The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (officially abbreviated NMDGF, also known as “Maim and Squish”) is reviewing its policy on mountain lion hunting. Mountain lions, known to game managers as cougars and to biologists as pumas, are not legally classified as a federal endangered species, although California, which has already banned mountain lion trophy hunting, is considering classifying the species (Puma concolor) as a state endangered species. Trophy hunting is the greatest threat to mountain lion populations, which are also threatened by so-called depredation hunting and poisoning by the livestock industry.
Trophy hunting is a form of thrill killing in which animals are killed for purposes of display, typically by shared photos and mounted skulls or taxidermy specimens. From 1984 to 2014 trophy hunters killed more than 78,000 mountain lions in the USA. (HSUS, State of the Mountain Lion) State game departments do not publish statistics on depredation trapping, which does not require a license.
The New Mexico Game Commission is charged with overseeing NMDGF, to assure the protection of wildlife on behalf of the public. Four years ago the Game Commission approved recreational mountain lion trapping, which they call “sport harvest,” in spite of widespread public opposition. Activists cried “shame, shame” and called for the abolition of the Game Commission. But professional environmental and animal lobbyists squandered the time since then on such dubious efforts as trying to prevent the governor from removing Game Commissioners.
Game Commission meetings are, by law, open to the general public, but Game Commission Chair Joanna Prukop has limited public speaking time at the meetings to two minutes per agenda point, while giving unlimited time to her former colleagues on the Game Department.
As an active member of the Boone and Crockett Club, Prukop is an outspoken defender of trophy hunting and trapping according to the Theodore Roosevelt model of conservation. Roosevelt, a notorious big game hunter, co-founded Boone and Crockett with George Bird Grinnell (who founded one of the first Audubon societies), and Madison Grant (who gained notoriety for writing white supremacist tracts). Among the early members of the Club were Aldo Leopold and Gifford Pinchot. After working for the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico, Leopold applied Pinchot’s principles of “harvesting” trees in national forests to “harvesting” wildlife. Leopold went on to establish the profession of game management in his book by that title. To this day, game managers use the term “harvest” to refer to killing wildlife.
A Game Commissioner and a Wildlife Lobbyist walk into a bar
The new chair of the Game Commission is promoting “ethical hunting,” according to the principles of Boone & Crockett’s North American Model of Game Management (NAM). She promoted the importance of NAM to hunters and trappers at a recent talk at a brewery in Albuquerque sponsored by the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.
The legal foundation of NAM is the application of the public doctrine to wildlife, so that wildlife is regarded as state property. While NAM justifies this as “noncommercial” use, in practice it justifies selling off state property for the benefit of the fur industry and out-of-state trophy hunters.
Concerned about declining public support for hunting, Boone & Crockett has been promoting a rebranding campaign, presenting “fair chase” hunting as an ethical pursuit (pun intended). This was a major theme at brewery meeting. Boone and Crocket outlines their strategy on their fair chase website:
This vocal minority is partly responsible for non-hunters turning away their support for hunting. The question is, what to do about them?
One solution is support and practice fair chase hunting. Hunting being conducted under laws guided by science that are established to ensure the well-being of game species is an inconvenient truth for the anti-hunting agenda. Their workaround to this is to ignore this fact or bring their own junk science to the table to refute real science. But what they can’t work around is this truth: beyond game laws, the majority of hunters limit themselves for the benefit of game populations by choosing to hunt under the highest of ethical standards.
In joining NM Wildlife Federation’s campaign against coyote-killing contests, APVNM accepted their argument that “fair-chase” hunting is “ethical.” In this way, they fell into the trap set by Boone & Crockett.
Leopold, when he was a leader of the organization now known as the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, aimed to completely extirpate mountain lions from New Mexico. The New Mexico Game Department pretends to have calculated the maximum number of mountain lion kills which would allow the species to continue. The calculations which they call “extrapolation” appear to be completely fabricated, and do not take into account effects of climate change on wildlife populations.
Although NMDGF has a small number of public information sessions open to anyone, key policy decisions are apparently made in private meetings with a select group of special interest lobbyists the department recognizes as “stakeholders.” In a presentation prepared for the Game Commission, NMDGF acknowledges that it has met with Council of Guides and Outfitters, Back Country Hunters and Anglers, NM Wildlife Federation, Animal Protection of NM, Defenders of Wildlife, Wild Earth Guardians, Sierra Club, and Cattle Growers Association.
In response to an inquiry regarding these meetings, NMDGF acknowledged that there is no rule, regulation, or statute authorizing stakeholder meetings.
New Mexicans need a Game Commission chair who answers to the vast majority of the general public who do not hunt or trap. Polling data shows that hunters are at most 11% of the U.S. population (the U.S. Census Bureau puts the number at 4%), yet hunters and trappers, with the support of livestock interests, control state wildlife policy throughout the USA. It is time for the vast majority of the population, who do not hunt or trap, to take control of wildlife policy.
Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mask of Anarchy