By Thomas J. Baird SUN-NEWS BUREAU CHIEF
Nov 17, 2005
A Grant County woman reportedly stepped in a leg-hold trap earlier this
month in the Gila National Forest when she attempted to open another trap in
which her dog had stepped, according to Animal Protection of New Mexico,
which issued a news release on the incident.
The woman, who is a nurse, was walking Nov. 8 in the Gila National Forest
when the incident occurred.
"I was wearing sandals at the time, and luckily was able to pull back
quickly so the trap only grazed my toes, drawing some blood, before it
clamped onto the end of my sandal," the woman, who asked to remain anonymous
for fear of retaliation from the trapper, said in the news release. "I can't
believe we allow these cruel and torturous devices on our public lands this
day and age. I feel it really reflects poorly on New Mexico."
Jeff Lehmer, owner of Lehmer Taxidermy in Pinos Altos and the southwest
director of the New Mexico Trappers Association, said Wednesday that the
public needs to be better educated about the practice of trapping.
"It's trapping season and there are laws," Lehmer said. "Everybody's
using the woods and trappers are allowed to use the woods, too. It's a lack
of education, of not knowing what a trap is."
According to a poll released by Animal Protection of New Mexico this
week, the majority of New Mexicans believe trapping should be banned on
The survey, which was conducted by Research & Polling, Inc., said that 41
percent of voters who were polled strongly support placing a ban on
leg-hold, snare and lethal traps on public lands, 22 percent said they would
somewhat support implementing a ban, while 22 percent are opposed to such a
ban. Support for banning trapping is strongest among female and Anglo voters
as well as those who participate in outdoor activities such as backpacking,
bird and animal watching and hiking, according to the survey.
"They think trappers are a bloodthirsty bunch, but they're probably the
finest woodsmen there are," said Lehmer, who had not yet had the opportunity
to see the poll. "It used to be a noble profession during the Depression
era. People were impressed with someone who could make a living off the
woods. Now, most do it as a hobby. You sure aren't gonna make a living at
According to Winston resident Mary Katherine Ray, a retired schoolteacher
and volunteer for the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, run-ins with
traps are all too common in New Mexico.
"There are no bag limits, no limits to the number of traps set out, and
very little oversight of cruel and indiscriminate trapping in New Mexico,"
Ray said in a statement.
But Lehmer said his organization only has about 200 members.
"We're a small group," he said. "And the ones that are out there pretty
much know what they're doing. A few bad apples can mess stuff up."
According to the survey, nearly six in 10 New Mexicans polled did not
even know that trapping was occurring on public lands in the state.
"What's especially notable is that across the board, all groups of New
Mexicans favored prohibiting trapping on public lands -- men, women, rural,
urban, Republicans, Democrats, hunters, backpackers, pet owners --
everyone," said Ray.
Jon Schwedler, a wildlife representative for Animal Protection of New
Mexico, which helped underwrite the survey, along with the Rio Grande
chapter of the Sierra Club and the Animal Protection Institute, said
trapping numbers are difficult to accurately ascertain, but he did provide
"According to New Mexico Game and Fish numbers, more than 18,000 animals
were killed by body-gripping traps in New Mexico last year -- and that
doesn't include cougars, mule deer, pet dogs and cats, and other non-target
animals," he said.
Mike Sauber, co-owner of Gila Hike and Bike, spends time in the forest
frequently. Though he's talked with people who have had run-ins with traps,
he's not personally seen any in the 25 years he's lived in New Mexico.
Still, he believes the issue is important.
"I think it's a huge issue," he said. "I had a dabbling interest in it
myself when I was young, but I've come around to the other direction. I
don't think public lands should be a minefield and there's no regulation to
label to let anybody know where a trap is. I don't think it's compatible
with other recreational uses. On private land, that's their own thing, but
public land is a different issue."