On the afternoon of November 21, 2020, hikers in the remote mountains of state-owned Bureau of Land Management land in Santa Fe County were approximately one hour’s walk from the nearest road when they came upon a lone dog, dehydrated and injured in a leg-hold trap attached to a tree, Wild Earth Guardians and NMDGF

A renewed effort to ban trapping on public land in New Mexico moved through the House of Representatives by a close vote of 35-34 and is now on its way to the governor’s desk for a signature.

In addition to outlawing the use of traps, Senate Bill 32 would prohibit the use of snares and wildlife poison on public land.

The proposal would establish misdemeanor penalties for violations of the anti-trapping measure. It contains exceptions, including all other types of hunting; ecosystem management; cage traps to protect property, crops or livestock; and religious and ceremonial purposes by enrolled members of a federally recognized Indian nation, tribe or pueblo.

Trapping on private and tribal land would still be allowed.

Proponents of the bill say it can protect members of the public and their pets from cruelty and a painful death.

Opponents say it does not take into account the need to have such measures in place to cut back on predators, such as coyotes, that attack livestock. Concerns about the impact on New Mexico’s trapping industry also have been raised.

The legislation is known formally as the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act. But it has become known as Roxy’s Law, named after an 8-year-old dog who was caught and killed by a neck snare at Santa Cruz Lake in 2018.

One of the sponsors, Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, called trapping cruel.

“Animals suffer before they are killed or left to die,” he said. “If it was up to me, that would be the end of the conversation. That alone is enough to ban trapping. But unfortunately, it’s just the beginning.”

Trapping on public land runs contrary to the state’s efforts to promote tourism, and because trapping is indiscriminate, it’s also a threat to public safety, McQueen said.

Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, agreed. “We should put up a sign,‘Come to New Mexico, but please watch out for traps if you plan on using our public land,’ ” she said near the end of a three-hour debate on the bill. 

McQueen said the issue goes beyond cruelty to animals. He said humans sometimes are injured trying to wrest their pets from traps and snares.

Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, a Roswell Republican who is a rancher, said the bill is based on emotion, “not on science or factual data.”

“The thing that really bothers me the most about this … is there was little to no consultation that occurred between the bill proponents and the sponsors, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, the agricultural community, the livestock community, the outdoor sporting community or the trapping community,” Ezzell said. 

“Once again,” she added, “there is a big disconnect between rural New Mexico and urban New Mexico.”

Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, who has seven pueblos and five Navajo Nation chapters within his district, expressed concerns about the carve-out for Native Americans. If a pet is injured or killed in a trap on public land, “who’s to blame at that point?” he asked.

“It then becomes, unfortunately, the Indian problem,” he said. “Then we have the one society, the one carve-out of people, that are still allowed to trap on public lands. So then, here goes the fight of, ‘Well, let’s take that away from them because they apparently aren’t following the rules, they apparently aren’t doing things correctly,’ so … it becomes yet again an Indian problem.”

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