The New Mexico Game Commission on Thursday approved changes in state rules to temporarily ban trapping throughout the Gila and Apache national forests in southwestern New Mexico. That will allow wildlife managers time to study the risks of trapping and snaring to the Mexican gray wolf.
The prohibition will begin Nov. 1 and last at least six months while the state Game and Fish Department assesses whether some methods of trapping would pose less risk for the wolves.
The changes follow an executive order issued last summer by Gov. Bill Richardson that called for a temporary ban on trapping on the New Mexico side of an area where Mexican gray wolves have been reintroduced along the New Mexico-Arizona border.
Richardson's executive order noted that traps do not differentiate between wolves and the animals for which traps were set.
His order said there have been six confirmed and three probable Mexican gray wolves trapped in New Mexico's portion of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in the past eight years. Five wolves were injured by the traps, two severely enough to require leg amputations.
Injuries can harm wolves' ability to catch prey and could increase the risk of wolves preying on livestock instead of faster elk and deer, the order said.
Environmentalists applauded the commission's decision to adopt the trapping ban, calling it a milestone for wolves in the Southwest.