Monday, September 24, 2018

NEW MEXICO GAME COMMISSION WINS LION TRAPPING LAWSUIT!

GAME COMMISSION WINS LION TRAPPING LAWSUIT! 

Article from the New Mexico Tracker news letter   July 2018

 In yet another victory for trapping, the federal lawsuit filed against the New Mexico State Game Commission was decided on July 16, 2018 by Chief  US  District  Court  Judge  William  Johnson.    The  lawsuit  has  been ongoing since 2016 and was filed in an attempt to stop cougar trapping in NM.

 The decision was what is called a “summary judgement” meaning the judge ruled on the merits of the arguments without the case having to go to a full trial.  Both NMDGF and the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) had filed separate motions asking for summary judgement in their favor.  HSUS was trying to have the trapping portion of the cougar rule “stayed” which basically means they wanted it declared void in order to make lion trapping illegal  again  because,  they  said,  the  new  cougar  rule  “threatens  Mexican wolves”.     In the 38 page written decision Judge Johnson explained that after reviewing  “voluminous  amounts  of  material  as  evidence”,  numerous written statements from relevant witnesses and current case law (previous court decisions) there was no evidence that Mexican wolves are threatened due to  trapping, especially  cougar  trapping  in  NM. 

He  granted summary judgement  in  favor  of  the  commission,  allowing  the  current  cougar regulation to stay in effect.     In  the  lawsuit,  HSUS  claimed  that  by  allowing  the  trapping  of cougar  as  a  legal  method  of  harvest  the  state  game  commission  was violating the endangered species act since Mexican wolves might be caught in  traps  set  for  cougar.    In  making  their  arguments  they  misread, misinterpreted and misrepresented NM state trapping laws in their frivolous  case.  In one example HSUS witnesses told the court in written statements that there was no jaw spread restriction on un-laminated traps and because of this trappers could use huge traps to capture cougar.  In the decision the Judge writes that he questioned HSUS on this “because it just did not make sense to  prohibit the use  of smaller  laminated traps  while  allowing  larger nonlaminated ones”.  NMDGF’s Colonel of law enforcement made it clear that not only was this false but officers have consistently enforced the jaw spread regulation for nearly 2 decades and the cougar rule did not change this.                        Continued on page 2 Who is the NMTA?  We  are  trappers  from  around the  nation  who  have  come together as a group to provide education  and  training  for  all trappers  to  practice  "Wise Use"  of  our  renewable  fur resources.


Page 2   NMTA TRACKER Commission wins lion lawsuit cont.   In the end Judge Johnson saw it for what it was, a ridiculous interpretation of the law. Attorneys for the commission presented evidence which demonstrated that traps, no larger than those allowed for other fur bearing animals, which are set for cougar, present no danger of a “take” of Mexican Gray Wolves.     It will come as no surprise to those reading this that most of the HSUS arguments were full  of  inconsistencies,  contradictions  and  lies.    Thankfully  the  judge  recognized  this  and pointed  many  of  these  out  in  his  written  decision. 

 The  HSUS’s  attorneys  were  ultimately forced to admit that despite 2  years of legal cougar trapping, no wolves  had been caught in a trap  set  for  lions,  much  less  injured.    In  addition  the  judge  pointed  out  that  NMDGF  has conducted  cougar  control  using  traps  and  foot  snares  in  several  bighorn  sheep  areas  within occupied wolf habitat for 15+ years and NMDGF provided detailed records of over 60,000 trap nights (1 trap, set for 1 night = 1 trap night) in which they NEVER caught a wolf in a trap set for a cougar.  Not once.   Of course this is no surprise to those of us who trap since we know that wolves and lions don’t use the country side the same way, after all that’s why you don’t make a coyote set in the same  place  you  make  a  bobcat  set!    NMDGF  attorneys  apparently  made  this  point  quite effectively since Judge Johnson noted it as an important factor in his decision: “Defendants  (NM  Game  Commission)  offer  persuasive  evidence  that  despite  the  habitat overlap, an understanding of habitat use can help eliminate the likelihood that Mexican wolves would be caught in non-target traps and snares. Species behave differently:  Differences in behavioral characteristics between cougars and wolves (and how these animals use the landscape differently) make it unlikely that a trap set for cougar would catch a wolf.” 

 A loss in this case could have had significant impacts on the trapping of all furbearers since the only thing the commission legalized in the new cougar regulation was the harvest of cougars if the trapper had:  1) a cougar license, 2) a trapping license, 3) they trapped on state land or private land and 4) they caught a cougar in a trap which complied with all other current trapping laws.   Larger traps were not allowed and  all  other laws  already on  the books  which applied  to  trapping  furbearers  apply  to  cougar  trappers.    If  the  judge  had  ruled  against  the commission there likely would have been additional lawsuits against furbearer trapping since the size of traps might have been an issue.   This  decision  reaffirms  the  state’s  ability  to  manage  wildlife  and  the  methods  those animals may be harvested by licensed hunters, anglers and trappers so long as the state game commission considers due care when an action may affect a species protected under the ESA. 
The  New  Mexico  State  Game  Commission  should  be  commended  for  fighting  this lawsuit rather than giving up and settling with the HSUS.  Please let them know you appreciate their support for trapping and wildlife management based on science not emotion.   

A complete copy of the  38  page written decision along with copies of all of the other court documents can be found at:
https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/5708021/humane-society-of-the-united-states-v-kienzle/ 

Or you can simply do an internet search using the case name or docket number: Case name: Humane Society of the United States v. Kienzle  Docket #:    2:16-cv-00724-WJ-SMV
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