The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico granted New Mexico’s motion for summary judgment in a case brought by the Humane Society seeking to invalidate State trapping regulations related to cougars (Puma concolor). Plaintiffs argued that the regulations, which amended existing regulations that authorize trapping of cougars, violate the Endangered Species Act’s prohibition on take of protected species. Plaintiffs reasoned that the amended regulations would inevitably cause the take of listed Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) since cougars and wolves co-occur. But the Court rejected the challenge, affirming that the cougar trapping regulations are lawful.
The court noted that the challenged regulations have been in effect for two full trapping seasons, and there is not a single record that a Mexican wolf has ever been caught in a trap set for cougars in New Mexico. The court then explained that “the fact that no wolf has been caught in a cougar trap since the Cougar Rule has been in effect is strong evidence, even if it is not dispositive, that the rule is not causing take of the Mexican gray wolf, by any definition of the word ‘take’ under the ESA statute.”