FINAL LEGISLATIVE REPORT BY NORMAN SKIP TRASK
Incidental Otter Harvest Creates Problems for Spring Beaver Trappers
Last year, in an effort to reduce the incidental catch of otter in beaver sets during March and April, the Department proposed an off-set trigger mandate for large killer-type traps. That proposal would have required that all traps having a jaw spread greater than 7 1/2 inches be modified by having the two trigger wires twisted together and pushed to the side of the trap a distance of 8-inches. In theory, this change would have allowed otters to swim completely through the 8-inch opening without hitting the trigger while beavers would spring the trap and be caught. In actual practice, some otter would probably get safely through the 8-inch opening, but others would not. Those that were caught, along with many of the beaver, would almost certainly be caught by the rear portion of the body.
The MTA objected strongly to that proposal on the grounds that the modification would make the trap less humane. We also questioned whether the incidental otter harvest during the spring beaver season is adversely impacting the otter population and encouraged the Department to collect better data before initiating changes in the rules. We acknowledged that an unknown number of female otter are being taken incidentally during the spring season, and we encouraged the Department to find out how often this is happening. We asked that the Department start at once to record the sex of each otter harvested. This could have been done very easily with a quick glance at the belly of the pelt at the time it was presented for tagging, and we were very disappointed that the Department chose not to begin collecting this very important data.
The MTA worked very hard to defeat that controversial and ill-advised off-set trigger proposal, and we were pleased and relieved when the Advisory Council voted unanimously to reject it. However, our frustration was renewed this year when the Department, with no better information about the incidental take of otter than they had a year ago, proposed yet another controversial and unenforceable restriction that would have required spring beaver trappers to set large body-grippers "parallel to the closest bank".
MTA Opposes Latest Proposal to Keep Otter Out of Beaver Traps
When the MTA learned about this "parallel to the closest bank" proposal, a lot of us were scratching our heads as to what it would prohibit and what it allow. I immediately prepared written comments to the Commissioner explaining all the reasons why we strongly objected to this proposal. I also sent a copy of those comments to each of the ten Advisory Council members who were scheduled to vote on the issue at their September meeting. Here are some of the comments we submitted:
"Dear Commissioner Woodcock:
On behalf of the eleven hundred members of the Maine Trappers Association and in accordance with the Maine Administrative Procedures Act, I wish to comment on a change you have proposed in the beaver trapping rules that would restrict the placement of killer-type traps during the months of March and April. Your intended outcome of this change is to reduce the incidental catch of otter in beaver sets at that time of year.
The MTA is adamantly opposed to this change. This restriction would have a serious adverse impact on the success of beaver trappers; it would be subject to various interpretations; it would be virtually impossible to enforce; and its effectiveness in reducing the incidental catch of otter is highly speculative. Furthermore, otter have for years been taken incidentally in beaver sets throughout the beaver trapping season and there is no evidence to suggest that these incidental catches have adversely impacted the otter population. In fact, the annual statewide otter harvest (including incidental catches) has consistently remained well below what the Department has determined to be biologically acceptable.
Please don't misunderstand the intent of our objection to the current proposal. The MTA would prefer not to have otter taken incidentally in beaver sets, and we condemn the illegal actions of anyone who intentionally tries to catch otter when the season is closed. One of the goals of the MTA is to help ensure the sound management and long term sustainability of every species of furbearing animal that we trap. We want to make sure that future generations of trappers get to enjoy the same level of trapping opportunity that we have today. We have a long history of supporting more restrictive trapping rules if the biological data confirms that additional restrictions are necessary to protect a particular species from overharvest. At the same time, we have always opposed and will continue to oppose any trapping restriction that would adversely impact our members unless there is a demonstrated biological need for that restriction to be implemented. Even when an additional restriction becomes necessary, we do our best to ensure that the new rule is written in such a way that trappers can easily understand it and wardens can explain and enforce it with a high degree of consistency.
The change we are opposing through submission of these comments is not supported by the biological data. Neither is it understandable nor enforceable.
Even if it were clear as to the placement of the trap in relation to the closest bank, did the author of this proposal give any thought to the various and diverse types of habitat where beaver traps are set? If all streams had clearly defined banks it would be one thing, but what about situations where the stream has channels branching off in all directions through the grass and alders? Or how about in bogs where there are no defined banks but lots of small grass covered hummocks sticking up everywhere – does every hummock constitute a “bank”?
