August 18, 2019

Commissioner Woodcock in Response to Open Letter

*Editor’s Note* On January 26, 2012 I sent an open letter to Maine’s Governor Paul LePage, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock and others concerning Maine’s ability through statute to control coyotes and other predators. Below is a copy of the email response I received this morning from the MDIFW commissioner’s office.

Dear Mr. Remington:

Your recent e-mail to Governor LePage has been forwarded to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for response. In your message you discuss coyote control as it relates to the deer population in Northern, Eastern, and Western Maine. Specifically, you mentioned concerns about the Department’s ability to control coyotes in Maine. I would point out that in statute (Title 12, Sec 10053 (and Sec 10105), Sub 8 the Commissioner is authorized to initiate predation control. When the statutes were recodified there were changes made to improve clarity and eliminate duplication. The sections that you mentioned in your email were eliminated as part of that recodification effort. However, the Statutes in place clearly grant the Commissioner the authority to implement a predator control program.

In fact, the Department has implemented a predator control program in selected Deer Wintering Areas in Northern Maine. The Department is also continuing to work on implementing its Game Plan for Deer. At the same time we are working with the USFWS to get the Incidental Take Plan approved and in place for trapping. The Governors office is supportive of our efforts to address the issues related to the deer population in Northern, Eastern and Western Maine. We have been working with the Maine Forest Products Council, the Maine Department of Transportation and the Sportsmen Alliance of Maine among others to address the issues of Deer Wintering Shelter, Feeding of Deer, Car-Deer mortality, and predation on Deer. The overall solution to the problem requires our attention to multiple issues working in concert with many partners. There aren’t any simple answers and in the end our success will be gained by good old fashioned hard work with people from all over the State who care about the wildlife habitat and resources. We encourage you to participate in the efforts undertaken by the Department and these groups as we move forward. Information can be found on our website relating to these issues. Thank you for your interest and advocacy on behalf of the Wildlife Resources of the State of Maine.

Sincerely,
Chandler E. Woodcock
Commissioner

This morning I took the time to offer a response to Commissioner Woodcock:

Mr. Woodcock:

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my open letter. I am fully aware of the existing laws and what they allow and do not allow, although I am not a legal expert trained in law interpretation. I also am aware and have been that you, as commissioner, hold a degree of authority for animal damage control and dealing with predation issues. That is really not the point here.

The recodification and legislative appeals process, in my humble opinion, did a bit more than, “improve clarity and eliminate duplication”.

Prior to the process of recodification and the legislative repeal of “Maine Coyote Control Program” (notice this is in capitals), the commissioner had the authority in the use of snaring under the guidelines provided by statute. We are of course, restricted by the Consent Decree.

There has to be serious discussion as to how Maine went from a coyote/predator control program, including the use of snares, to an outright ban on snaring Title 12, Section 12252 and the commissioner with authority to conduct animal damage control, with limited tools available, all through the process to, “improve clarity and eliminate duplication”.

However, I believe short of an investigation into this process by the Attorney General, on all other points I am beating a dead horse. At this point it appears the only help the State of Maine can get is approval of an Incidental Take Permit for Canada lynx that does not put any more restrictions on trapping that now already exist. What is being suggested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would so restrict trapping it would effectively eliminate it. Where would this leave our Animal Damage Control?

Hoping for the best.

Tom Remington

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The Future of Trapping in Maine Looking Sketchy Leaving a Lot of Unanswered Questions

With the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) recently presenting an application for incidental taking of Canada lynx to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), what most deemed a great opportunity to rectify a lot of trapping and snaring issues, is rapidly turning into a nightmare.

The Canada lynx was declared a “threatened” species in the state of Maine in 2000. In 2009, the Federal Government designated a large chunk of northern Maine as “critical lynx habitat”. In the midst of a lawsuit by animal rights/environmental extremist groups, Maine agreed to and signed a Consent Decree that would allow the state to continue with its trapping program, albeit in a limited and restricted fashion. Also in the Consent Decree, MDIFW listed Wildlife Management Districts (WMD) 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10, and 11 as their own brand of critical Canada lynx habitat designation. According to the Consent Decree, within these WMDs, Maine trappers were restricted to smaller trap sizes, aimed are reducing “incidental” trapping of lynx and the use of snares for limiting coyote mortality on deer in wintering yards was banned, among other restrictive measures. Maine remains under the throes of the Consent Decree until such time as the state can obtain an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) from the Federal Government.

An ITP is an agreement reached between the state and the Feds on how to conduct a trapping plan in order to continue adequate protection of a “threatened” or “endangered” species in order that this species will not be blocked from recovery. You can view the application for an ITP for Canada lynx at this link.

I learned a few days ago, through hours of research, that Maine’s current laws on trapping are NOT what most sportsmen believe them to be. I would strongly suggest reading that article before proceeding with this one.

Most sportsmen in Maine believe that if Maine can obtain this seemingly illusive ITP, then trapping can resume as normal and that the commissioner of the MDIFW can implement snaring programs to save the deer herd. This is not the case.

To be as brief as possible, the current law governing trapping and specifically snaring in Maine can be found in Maine Statute 12252 and Maine Statute 10105, as recodified under LD 1600 signed into law on June 3, 2003 by Gov. John Baldacci. MS 12252 bans snaring in Maine with exceptions. In part, MS 10105 lists the authority the commissioner has to utilize some form of “coyote control program”, in which he can hire trained agents to implement snaring in unorganized townships during winter (this was not part of LD 237).

While the law was effectively rewritten during recodification, it must be further understood that obtaining an ITP from the USFWS will not free up the commissioner or even the Maine Legislature to use snares to kill coyotes.

First of all, the application for an ITP is nothing more than a clone of the Consent Decree signed in 2007. It bans the use of snares and still retains the restrictions on trap sizes. The application and plan is not restricted to just those WMDs that MDIFW listed. It becomes statewide.

In the very first parts of the application it states:

The Department seeks a Section 10 permit that would cover its agents and licensees from liability in the event of incidental take of Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) in Maine that may occur as the result of otherwise lawful activities.

This Consent Decree clone of an application now will stretch out and cover the entire state, or at least that is how I understand the terms of the plan as written thus far. In essence Maine rids itself of one ball and chain, Consent Decree, and replaces it with a bigger ball and chain, ITP.

In short, where currently Maine is continuing its trapping program under the Consent Decree, which I believe in conjunction with current laws, the commissioner COULD, implement a snaring program outside of the 10 WMDs listed, in unorganized townships during winter. When and if this ITP is granted, the commissioner will lose his authority to do that.

If my calculations are correct, then short of dealing with some kind of liability issue for incidentally catching and or killing a lynx (which by the way, since 2000 no lynx has been killed as the result of an incidental take), why would Maine even seek an ITP that is more restrictive than the one in place now?

Some believe that Maine then needs to apply for an ITP for snaring in Maine. You will probably witness me walking on water before that ever happens. I doubt that if you collected all those in Maine Government and the Federal Government who would support an effective snaring program, you could fit them all into the eye of a needle.

From the frying pan to the fire.

Tom Remington

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