New Mexico’s Wildlife Sold to Hunters?

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The New Mexico Game & Fish Commission approved a new hunting quota that has drastically increased the number of cougars that can be killed in the state to an all-time-high of 742. Some wildlife biologists say the population may now be in danger of extinction. NM Game & Fish previously based their cougar population estimate off a model created by a professional habitat mapping organization. However, this year they decided to trash that model and instead it appears they have based their entire inflated cougar hunting plan off an unpublished paper from a college student. Although the department claims their hunting quota is sustainable and designed to help public safety, most residents realize the approval was “purely political” and an attempt to please hunting groups. In the Albuquerque Journal, Commission Chairman Jim McClintic even noted how happy hunters were with the outcome — insinuating their opinions may be all that matter to the Commission — and saying “they pay our bills.”

To demand the Commission stops selling New Mexico’s wildlife to hunters, please contact the NM Game & Fish Department at…Mtn Lion Foundation

ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico Game Commission decided Thursday to allow more bears and cougars to be hunted next year, despite the concerns of conservationists who are worried that higher kill limits will devastate bear and cougar populations.

The commission voted to approve the hunting rules after making some changes during a meeting in Mescalero.

The rules had been the subject of more than a dozen contentious public meetings attended by sportsmen, landowners and conservationists. The proposals also resulted in thousands of letters and e-mails to the commission and the state Game and Fish Department.

The higher hunting limits will address depredation and safety issues in many areas, while still leaving New Mexico with sustainable populations, department officials said.

The department had proposed more than doubling the number of cougars that could be killed to 996 and raising the bear limit by about two-thirds to 686. The commission approved an overall increase in the harvest, but it was less than what the department had proposed.

Despite the commission’s amendments, conservationists said the kill limits have the potential to harm bear and cougar populations.

“It’s not based on any science. It’s just purely political,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth Guardians.

Keefover-Ring and Jan Hayes of Sandia Mountain Bearwatch both contend the department’s population estimates are inflated.

The state has said there are as many as 4,300 cougars across New Mexico and between 5,300 and 6,500 black bears.

The commission reduced the harvest limit for bears in the Sandia and Manzano mountain ranges, but Hayes said she is fearful the population will still be wiped out in about two years.

“This is all done on purpose to reduce this population, to eliminate it,” Hayes said. “I think this is just a problem species for them and they don’t want to have to manage it.”

Some at the meeting, including sportsmen and members of the ranching community, said the higher harvest limits were a step in the right direction. They pointed to an increase of conflicts among humans, bears and cougars.

Officials with the Game and Fish Department said they have had to trap and kill more bears this year than any year since 2002. There have also been several cougar encounters around the state in the last few years.

The higher hunting limits also have the support of Charlotte Salazar, whose 5-year-old son was attacked in 2008 by a large animal the family believes may have been a mountain lion.

“It all comes down to state liability,” Salazar said in a statement. “Based on what is known now about predator populations and the increasing number of bear and cougar attacks on people, it would be negligent of the Game Commission to not rule in favor of public safety.”

Hayes said the public needs to be better educated about how to avoid bear and cougar conflicts. She argued that bears eat mostly plants and bugs and that they reproduce slowly.

“We’re all pretty upset about it,” Hayes said of the new rules.

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