New Mexico is ripe with many game species that attract hunters, and you may be someone who like to go shooting on weekends with a legal hunting license. However, not only does that license not give you free rein to kill animals as you please, but you are not the only hunter on the prowl. What if one of the predators in the wild turns on you? Are you legally allowed to kill or wound the animal to prevent personal injury or death?
In most cases, yes; some can even be hunted with a license, as shown in the New Mexico Hunter’s Manual. Some predators, such as the Mexican gray wolf, can never be hunted, unless if they are posing an actual life threat to you or your livestock, then you are allowed to trap or kill them, despite that they are a protected species. Things get a little more complicated with predators such as cougars. Hunters and trappers may obtain a license to kill a cougar for its fur or other parts, but without a legal license you may be held accountable for killing a cougar if it is not truly and directly threatening you or your livestock.
The key here is a direct threat. If you must kill the predator or another animal to prevent personal injury to yourself or others or else to prevent loss of property with livestock and other animals, you may be but not always granted an exception from prosecution for unlicensed hunting or slaughter of a protected species.
This post is intended only for informational purposes, and should not be considered actionable legal advice.