December 2, 2023

Update on Maine Application for Incidental Take Permit

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*Editor’s Note* Below is an email letter sent out by Skip Trask, head of the Maine Trappers Association, with an update on the recommendations of Dr. Mark McCollough from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), of what should be included as restrictive regulations for trapping in obtaining an Incidental Take Permit, intended to protect the Canada lynx.

It is clear from these recommendations that Dr. McCollough is completely disregarding the facts and science and is bent on the destruction of the trapping industry in the state of Maine. His agenda is so obvious that Dr. McCollough seems willing to threaten the actual species he is sworn to protect in order that he achieve his goal of ending trapping.

We live in a perverse, backwards and upside-down society now in which facts, science and reality are disregarded in exchange for the promotion of idealistic nonsense.

If Dr. McCollough gets his way with his recommendations, it will effectively end any trapping in Maine; the end result of which will be devastating. Idiots who espouse to “natural regulation” are determining themselves to learn lessons the hard way at a very steep expense.

It is up to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) and the State Government to fight these recommendations tooth and nail, but they won’t. They don’t have the spine nor the desire to do so. Much of the staff of MDIFW think the same as Dr. McCollough; all brainwashed in the same education factories. In addition, MDIFW isn’t interested in running the risk of angering and alienating the environmentalists who hold the threat of lawsuits over their heads on a daily basis.

In short, Maine can kiss trapping goodbye and chalk it up in the history books as something that used to be. Without the means to utilize trapping as a management tool – which MDIFW no longer believes to be necessary because Mother Nature will do it, the end result will be devastating for the state and the people who live there.

This is a crime!

From Norman “Skip” Trask:

Good afternoon – I wanted to give all of you a “heads up” about an upcoming meeting between the US Fish and Wildlife Service (the Feds) and the Maine F&W Department to try to reach agreement on the terms and conditions of the
Incidental Take Permit for lynx that the Feds appear on the verge of issuing to the State. At issue, of course, is what additional trapping restrictions (above and beyond those to which the State has already agreed in their ITP
application) the Feds will require. The meeting was originally scheduled for May, but that meeting was cancelled at the request of the Feds. The meeting is now scheduled to take place over a two or three day period next week.

Dr. Mark McCollough, who was largely responsible for overseeing the ITP public comment process on behalf of the USFWS, has completed his review of the comments submitted and has finalized his recommendations. Last week I was called to meet with John Boland, Director of Resource Management at the Department. (John took Ken Elowe’s place and is taking the lead in the upcoming ITP negotiations with the Feds.) At my meeting with John, I got a chance to look at the recommendations submitted by Dr. Mark McCollough. Those recommendations include numerous additional restrictions that Dr. McCollough believes should be included in the ITP. If there was ever any doubt that Dr. McCollough is philosophically opposed to trapping, the list of recommendations he submitted should settle that question once and for all. John Boland and I spent more than an hour discussing the upcoming meeting, the various recommendations submitted by McCollough and the potential impact to trappers if these recommendations were to be
implemented. Implementation of these recommendations, in my opinion, would spell the beginning of the end for land trapping in the northern half of the state. It is unclear whether McCollough’s superiors, who will be attending
next week’s meeting, share McCollough’s views about the need for these additional restrictions.

The list of additional restrictions submitted by McCollough is quite lengthy, but those that would have the greatest direct impact on trappers are as follows:

* “Recommend that all upland conibears be placed in enclosures to avoid death and severe injury of lynx.” (Based on additional wording in the recommendations, the word “enclosure” means the same as “lynx exclusion device”. This recommendation would apply to conibears both on the ground and elevated. If this recommendation were included as part of the ITP, the current “tree/leaning pole” rules would be eliminated – tree size, distance above ground, pole angle, etc. Given the million or so trap nights that conibears have been set on “trees/leaning poles” in lynx habitat since 2007 without any evidence that a single lynx has been caught in a conibear set in a manner that would comply with the current “tree/leaning pole” rules, I was astounded by comments made by McCollough in support of this recommendation, such as “no evidence to support hypothesis that lynx will not climb trees/leaning poles; no evidence that leaning poles are effective at excluding lynx”. It appears that this recommendation would also apply to blind sets – if so, blind sets would no longer be legal.)

* Recommend that trappers in WMDs containing lynx be required to “ phase in foothold traps meeting BMP standards for fox, coyote and bobcat over 5 years and rescind existing foothold trap size regulations once BMP traps are fully implemented”. The recommendation goes on to say that “all traps and trapping measures would comply with the new Canada lynx trapping BMPs published by AFWA in September of 2011 for the contiguous states”. “BMPs refer not only to traps, but other equipment standards such as use of swivels, in-line springs, stake and chain system”.

* Recommend elimination of drags and require staking with short chains, swivels or in-line springs for foothold traps.

* Recommend that pan tension devices be required on foothold traps. McCollough agreed with our assessment of this alternative that pan tension high enough to exclude lynx would exclude most other furbearers as well. However, he still believes this requirement should be included in the ITP with some lesser pan tension requirement “primarily as part of migratory bird avoidance and minimization measures and to increase trap selectivity”. (His recommendation to include this requirement in the ITP for lynx has nothing to do with lynx!)

* Recommended that all foothold traps be equipped with 3 swivels. (Current Department rule requires at least one chain swivel.)

* Recommend that trappers be required to report all incidental catches (both dead and released alive) as part of an annual trapping report. An incidental catch would involve any animal at any time you are not allowed to trap for that species.

At my meeting with John Boland, he indicated that the Department will be opposing all of these additional restrictions at their upcoming meeting with the Feds. If the Department and the Feds cannot reach agreement at this
meeting on what should be included in the ITP, it is unclear what the next step will be. In any event, John has promised that before the Department agrees to any additional trapping restrictions as part of the ITP (beyond those to which they have already agreed in their ITP application), he will contact us and seek our input. I’ll update you as soon as I have something further to report. Best, Skip