New Mexico will no longer allow trophy hunters to prey upon its cougars with cruel snares and leghold traps. The State Game Commission just now voted to pass a proposal that would end all recreational trapping of these majestic animals, as well as limit trophy hunters to no more than two cougars each hunting season, instead of the previous limit of four cats.
This decision follows four years of a legal and grassroots battle that the Humane Society of the United States and our allies have waged in New Mexico to end the persecution of cougars. In 2015, after the state decided to open its cougars to recreational trapping, we promptly filed suit in both state and federal courts, arguing that the hunting and trapping quotas were unsustainably high. We also argued that the indiscriminate damage wrought by leghold traps threatened legally protected species, including Mexican gray wolves who are critically endangered with just 150 individuals in the wild, cougar kittens and their mothers.
While we are disappointed that New Mexico has only limited, not ended, the trophy hunting of cougars – in the 2020 season hunters will be permitted to kill 580 cougars and more than 800 black bears, despite no clear population estimates for either species — we applaud the State Game Commission and the Department of Game and Fish for taking the important step today of ending the cruel practice of trapping these cats.
Cougars, also known as mountain lions, are rare and require large territories with abundant prey to survive. These iconic carnivores, who once ranged from coast to coast, are now found in only 16 states and are considered endangered in Florida. Their numbers have been decimated by trapping, trophy hunting and habitat loss, and they need help to survive, not more killing.
At present, Florida and California are the only two states that prohibit the trophy hunting of these iconic, native carnivores. And Texas is the only state that still allows the trapping of cougars, with no regulation on the trophy hunting of cougars whatsoever. Texas also places no limits on the number of cougars that can be killed by trophy hunters and even newborn kittens can be killed.
Cougars still need our help, and we will continue to fight for the day when America’s lions are not killed to adorn someone’s living room. But today we are grateful for the progress made: our court battle stretched on for years, but the pressure it generated and public awareness it raised helped create this outcome in New Mexico. We are also grateful to the advocates who reached out to the State Game Commission in support of this proposal. Your support helped us win this fight, and we’ll count on you to stand by us — and the animals — in years to come.