Leg-Hold Traps Illegal, Humane Society Says

     LAS CRUCES, N.M. (CN) — The Humane Society sued New Mexico on Monday for allowing leg-hold traps and snares that can mangle and kill the state’s protected jaguars and Mexican wolves.
     Only 97 Mexican wolves remain in the United States, and at least 37 Mexican wolves have been caught in traps set for smaller animals, the Humane Society says in the June 27 federal complaint. Jaguars (Panthera onca), the largest wild cat in the Western Hemisphere, are an endangered species. Both species have been reduced to near extinction by human hunting and trapping.
     New Mexico allows recreational hunting of cougars, with guns, but this year for the first time since 1971 the New Mexico Game Commission authorized recreational trapping and snaring of cougars on state trust and private land. And it did so “despite an admitted lack of any reliable scientific estimate of New Mexico’s cougar population size,” according to the complaint.
     The leg-hold and foot snares pose a significant danger to wild jaguars and Mexican wolves, whose habitat overlaps that of the cougar, the Humane Society says.
     Joined by Animal Protection of New Mexico and two avid hikers, the Humane Society sued the seven-member New Mexico State Game Commission and the director of the Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
     They want the “Cougar Rule” enjoined as a violation of the Endangered Species Act, and because it violates the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area, which includes all of New Mexico south of Interstate 10.
     Neither party could be reached for comment after business hours Monday.
     Plaintiffs’ lead attorney, appropriately, is Samuel Wolf, with Jones, Snead, Wertheim & Clifford in Santa Fe.

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