Of even greater concern to the MTA than the interpretation issue is the lack of biological data to support the proposed change. Beaver and otter frequent the same habitat. Whenever a person sets a body-gripper for beaver, there is a slight chance that an otter will be caught. It is unfortunate that otter are sometimes taken accidentally in beaver traps during the spring. The real issue, however, is whether the incidental otter catch during March and April is adversely impacting the otter population. Although the Department has elected not to start keeping records of what percentage of the incidental otter catch consists of females, anecdotal information indicates that more than two-thirds of those taken in March and April are males. Maybe someday we'll have the data to support this anecdotal information. In any event, as stated earlier, the annual otter harvest (including all incidental catches) falls well within the range that the Department has determined to be biologically acceptable.
As we did last year, the MTA strongly recommends that the Department start recording the sex of each otter harvested, beginning with the start of the upcoming fall season. If, after a three year period, the data indicates that the incidental take of female otter during the spring beaver season is sufficiently high in some Wildlife Management Districts to adversely impact the otter population there, the MTA will work with you to find mutually acceptable ways to resolve the problem. Lacking that data, the MTA will continue to oppose additional restrictions that we believe are unnecessary and that we know will have a significant adverse impact on beaver trappers."
Department Withdraws Controversial Body-Gripper Proposal
A short time after our comments were submitted, the Department also started receiving emails from Advisory Council members asking questions about the issues we raised in our comments. This feedback from Advisory Council members played a key role in helping the Department to make what I consider to be the right decision regarding this controversial and unenforceable proposal. Two days prior to the Council meeting, I spent at least a half hour on the phone with Deputy Commissioner Andrea Erskine Council discussing this issue. I explained all the reasons why this proposal was not in the best interest of trappers or the Department and encouraged her to have the Department get better information about what's going on with the otter population in the various WMDs. The following day, Advisory Council members received a message from the Deputy Commissioner advising them that the proposal was being withdrawn by the Department and that the Council would no longer be asked to vote on it. I immediately contacted each Advisory Council member and thanked them for the time and effort they spent trying to ensure that this proposal would be handled appropriately. I expressed appreciation on behalf of our membership for the thought and attention they gave to the comments we submitted in opposition to this proposal and for their help in getting this proposal withdrawn.
State May Get ITP for Lynx Prior to 2013 Trapping Season
In the last newsletter I wrote about the meetings that were taking place between the USFWS and Maine's F&W Department to try to "hammer out" the final details of the ITP. The big issue at that time was what additional trapping restrictions the Feds might require. From the onset, the MTA had insisted that the ITP contain no trapping restrictions above and beyond those already agreed to by the State in their ITP application. Those restrictions are pretty much what trappers are living with right now except that the current jaw spread restriction would be thrown out completely and baited conibears protected by lynx exclusion devices would be allowed on the ground. Dr. McCollough, on the other hand, had already recommended to his superiors and to state officials a long list of additional changes that he thought should be included, such as requiring lynx exclusion devices at all conibear sets (both on the ground and elevated), requiring pan tension devices on all footholds, outlawing the use of footholds that do not meet BMP standards for fox, coyote and bobcat, outlawing the use of drags and requiring trappers to report all incidental catches (both dead and released alive) as part of an annual trapping report. Going into the meetings, the F&W Department had assured us that they would oppose McCollough's recommendations. It was unclear, however, whether McCollough's superiors, who were in attendance at the meetings, shared McCollough's views or were willing to rely on Maine's fine track record of keeping lynx out of traps and would agree to issue the permit with no additional restrictions.
Those meetings took place three months ago and things have been pretty quiet since then. I did receive word from the Department that both the State and the Feds still have a lot of work to do before the ITP is issued, but they hope to have everything wrapped up prior to another trapping season (2013). Department people have told me that the meetings went very well and that Dr. McCollough's recommendations for additional restrictions are no longer an issue. Apparently, the data submitted by Maine's biologists who have worked extensively on the lynx study provided ample evidence to show that the additional restrictions are not necessary to adequately protect lynx. Rather than discuss additional restrictions, it appears that both sides have agreed to an "adaptive management" approach that would allow for future adjustments in the terms of the ITP if incidental lynx catches become more numerous. In short, things seem to be going well. On the other hand, having seen how the Feds have mishandled the whole lynx thing from the very beginning, I won't "rest easy" until the ITP has been issued and we've been given the opportunity to study the "fine print".
