Increased scrutiny of furbearer trapping has resulted in more regulation and even prohibition of common trapping methods in some States. Concerns regarding the potential negative impacts of regulated furbearer trapping on reintroduced Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) led now former Governor Bill Richardson to issue an executive order prohibiting trapping in the New Mexico portion of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA). This ban was to last for at least 6 months and required an evaluation of the risk posed to wolves by traps and snares legally permitted in New Mexico. We reviewed various threats to wolves in the BRWRA, including threats posed by regulated furbearer trapping. Seventy-eight Mexican wolf mortalities were documented during the reintroduction effort (1998-2010). More than 80 percent of documented mortalities were human-caused: illegal shooting (47.4 percent), vehicle collisions (15.4 percent), lethal removal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (14.1 percent), nonproject-related trapping (2.6 percent), project-related trapping (1.3 percent), and legal shooting by the public (1.3 percent). The remaining 17.9 percent of mortalities were a result of natural causes. An additional 23 wolves were permanently removed from the wild by USFWS. Of 13 trapping incidents in New Mexico that involved trappers other than USFWS project personnel, 7 incidents resulted in injuries to wolves, 2 wolves sustained injuries severe enough to result in leg amputations, and 2 wolves died as a result of injuries sustained. Rubber-padded foothold traps and properly set snares would most likely reduce trap-related injuries to Mexican wolves; however, impacts caused by trapping are outnumbered by other, human-caused impacts.
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USGS Numbered Series
Evaluating trapping techniques to reduce potential for injury to Mexican wolves