(New Mexico News Connection) Opponents of a plan to allow hunters to kill more black bears in New Mexico over the next four years say escalating climate-change threats faced by wildlife are not being considered.
The state's Department of Game and Fish took public comments on the proposal last week.
Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair for the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, said even though the increased number of bear kills is small, none of the density studies have been peer-approved or published. She noted fires have ravaged wildlife in recent years, while temperatures across the state continue to rise.
"How does this alter populations? The current proposals don't even consider it," Ray contended. "Instead, they expand hunting for bears into the heat of summer in two southern bear zones, and increase the bear kill quota in the Gila, where so much as burned down in recent years. These animals need a break."
The New Mexico Cattlegrowers Association maintains hunting is needed to control the number of predators and reduce conflicts with people. The Commission is scheduled to make a decision at its October meeting. In 2022, the largest forest fire in the state's history burned more than 341,000 acres and destroyed 220 structures.
Seasonal hunting limits for bears would be bumped up in several areas of the state, raising the total kills allowed to 864 from the current 804.
John Crenshaw, former chief of the Public Information and Outreach Division for the Texas Department of Game and Fish and member of the state's Wildlife Federation, told commissioners he supports the plan.
"We urge you to hold your ground," Crenshaw emphasized. "The department's professionals presented you with a conservative, biologically sound rule to govern bear and cougar hunting over the next four years. We strongly urge you to pass this rule as presented."
Thomas Solomon, a resident of Bernalillo County, shared a story about a recent bear break-in at his house east of Albuquerque. Solomon said the bear tore up his kitchen trying to get to bird feeders he had brought in overnight.
"Despite that, I harbor no ill will toward this bear or other apex predators," Solomon stated. "I live in their ecosystem. I don't think that we should increase the bear-cougar killing quotas, given all the other things that we are doing to harm their environment."
The proposal would keep cougar hunting limits the same in all but one management zone, where it would drop by 17 kills, reducing the yearly limit to 563.