Time Passes and All Things Change!
This will be my final report in the MTA newsletter. Several months ago I notified the Board of Directors of my intention to step down as the MTA lobbyist. I had been wrestling with this decision on a daily basis for quite some time. In the end, I concluded that it was time for me to cut back on “work related stuff” and spend more time enjoying the good years I have left. I just turned 70 this past month and, as they say, the clock is ticking.
I’ve really enjoyed working for the MTA for the last 16 years. I'll miss sitting around the table with the Board of Directors and other MTA members, many of them close friends who have gone above and beyond to protect the future of trapping in Maine. I will not miss the 80 hours a week it takes to stay on top of things during a hectic legislative session and the stress that goes with it.
As a parting gesture, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the things the MTA has been able to accomplish during the time I represented your interests in Augusta. The list is by no means complete, but I hope it will serve to dispel comments by some of the "naysayers" about all the trapping privileges that we've lost over the years. In spite of some recent restrictions that have inconvenienced trappers, we are still doing remarkably well when it comes to opportunity. For some reason, people tend to remember, or at least focus on, the negatives more than on the positives. The threat of the recent lawsuits seems to have overshadowed all the gains that the MTA has made. The trapping privileges that we enjoy today are “light years” ahead of what we had when I started trapping back in the fifties.
The Early Years!
When I went to work for the MTA in 1996, one of my first assignments was to try to restore the September bear trapping season that was taken away from us in 1990. As some of you may recall, September bear trapping was taken away by the Department because of enforcement problems involving a handful of unscrupulous trappers/guides who were using cable traps to ensure the success of their “guaranteed” bear hunts. The position of the MTA on such issues, then and now, is that law enforcement problems should be resolved by catching, prosecuting and suspending the licenses of those who violate the law and not by taking away opportunity from the honest majority. I petitioned the Department to reopen September bear trapping and spent a tremendous amount of time working on this issue. On January 17, 1997, the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council debated September bear trapping at great length. Despite considerable opposition, our “common sense” argument prevailed, and the final vote to restore September bear trapping was six in favor, two opposed.
The MTA had other successes at about the same time. I drafted a bill on behalf of the MTA to give trappers a 3-day check on conibears in organized towns. Following a unanimous “ought to pass” report from the Legislative Fish &Wildlife Committee, the entire Legislature gave approval to our bill, and it was signed into law by Governor King on May 27, 1997. Prior to that change, at least back to the early 1900s, every trap set in organized or incorporated townships (except beaver sets) had to be visited at least once in every calendar day.
That same year we were successful in convincing the Advisory Council to give us a second week of early canine trapping. That also involved a lot of work because we received a lot of opposition from bird dog owners, at least one of which was serving on the Council at the time.
Maine trappers won a major victory in the Legislature in the spring of 1999, when Representative Lois Snowe Mello asked the Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to kill her bill, L. D. #1968, An Act Concerning Recreational and Commercial Trapping. This legislation would have banned fur trapping (and most animal damage control trapping) and would have made it illegal to buy or sell the pelt of any furbearer trapped in the State. The Fish and Wildlife Committee held a public hearing on the bill, moved into a “work session” and quickly voted the bill out of Committee with a unanimous “ought not to pass” report, ensuring the death of this attempt by The Humane Society of the United States and Maine Friends of Animals to steal our trapping heritage.
Quick defeat of this legislation was a direct result of the combined efforts of many members of the MTA. We were very proud of what we were able to accomplish by calling, writing and e-mailing the sponsor and co-sponsors of this bill and politely explaining why we trap and what trapping means to us. A couple of weeks before the public hearing on this bill, Representative Snowe Mello sent me an e-mail message (some of you may have also received it). It said, in part, “Thank you for contacting me in regard to the trapping bill. I have decided to kill the bill. Some animal rights activists approached me to submit the bill and presented me with compelling arguments in support of the legislation. However, since submitting the bill on their behalf I have learned a great deal about the trapping industry. While I believe it is important to protect the welfare of innocent animals, I truly believe it is in Maine's best interest to remove this bill from consideration. It has become clear to me that the trapping industry is very important to many Maine citizens and I cannot support a bill that puts some Maine citizens' livelihood at risk.”
