A public hearing was held in Portland last Monday night, September 26, to express opinions regarding a proposal by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department to extend the beaver trapping season and to extend by an extra week the hounding/hunting season for bobcats. It became abundantly clear that many of those testified were against these two measures which had been devised in collaboration with the Maine Trappers Association and was unsupported by DIFW’s own data or lack of it.
One of those present concluded that the hearing was the most impressive display of unity and support for Maine wildlife that he’d ever witnessed and hoped that a citizens’ movement would result that would take back our fish and wildlife and return them to all of the people of Maine.
Another speaker defined the term “Regulatory capture” as a form of government failure that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. When regulatory capture occurs the interests of firms or political groups are prioritized over the interests of the public, leading to a net loss to society as a whole. Government agencies suffering regulatory capture are called “captured agencies”.
To many in the audience it sounded like a remarkably apt description of the Department whose decisions appear to favor hunters and trappers by sacrificing animals who are supposed to be protected.
The hearing is over, but written comments are still being accepted until October 6, so if you weren’t present last Monday, your voice can still be heard.
Please use the points that are most important to you personally or that you feel are the strongest. (It’s always best to rephrase rather than using the points verbatim.) It is important, however, to reference the lack of scientific data on bobcat and beaver populations in your comments as well as the cruelty issues. Without this data, it’s difficult for the dept. to justify open trapping/hunting seasons with no limits on the number of bobcats and beaver that can be killed.
Please read the rule-change proposal here to learn the details: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/aboutus/laws_rules/rulemaking_proposals.htm
Send written comments to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife by October 6, 2016 either by email, snail mail or fax to:
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street 41 SHS,
Augusta, ME 04333
When submitting written comments to the Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W), please include this subject line:
Subject: Opposition to rule changes proposed for Chapter 4.01 – Upland Game and Furbearing Animals
BOBCATS IN MAINE – WHY PROPOSED HUNTING SEASON EXTENSION SHOULD NOT BE GRANTED
- There is no justification for hunting bobcats in Maine at all, much less a reason to extend the hunting season for a full week across the state. IF&W has provided no population or other scientific data to justify additional hunting of bobcats. (The combined trapping/hunting season for bobcats is currently three and a half months a year with NO LIMIT (“bag limit”) on the number of animals that can be taken.)
- In its 2015 Research and Management Report, IF&W says that the number of bobcats killed declined to a 10 YEAR LOW – from a high of 410 in 2007/2008 to 111 in 2014/2015. IF&W cannot account for the decline: “How much of this decline in the annual harvest rate can be attributed to an actual decline in the bobcat population or a change in trapping/hunting effort is still an UNANSWERED QUESTION.”
- Without sufficient knowledge or data on Maine’s bobcat population, the current season of hound-hunting is irresponsible and no hunting season extension should be granted. It makes no sense to increase hunting pressure on these animals, which could cause irreversible damage to the population.
- Bobcat hunting is cruel and abusive. Bobcats in Maine are hunted with packs of GPS-collared hounds accompanied by “recreational” hunters in snowmobiles. The bobcats are chased until they are exhausted and are cornered by the dogs. The bobcats are then shot at close range or bludgeoned to death.
- A season extension for bobcat hunting would also increase the risk that the bobcat’s cousin, the Canada lynx—a federally-listed threatened species—will be misidentified and killed by bobcat hunters. Lynx and bobcats are not easy to distinguish. The timing of a bobcat season extension at this time is also questionable because the permit issued to IF&W by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that allows “incidental take” of lynx is currently under legal challenge.
- Bobcats are reclusive animals that are rarely seen in the wild. They reproduce slowly, usually only giving birth once a year to a litter of one to three kittens. They play essential roles in forest ecosystem health as effective predators of rodents, rabbits and other small prey that can carry Lyme disease, and they keep the populations of these prey animals in check.
- Bobcats already face threats from habitat loss. Maine could end up like New Hampshire, where numbers were allowed to get unsustainably low from overhunting and trapping. Further reduction of the bobcat population would mean a loss to the ecosystem and a loss to the people who enjoy co-existing with bobcats. Bobcats should be protected, not persecuted.
BEAVERS IN MAINE – WHY PROPOSED TRAPPING SEASON EXTENSION SHOULD BE STOPPED
- IF&W has provided no scientifically-based determination of the population level of beavers that is optimal to fulfill their necessary ecological role throughout Maine’s watersheds. Season extensions should not be granted based on the commercial interests of trappers or nuisance complaints. IF&W claims its wildlife management decisions are science-based, but in the case of beavers, “management” is comprised of extensive seasons of unlimited trapping.
- The existing season dates for beaver trapping are already extensive and there are no limits on the number of beavers that can be killed. In some wildlife districts, beavers are trapped for more than six months each year. Beaver trapping seasons have already been extended by several months in recent years (specifics on this have been requested but not provided by IF&W) and setback requirements from dams and beaver homes have been relaxed.
- Trappers can now trap as close as five to 10 feet of a beaver lodge or beaver dam throughout the state;
- In six of Maine’s wildlife management districts, trappers can place traps directly in, on and around beaver homes or dams; there is NO REQUIRED SETBACK DISTANCE whatsoever.
- As more public awareness develops of beavers’ vital ecological role throughout watersheds and their complex family and social relationships, lengthy open trapping seasons on these industrious animals must be challenged and non-lethal methods of beaver management pursued.
- Beaver trapping techniques are cruel and alternatives to them must become a priority in beaver management. It is legal in Maine to trap beavers with underwater snares, drowning sets, steel leghold traps, colony traps and killer-type traps that crush the neck or spinal columns of beavers. (Traps set underwater are all designed to drown beavers; a particularly cruel method because beavers can hold their breath underwater for 10, 15, perhaps up to 20 minutes.)
- Beaver activity is critical for the health of many plant and animal species and provides vital hydrological functions. It is a gross oversight to undervalue this species and write them off as unworthy of proper study and conservation, particularly when drought conditions and low water levels have recently been documented throughout a significant portion of the state.
- Long seasons of no-limit trapping with unjustifiable season extensions to simply address conflict complaints and trapper interests disregards the need for beavers in Maine’s wetland ecologies. The result could even be that beaver are removed from beneficial habitats and pushed into problematic sites. This is not science-based wildlife management.
- Non-lethal tools for beaver management exist and IF&W should encourage their use throughout the state to better accommodate beavers and their critically important activity. This approach could preserve wetland habitat that benefits all wildlife and fisheries and even forests, while reducing the costs that may result from conflicts. Those tools range from better setbacks and design for any new development or infrastructure, to installation of protective structures that are proven to be cost effective, low maintenance, and long-lasting solutions to culvert plugging and problematic water levels.
- Beavers provide free labor to build salmon and heron habitat. Herons are now designated as a Species of Special Concern by IF&W.
- All of these benefits and strategies can be lost when beavers are missing because of unlimited trapping. The present season extension proposal would only exacerbate this situation.
Feel free to adapt any of these points to express your own views.What we allow others to do in our name enables them to continue the cruelty that we have the power to stop.
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