September 20, 2017

Open Letter to Maine Trappers, Hunters, Commissioner Woodcock and Governor LePage

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*Editor’s Note:* The below letter was sent electronically to Gov. Paul LePage, MDIFW Commissioner Chandler Woodcock and several hunting industry leaders throughout Maine.

I have spent much of the last three days studying and researching the laws governing trapping, snaring and in particular the Coyote Control Program. I finished up a 30 minute session on the telephone with the Maine Law Library this morning and learned some very interesting pieces of information. I’ll try to spare all the details and provide only those of importance.

PL2003 c. 655 an act by the Legislature, effective Aug. 31, 2004, repealed all of Title 12, section 10105 subsection 3. In other words there is no longer a Coyote Control Program in Maine. Prior to the repeal, the language of 10105 sub 3 was as follows:

“3. Coyote control program. Pursuant to section 10053, subsection 8, the commissioner shall maintain a coyote control program as follows.
“A. The commissioner may employ qualified persons to serve as agents of the department for purposes of coyote control. These agents must be trained by the department in animal damage control techniques and must be utilized by the department to perform coyote control duties in areas where predation by coyotes is posing a threat to deer or other wildlife. Each agent shall execute a cooperative agreement with the department specifying the conditions and limitations of the agent’s responsibilities as an agent, including any terms for reimbursement of expenses or payment of wages.
“B. Agents must be trained in the use of snares and must be deployed in the unorganized townships to control coyotes during the winter months. All snaring must be carried out under the direction of department officials and with the knowledge of the local game warden. All areas of snaring activity must be adequately posted.
“C. Agents may be utilized for the benefit of agricultural interests as long as the department is reimbursed annually for the cost of those efforts by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources from funds specifically appropriated or otherwise made available to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources for that purpose.”

All that exists now in Maine Statute Title 12, Section 10105 is:

3. Coyote control program.
[ 2003, c. 614, §9 (AFF); 2003, c. 655, Pt. B, §21 (RP); 2003, c. 655, Pt. B, §422 (AFF) .]

The history line across the bottom tells us the process of the elimination of the Coyote Control Program laws.

All that governs snaring in Maine is Maine Statute 12252 which bans snaring and Maine Statute Title 12, Section 10105, subsection 1:

1. Authorize taking or destruction of wildlife. Whenever the commissioner determines it necessary for the accomplishment of the commissioner’s statutory duties, the commissioner may authorize a person to assist the commissioner in the taking and destruction of any wildlife. The commissioner may place conditions or restrictions on any authorization granted under this subsection. A person who violates a condition or restriction placed on an authorization granted under this subsection invalidates that authorization and subjects that person to applicable laws under this Part.
[ 2003, c. 614, §9 (AFF); 2003, c. 655, Pt. B, §20 (AMD); 2003, c. 655, Pt. B, §422 (AFF) .]

This repeal, which by the way includes LD237 which provided the guidelines in which the IFW Commissioner could implement a snaring program, could have effectively been undertaken during the recodification process that became law in 2003. I don’t know that this happened but it is a possibility. Regardless, it is my opinion that the laws of the State of Maine and the wishes of the people have been circumvented through manipulation of the “process” in order to achieve certain goals and agendas.

So, it would appear, by law, the ONLY thing the Commissioner has a legal right to do is hire or appoint trappers/hunters to target coyotes, with limited traps due to lynx lawsuit protections or rifles, that are killing our deer herds. And with no more Coyote Control Program, in which the Legislature once many years ago and reiterated several times after, mandated that the Commissioner/IFW formulate a Control Program, does this not make Maine more susceptible to lawsuits by targeting coyotes or any other predator to save deer?

Any notions anyone has that Maine will ever implement a snaring program again should be flushed out of their minds. We can waste time blaming anyone and everyone for what has happened but it fails to change the facts.

Snaring is not supported by IFW, I don’t know if the Legislature or the Governor’s office supports it, but it will never happen and it will definitely not happen with the approval of the USFWS. So, let’s stop wasting our time and energy. It’s just NOT going to happen.

As sportsmen, who care about our opportunities to hunt for deer and fill our freezers for food for the year, how do we change 1.) the laws and support needed from the Joint Committee and the Legislature to save this industry?, and 2.) how do we change the attitudes of those at IFW who support the propagation and spread of predators, rather spend their time and efforts on non game programs and view hunting and trapping as activities that they deem as socially unacceptable activities? These attitudes have no place in a fish and game department in which I invest my hard earned money to support. This MUST change!

It’s time for IFW, the Legislature and the Governor’s office to come clean on where Maine stands in its statutes to govern trapping and snaring and move forward in an aggressive and meaningful manner to remove harmful predators and rebuild the deer herd. If this can be done, it is my belief that there will be more support from the sporting community to dig in and help.

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  • Bonedog

    Tom, thanks for all your hard work, revalations of past actions and your conclusion that we have hit a dead end in managing Coyotes and returning the White-tailed Deer.

    Maybe this information was not unknown to the folks with power to do something with measurable results and that is why they have been so tenderfooted approaching the subject. Whatever, whether they had the knowledge or were ignorant of what has happened they are derelict for not establishing a public legal foundation for what they are doing.

    Hard to get folks like me on board when things are so non-specific, non-commital and unfunded.

    A purpose without any foundation or plan is what it is.

    Good luck fellers…..

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