We were also successful in October of that year in getting the Advisory Council to vote unanimously in favor of legalizing the underwater use of 7-inch colony traps. The Council also unanimously approved our request to legalize the use of “so called" egg traps, duffer traps and all other traps of that type that are designed primarily to catch raccoons and avoid incidental catches of other animals. (Prior to that time, all of those traps were illegal to use in Maine.)
In 2001, we were able to get an MTA bill enacted that clarified several trapping laws. The bill was sponsored for us by Representative Matt Dunlap who was the House Chair of the F&W Committee at the time. One of the major changes in the bill redefined the term "drowning set" and eliminated landowner permission requirements for “drowning sets” along great ponds; navigable rivers and streams; and in waters located on land that is publicly owned or controlled.
Also, in 2001, we were finally successful in getting the Department to legalize the use of cage-type live traps for taking bears. The MTA had previously petitioned the Department in May of 1999, to legalize the use of these traps for bear trapping. In late July of that year, however, the proposal was brought before the Advisory Council for consideration and, upon the recommendation of the Department, was turned down. Department objection at the time was “because of concerns expressed by Warden Service with past experience where a bear was trapped and held in this type of trap and then released for a guaranteed hunt”.
Bear Referendum and Abandoned Beaver Dams!
Early in 2003, the MTA teamed up with the Maine Professional Guides Association and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to organize a “grass roots” coalition to fight the HSUS bear referendum. We named our coalition Maine’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council. In early October the MTA made the first donation to the newly formed coalition in the amount of fifty thousand dollars. Following our huge victory on Election Day, 2004, I received a very nice hand written note from Rob Sexton, Vice President for Government Affairs for the US Sportsmen’s Alliance. This is what it said:
Congratulations on your victory! Maine sportsmen just survived one of the most powerful attacks ever put together by the anti’s, and won. A great part of that victory is due to the hard work by the MPGA and the Maine Trappers. We are proud to have your organizations as members, and proud to have worked with you during this battle. Great job! Rob Sexton
From the early 2000s to the present, the MTA has been instrumental in gaining more beaver trapping opportunity at both ends of the traditional beaver season. Some of these changes were initiated by the Department to try to resolve nuisance beaver problems, but many were the result of petitions we submitted to the Department at the request of our members to provide more opportunity to trap for beaver in open water conditions. Today our beaver seasons extend from late October through the end of April in some WMDs (more than 6 months!) and the seasons throughout the state are very liberal compared to "the good old days".
In 2006, after years of debate both among trappers and with the Department, we were finally able to legalize the setting of traps on abandoned beaver dams. In the end, we avoided a lot of controversy by resolving this issue through an enforcement policy rather than having to go through a law or rule change. I worked with Colonel Tom Santaguida, who at the time was the newly appointed Chief of the Warden Service, to develop language that would allow us to trap on obsolete dams. Tom had done a lot of trapping in his earlier years and was sympathetic to what the MTA was trying to accomplish. This is the language that the Colonel sent out to all wardens in a memo dated September 1, 2006:
Beaver Dam: For enforcement purposes regarding the setting of traps within five (5) feet of a beaver dam; the term beaver dam does not include the remains of an inactive or breached beaver dam that is in disrepair, is no longer being maintained by beaver and shows no evidence of current beaver activity indicating it is being maintained by a beaver(s). This provides a standard definition of what is considered a beaver dam for law enforcement purposes. (Prior to adoption of that policy, the Department had always taken the position that a “beaver dam” was any dam constructed by beaver, regardless of condition.)
The Toughest Year Yet!
1997 was a tough year for Maine trappers. We chose not to fight a Department proposal to outlaw the use of steel-jawed foothold traps for taking bears. We also spent most of the year fighting a lynx related lawsuit filed in late 1996 by animal activists in an attempt to end trapping in Maine. With the lynx lawsuit hanging over their heads, the Department adopted several rules restricting the use of body grippers in WMDs containing lynx. Finally, we opted for a shortened fisher and marten season rather than have the Department impose a five fisher limit.
Our decision regarding the steel-jawed bear trap turned out to be the right one. On May 8, 1997, trappers, guides and hunters from throughout the state traveled to the Capital City to defend our trapping heritage. At issue was LD #1635, An Act to Prohibit Recreational Bear Trapping. This bill, submitted on behalf of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine by State Representative James Schatz of Blue Hill, was another attempt to circumvent the results of the 2004 bear referendum. Following the public hearing and a divided Committee report, the bill eventually went to the full legislature for a vote. Representative Troy Jackson of Allagash, Chairman of the Fish and Wildlife Committee at the time, led the debate in the House of Representatives to preserve Maine’s bear trapping tradition. Three different times he rose to speak on our behalf.
