“In 2015 the trapping regulations for several species was altered in order to reduce the chance of accidentally capturing lynx, which are listed as a threatened species by the federal government. Unfortunately, these changes resulted in reduced trapper participation, and have made it more difficult for the Department to collect quality biological data on some species.”
That statement from Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife supported similar comments from Maine trappers, offered ever since the restrictions were put in place.
In an attempt to encourage more trapping and to help the agency collect the data they need, DIF&W will extend the 2016 furbearer hunting and trapping seasons for a couple of weeks, to allow more opportunity to pursue some species.
I asked James Cote, lobbyist for the Maine Trappers Association, for the group’s response to the department’s decision. Here is what James told me:
“These are modest extensions to existing furbearer seasons, 2 weeks and 1 week respectively. In light of trapper participation trends, we support these extensions as a means of sustainably managing furbearer (beaver) populations. We have a great deal of respect for the amount of research and data that the Department provides in order to justify these changes, and trappers will enjoy the extra couple of weeks of opportunity. It’s clear that the anti-sportsmen advocates don’t support these changes, and we need to prepare for forthcoming ballot initiatives, lawsuits, and legislation on hunting with dogs and trapping as they are bringing in other states.”
James is right on that.
After DIF&W advertised the season extension and other rules, it received a request from 9 people to hold a public hearing. That was done on September 26 in Portland, with 60 people in attendance. The agency also received 164 written comments about the rules. A majority of comments at the public hearing, and in the written comments, were negative.
Consider these comments from the two founders of a new group, WildWatch Maine, Karen Coker and Elaine Tselikis.
At the public hearing, Coker said, “I don’t believe that the hunting and trapping season extensions designed to appease trophy hunters or the commercial interest of fur selling trappers should be supported… Hunting bobcats with hounds and snowmobiles and ATVs is cruel… Maine’s bobcats should be protected not persecuted.”
And from Tselikis, also at the public hearing: “The seasons to kill these animals for fun and profit granted by the Department to a small minority of special interests are already long enough… Methods used to kill these keystone species are some of the most egregious and barbaric created by man and are increasingly despised by the public.”
Thankfully, the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council unanimously enacted the new rules, just as they were proposed by DIF&W.
But you can be sure this battle will continue, both on and off the ballot.