Currently the New Mexico State Game Commission is undergoing rulemaking for bear and cougar with a goal to, “Maintain sustainable bear and cougar populations and hunting opportunities throughout New Mexico using bear and cougar biology, modern monitoring and analytical methods, harvest data, and public input.”
After reviewing the proposed changes and consulting with the New Mexico Game and Fish Carnivore and Small Mammal Program Manager, NMBHA found that the suggested rule calls for minor changes including.
- Changing zone closure requirements such that zones close when the female harvest limit is reached, in response to updated pelt tag reporting procedures.
- Modest increases to harvest limits and some draw tags based on new research and population estimates.
- Allowing licensed deer or elk hunters who draw WMA hunts to harvest a bear or lion during their hunt if the zone is open and they possess a Bear and/or Cougar license.
- Moving the season start date for BMZs 12 and 13 from September 1st back to August 16th
So why are sportsmen’s organizations like BHA urging hunters to submit comments in support of science-based wildlife management for ordinary rule adjustments?
Well-organized and well-funded anti-hunting organizations are using the game commission rulemaking process to launch an attack on bear and cougar hunting as a whole in New Mexico. Under the guise of public safety, they were successful in passing a ban on public land trapping. This removed an important tool in the toolbox of wildlife managers and ended an outdoor past time for many New Mexicans that lack access to private land. Now these groups are targeting science-based bear and cougar hunting.
While we believe the game commission will pass these modest rule changes based on biologist recommendations and the best available science, we know the attempt by anti-hunting interests to derail wildlife management at the commission level is just the start. During the rulemaking period, the public is asked to submit comments on the proposed changes. The final count of comments is public knowledge that is typically reported during a commission meeting. This count is then used as a talking point for lawmakers to initiate conversations about public sentiment and any potential need for reform. Engaging on this issue at the commission level is a great way for these anti-hunting interests to test the waters prior to launching bills during the legislative session. By engaging with the commission, they can rally their base, refine their messaging, and gauge hunter involvement on the issue.
For these reasons, it’s important that whether or not you have hunted bear or cougar or have an interest in doing so, hunters rally together to guard the gate. These interests are chipping away at hunting opportunities one issue at a time, starting with those issues that are most easily targeted.
It’s imperative that the hunting community in New Mexico and beyond ban together to generate comments for this rulemaking process and show up to meetings (in-person or virtually). It’s also important that we understand there is likely to be legislation during the next long legislative session in 2025 that aims to further diminish the rights of ethical and thoughtful hunters. The New Mexico Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers will be submitting a comment in support of the proposed changes in addition to attending the next game commission meeting in Raton on August 25 at the City of Raton Commission Chambers, 224 Savage Avenue, Raton, New Mexico, 87740.
- BEAR AND COUGAR RULE - PROPOSED CHANGES SUMMARY (Updated: 8/1/2023; these proposals will be updated throughout the rule development process)
- Research Article: Density of American black bears in New Mexico
Make Your Voice Heard Today! Don’t Wait to Comment
Comments can be sent to: [email protected]
Draft Comment (Please revise this to make it your own. Be respectful and concise.)
Dear New Mexico State Game Commission,
The North American Model and the Public Trust Doctrine define fish and wildlife resources as the property of the people, to be managed by state and federal wildlife agencies entrusted with their stewardship. This model is the foundation of science-based fish and wildlife management, and I support legal bear and cougar hunting as an appropriate management tool. As caretakers of this trust, I believe you will advance sound stewardship policies that are guided by science over politics, emotion and conjecture.
The proposed changes to the bear and cougar rule represent modest adjustments to the current rule which has been proven to maintain healthy and abundant populations of both species over time.
I respectfully request that the State Game Commission prioritize the opinions of our dedicated department biologists and the recommendations developed from their science-based data such as non-invasive scat or hair sampling, remote/trail cameras, GPS collars, and other traditional measures.