It's also illegal for you to spring a trap you find in order to protect wildlife. Good Samaritans, just keep moving along.

Shouldn't people just keep their dogs on a leash? Normally, yes. But dogs on public land aren't required to be leashed. If they were, hunters couldn't use bird dogs, and rescue dogs would be pretty worthless at their job.

Maybe you're thinking, But Bob, folks have to make a living, don't they?

Guy with sword and dressed in furs. Let me answer that as diplomatically as I can. Yes, but this is a shabby, shameless, stupid-ass living, killing animals to make fur garments that people shouldn't be wearing anyway, unless they're appearing in Game of Thrones.

Animal traps are like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get. Back in 2008, wildlife agents spread out snare traps on public land after a mountain lion killed someone. But before the lion could be trapped, a woman was injured when her horse was caught in one of the snares. A javelina was caught in another snare, and its thrashing attracted a bear, who began to eat the javelina until the bear got caught in yet another snare and was seriously injured, having to be euthanized. It was like some insane video game, but with living creatures.

Lest you think leg traps are just a fact of life, they are not. They are banned in more than 80 foreign countries and at least eight US states, including Arizona and Colorado.

People, please have a word with your legislators about this. Nobody expects us to join the 21st century right away, but maybe we could give the 20th century a try? Because New Mexico, the state that figures out the least it can do for its wildlife and then does even less, recently made it easier to trap cougars. Yes, easier.

Which explains the state's new license plate slogan you'll be seeing soon. New Mexico: Come for a hike, leave with a stump!

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Photo Illustration by Anson Stevens-Bollen



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