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FARMINGTON — Staff shortages and overcrowding at the Farmington Animal Shelter are affecting the city's animal control services.

Faced with the daily challenges of caring for an influx of cats and dogs, the city has scaled back its animal control of wildlife, such as skunks.

Although providing animal control for skunks, raccoons and other wildlife was never an official city policy, its rollback appears to be causing some confusion and frustration in the community.

About two weeks ago Ephriam Chavez, 65, of Farmington, contacted the Farmington Animal Shelter about removing skunks from his property.

Chavez said staff told him he could rent a trap for $20, but that he would have to contact a private pest control company or dispose of the animals himself.

"It just blows my mind," he said. "I'm sure I'm not the only citizen that has a skunk problem."

Chavez said that as a taxpayer, he expects the shelter to provide pest control services, and that paying for a private pest control company to take the skunks is not a viable financial option.

Samantha Embry, the shelter's volunteer coordinator and an animal control officer, said shelter staff are willing to work with residents who are physically or financially incapable of trapping and disposing of skunks.

"Skunks are a rabies issue and (trapping) has been a great public service we've done, but it takes time away from other duties," she said. "Most other cities have nothing to do with skunks."

Trapping a skunk can take about an hour and the city's animal control officers are already stretched thin, Embry said.

The animal control officers are affiliated with the animal shelter, but city administration have begun talks to move them into the police department.

"At certain times of the day, there's only one (animal control officer) for the whole city," Embry said.

And the shelter may not be able to assist residents with raccoons.

Raccoons are a protected animal, said Dan Williams, a spokesperson for the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game.

It is prohibited to kill a raccoon unless it poses a safety threat or is destroying property, he said. Skunks, rabbits, coyotes, rats, gophers and rock squirrels are not protected.

But Chavez says something needs to be done about the issue.

"I do not want to take it upon myself to shoot or drown the skunks," he said. "I feel that the city, through the animal shelter, should be able to help not only me, but others."

Greg Yee covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and gyee@daily-times.com. Follow him @GYeeDT on Twitter.