As I sat in the gallery and listened to the debate, I was not surprised by the fact that the majority of those who spoke in support of the bill knew virtually nothing about trapping. They recited from the “crib sheets” that had been provided to them by WAM and MFOA and tried to paint bear trapping as cruel, inhumane, unsportsmanlike, barbaric and archaic. All were from southern Maine, and what they said, although highly emotional and very persuasive, was largely inaccurate. Following the debate, the bill to ban bear trapping was shot down by a recorded vote of 82 to 60. The bill then went to the Senate, where the “ought not to pass” majority report was read and accepted without objection (no actual vote). WAM’s bill to ban bear trapping was officially laid to rest on May 24th.
Bear trappers and bear trapping guides breathed a sigh of relief when they learned that WAM’s bear trapping bill was dead. At the same time, some of them were glancing at the big old footholds hanging on the wall and realizing that they’d probably never be able to use those traps again. A few of our members were very upset that the MTA chose not to battle the Department earlier in the year when the Department adopted a rule making it illegal to use steel-jawed foothold traps for bears. I think most of our members now understand why we took the position we did and that it was the right decision. At the time the Board of Directors made that decision, the opinion I expressed to the Board, as the legislative liaison, was that the MTA could not defeat a bill to ban bear trapping if the steel-jawed foothold trap remained legal. I now know that to be a fact. At least three dozen legislators, including some committee members, told me that if the Department had not made it illegal to use steel-jawed bear traps, they would have voted the other way on the bill. The MTA’s decision to allow the Department rule to go into effect uncontested made all the difference and is the only reason Maine still allows bear trapping (the only state in the United States where it is still legal).
The lynx lawsuit was also resolved prior to the 1997 trapping season when Judge Woodcock signed a Consent Decree consisting of terms and conditions agreed to outside the court room by all involved parties. Although some trappers were upset with concessions made by the MTA to get this lawsuit resolved, most of our members were delighted that we walked away from this lawsuit in relatively good shape. Most trappers have no idea how close we came to losing all our trapping privileges in areas frequented by lynx. The dozen or so trappers that sat in the courtroom on September 28, 2007, and listened to Judge Woodcock, as he explained his legal duty to put a stop to the incidental trapping of lynx, felt that we were on the verge of losing it all. After that, we (the MTA) worked around the clock for several days trying to negotiate a settlement that would be in the best long-term interest of trapping. We were successful in reaching a settlement that allowed us to continue to set traps in lynx habitat. The new rules resulting from this settlement adversely affected many trappers. On the other hand, the trapping season remained open, and we were able to continue using most of our existing equipment.
Things Are Looking Better!
In 2008, the MTA became interveners in the 2nd lynx related lawsuit. This lawsuit was filed by the Wildlife Alliance of Maine (WAM) and basically asked for a ban on all trapping in areas frequented by lynx. Trappers fared much better this time around! After 15 months of intensive work by the MTA, including a six day trial in Bangor, Judge Woodcock ruled in our favor. In a nutshell, he found that the small number of lynx taken incidentally by trappers does not pose a threat to the lynx population.
Almost immediately, WAM appealed Judge Woodcock's decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. On September 8, 2010, the Court of Appeals assembled in Boston to listen to oral arguments related to this case. The three judges selected to hear the appeal were Chief Judge Lynch, Judge Boudin and Judge Howard (a woman and two men). Exactly six weeks later, the Court of Appeals handed down their decision. They affirmed, in all respects, Judge Woodcock’s earlier findings. Their ruling was a huge win for Maine trappers, for the F&W Department and for sportsmen and sportswomen across the country. The key element of this decision, as explained at the time by Maine Assistant Attorney General Chris Taub, the lead attorney for the Department in this lawsuit, is that it “conclusively establishes in Maine and other states within the court’s jurisdiction that anyone seeking an injunction under the Endangered Species Act must prove not only that the Act is being violated, but that the violation is causing irreparable harm to the species.”
