Yesterday’s outdoor news told you about exotic animal issues and a new comprehensive law enacted this year by the legislature to strengthen the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s oversight of and responsibility for exotic animals in Maine. New rules were enacted to implement the changes in law a few weeks ago. Today, I’ll tell you about the new rules, which include an about-to-launch effort to create three lists: animals that can be possessed without permits, animals that require permits, and animals that are banned from our state.
If you read yesterday’s column, you’ll know that I think pythons should be banned. But I didn’t share with you all of my horrible python stories. I didn’t, for example, tell you about the 3 ½ foot python that showed up in a Fairfield apartment, trying to eat the residents’ pet parakeets. Fairfield police arrived and confiscated the snake, which was given to the Maine Warden Service, which either took it to an animal rehab facility or killed it.
Of course, you may think I should be a fan of pythons, now that they’re a huntable critter in Florida. But that state had to open a hunting season on Burmese pythons because they have taken over the state, which now has an estimated 30,000 of them crawling around. So far, the hunts have been largely unsuccessful, with few pythons being killed by hunters.
My friend, Kate Krukowski Gooding, author of a wonderful array of wild game cookbooks, hopes to participate in the hunt next year, so she can cook up a python and serve it to my co-host James Cote and I on our TV show Wildlife. Not sure I’m real enthusiastic about that!
Sometime soon, DIF&W will launch the process that will lead to creation of those lists. The agency can adopt, on its own, the list of exotic animals that don’t require permits. A public rule-making process must be followed to create the list of animals that require permits. All others go onto the banned list. I hope many of you will participate in this important process.
Of course, I know that this can be a touchy subject. When I wrote about this in 2014, I got clobbered. “You are an idiot George,” wrote one person. “You are a freaking idiot,” parodied another. “You sir are an idiot,” wrote a third.
“Open a book, dickhole,” suggested a woman who thought I needed to be educated. “It’s people like you that make this country unlivable,” continued the woman who lives in Ohio.
“This is the most ignorant article that I have ever read,” wrote another. “This guy is a total nutbag,” suggested someone else. I was also called a moron, ignorant, and sickening. Comments came from all over the country and throughout Maine.
I thought working for sportsmen was a rough job, until I began writing about exotic animals’ issues and problems. Some of the owners of exotics sound downright dangerous to me – never mind their pets!
“No one should have the right to take away my loved and well cared for pets because they don’t like them! I’m not petitioning for children to be outlawed because I don’t like them! These ‘exotic’ animals ARE my children,” wrote one woman. Enough said.
Here is a summary of the new rules, provided by DIF&W.
CHAPTER NUMBER AND TITLE: Chapter 7.0 – Rules for Importation, Possession, Propagation, Rehabilitation, and Exhibition of Wildlife PROPOSED RULE NUMBER (leave blank; to be assigned by Secretary of State): BRIEF SUMMARY: In accordance with Public Law 2015 Chapter 374, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is proposing to repeal and replace the current Captive Wildlife Rules. The proposed rule will provide consistency for the captive wildlife permitting process as described in statute and will provide safeguards for Maine’s citizens, protect the integrity of Maine’s native species and will allow for inspections of an applicant’s facilities during the application process. The proposal also clarifies which permit is necessary for each type of activity. The rule will provide categories for different wildlife species based on levels of risk, and describes the conditions that must be met in order to acquire a permit for each category of species. This rule proposes very limited species to be placed in each category. A technical committee will be reconvened and will focus on making recommendations for additional species to be placed in each category. Species/category recommendations will be provided to the Commissioner to consider during a separate rulemaking process anticipated during fall of 2016.
PRINCIPAL REASON(S) OR PURPOSE FOR PROPOSING THIS RULE: This will provide consistency for the captive wildlife permitting process for both statute and rule and modify the rules as directed by the Legislature in Public Law 2015 Chapter 374. IS MATERIAL INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE IN THE RULE? X YES _ NO ANALYSIS AND EXPECTED OPERATION OF THE RULE: The new rule will provide for a strong emphasis on helping to protect the integrity of the native species in Maine and will allow for non-department staff to review applicant’s facilities during the application process. It also makes it clear which permit is necessary for the type of activity and whether a permit is necessary if a person wishes to keep wildlife in captivity. It provides categories within which a species can be placed and each category has criteria based on risk. BRIEF SUMMARY OF RELEVANT INFORMATION CONSIDERED DURING DEVELOPMENT OF THE RULE: Public Law Chapter 374 made several important changes within statute that needed to be reflective within IFW rules relating to this topic. A few considerations as the rules were revised included but were not limited to: clarifying the scope of the rules, what they apply to and what they do not apply to, expanding the definitions section, creating a table of contents, creating Classification of Species into Lists which included a unrestricted list, a prohibited list, a restricted list and unclassified species, creation of a 3-day hold permit for game bird propagation permit, site inspections that can be conducted by wildlife in captivity inspectors, specific requirements to meet the standards for each type of permit, transition provisions for current permit holders, and care and housing requirements incorporated by reference of an National Association’s standards.
Just in case you think this is just about snakes, consider this. In 2012 a Eurasian wild boar was shot by a hunter in Somerset County, after it killed a domestic pig. Ten fallow deer were rounded up in Nobleboro one year. And a 2-foot long lizard was captured by Camden police in 2013.
In Australia, two non-native animals – feral cats and red foxes – have wiped out 10 percent of the native land mammals. That country is in the midst of a campaign to shoot and poison two million feral cats. But in Maine, well-meaning people are capturing some of the estimated 35,000 feral cats roaming the woods in our state, neutering and cleaning them up, and releasing them back into the woods. Perhaps DIF&W will put feral cats on the prohibited list!?
James Connolly, the very capable director of DIF&W’s Wildlife and Fisheries Divisions, suggested at one early meeting on this topic that exotics in Maine must be better documented and more transparent so the public knows what is allowed and what is not, with a more appropriate and effective enforcement process, plus a means of handling and caring for confiscated and abandoned animals. Let’s hope the new law and rules get this job done.
At another meeting, Connolly expressed my thoughts exactly, when he said, “I have a basic concern: should the department be considering any request from anywhere in the world, just because somebody wants to have something.”
For sure, Jim Connolly is no idiot.