In 2011, at the request of the MTA Board of Directors, I drafted a bill to create an apprentice trapper license. Representative Ralph Sarty, a retired warden who lives in Denmark, agreed to sponsor it for us. Our bill to establish an apprenticeship trapper license received a public hearing on March 16th, was enacted by the Legislature on April 14th and signed into law by Governor LePage on April 25th. This law (Public Law, Chapter 51) creates a special trapping license that allows a person who has never held a trapping license to trap for up to one year without the need to complete a trapper education course. The apprentice can trap for any legal species, except bear, but all of his or her trapping activities must be done in the presence of an experienced trapper (supervisor), at least 18 years of age, who has held a trapping license for a minimum of three consecutive years. This is a one-time thing. After one year of trapping with a supervisor, the apprentice must complete a trapper education course and purchase a regular trapping license if he or she wishes to continue trapping in the future.
Also in 2011, we successfully supported a bill making it legal for nonresidents to trap for beaver in Maine, reversing a law that had been on the books for many years. Our support of this legislation was a complete turnaround from the position we had previously taken on this issue. We reversed our position primarily because of the tremendous support we had been receiving from nonresident trappers. During the 2004 bear referendum, and more recently during two lynx related lawsuits, trappers from across the nation donated tens of thousands of dollars to help the MTA defend our trapping privileges. Many of them sent notes stating that they were sending a donation in spite of their disappointment that Maine was one of only a few states that didn’t allow nonresidents to trap for beaver. The only instructions the Board gave to me prior to testifying in support of this change was to insist on a reciprocity clause. (A reciprocity agreement means that nonresidents are allowed to trap for beaver in Maine only if the state where they reside offers Maine residents the same privilege.) That's what I did, and the resulting law reads as follows: “A nonresident may not trap beaver in this State unless that nonresident's state or province of residency allows Maine residents to trap beaver in that state or province”.
Finally, at the request of bear trappers from northern Maine, we were successful in repealing the law that required fences and signs around cage-type live traps set for bear. The law was originally intended to apply to foothold traps, but even though foothold traps are no longer legal for taking bears, the law requiring fencing and signage around all bear traps, except cable traps, had remained on the books. We asked the Fish and Wildlife Committee to add a section to the Department omnibus bill to repeal this unnecessary requirement. The Committee granted our request, and the law was changed as follows: A person may not set a bear trap other than a cable trap, unless it conforms to the following specifications or a cagetype trap as authorized by the commissioner. (Crossed out words have been eliminated from the law, and underlined words have been added.) All fencing and signage requirements for bear traps have been eliminated.
Ever since the Legislature established a bear trapping permit, those who both hunt bears over bait and trap for bears have been required to buy two permits, even though they have only been allowed to take one bear annually. Many complained that they were being forced to pay twice as much for the exact same opportunity they had previously been given. Representative Steve Wood from Sabattus submitted a bill in 2011, which, among other things, would fix that problem and allow someone who purchases both a bear hunting permit and a bear trapping permit to take a bear with each permit. I testified on behalf of the MTA in support of the section of Representative Wood's bill allowing trappers a second bear. The bill was signed into law by Governor LePage on June 13th (Public Law, Chapter 309).
Maine Trappers Still Have Things Pretty Good!
When I was a kid, the fall season on mink and muskrat lasted 30 days – the month of November. Most trappers had never taken a fisher, and what few marten we had in the state were fully protected. We trapped beaver only during the months of January and February, and many towns were completely closed to the taking of beaver. In addition, we were required to visit every trap every day, except beaver sets. For the most part, Maine trappers have longer trapping seasons and more species of furbearers to trap than our grandfathers did. Oh, I know! The unwarranted decision by the Feds in the spring of 2000 to list the lynx as a threatened species has caused us considerable grief over the past several years. In much of the state, our larger footholds can only be used at water sets, and we’ve had to dramatically change the way we set killer-type traps, especially for fisher and marten. Even so, we now have seasons on furbearing animals that begin in mid-October and continue through the month of April. At some time during that more than 6-month period, we are still able to trap for 15 different species of furbearers. Not bad for a state where trappers have constantly been under attack by the animal fanatics for more than two decades.
Whenever I hear trappers grumbling about what we’ve lost because of lynx and eagles, I’m quick to remind them of everything we’ve gained. I know that the MTA will never be able to satisfy the expectations of some of our members. However, if you compare what we still have today with what trappers in other states have lost, it becomes obvious that the MTA has done a remarkable job in protecting our trapping privileges. I’m proud to have been a part of that effort.
Have a great trapping season!