October 16, 2019

For Maine: Consideration of More Restrictive Trapping Regs, Could Become Costly to Canada Lynx

Below, please find a copy of the letter I have sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for comments being received concerning the State of Maine application for an Incidental Take Permit for trapping and the Canada lynx.

January 13, 2012

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Maine Field Office
17 Godfrey Drive, Suite 2
Orono, Maine 04473

To Whom it May Concern:

The Endangered Species Act, from the time of its inception being signed into law by President Nixon in 1973, is intended to prevent the needless extermination of species and to implement plans to protect and recover any species that is determined to be “endangered” or “threatened” according to certain criteria contained within the Act.

Maine is attempting to recover a species of Canada lynx and are presently involved in obtaining an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for its trapping industry that is workable and in the best interest of the lynx recovery as well as doing what is in the best interest of maintaining a healthy ecosystem for the people of Maine.

As part of the application process for ITP, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), is seeking harsher restrictions for trapping regulations, including equipment modifications and limitations. According to the application and the Environmental Assessment, the USFWS is seeking input on the following items that they believe to be required for lynx protection and recovery:

Require lynx-exclusion devices for all killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets on poles and trees, in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Require that all trappers phase in foothold traps meeting BMP standards for fox, coyote and bobcat over the next 5 years and rescind existing jaw-spread restrictions once BMP trap requirements are fully implemented.
Eliminate the use of drags and require short chains, swivels or in-line springs for foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Limit the use of killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets, to size #120 (5-inch) and smaller in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Require 24-hour check of all killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets, in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Require pan-tension devices on all foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Limit the use of foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19 to the months of October and November only.
Prohibit trapping with land sets (including elevated sets) in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Require periodic re-training of all trappers on how to avoid incidental lynx captures.

Maine is presently under a court-ordered Consent Decree (Animal Protection Institute v. Roland D. Martin – Civil Action No.: 06-cv-00128-JAW, Document 134) This Consent Decree, as ordered by the Court is to remain in effect until the State of Maine obtains an ITP from the U.S. Government. This Consent Decree was filed on October 4, 2007. Since that time, it is my understanding through unnecessarily difficult information to obtain, that only two Canada lynx have been “incidentally” taken, resulting in death to the species. It is also my understanding that both of these events were deemed accomplished through illegal acts and no death of lynx have occurred as the result of all legal regulations agreed to in the Consent Decree. It is for this explanation that it must be questioned as to the reasoning of further restrictions on trapping in and/or outside of critical lynx habitat areas.

Please consider also the following information:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has published on their own website, a study entitled, “Habitat Fragmentation and Interspecific Competition: Implications for Lynx Conservation”. That specific publication lists several species that are competitors in both habitat and prey for the lynx. It also clearly defines the coyote as the leading competitor of the lynx.

On page 91 of referenced document, you’ll find the following information:

“The coyote, because of its wide habitat niche, heavy predation on snowshoe hares (O’Donoghue et al. 1998), high reproductive rate (Quinn and Parker 1987), great behavioral plasticity (Murray and Boutin 1991), and high tolerance of humans (Litvaitis 1992), must be considered a potentially formidable competitor with mesocarnivores, including the lynx. Indeed, coyotes are suspected in various declines of mesocarnivores, as evidenced by documented cases of coyotes competing with or preying on sensitive and endangered species (reviewed by Litvaitis 1992 and Goodrich and Buskirk 1995).”

According to Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, coyotes present a problem in 1.) being a part of the reasons for a depleted whitetail deer herd, and 2.) a continued and growing presence prohibits efforts in recovering that species of deer.

The concern then becomes whether further restrictions on trapping, which will result in limiting a trappers ability to remove coyotes from not only deer habitat but the very habitat that the Canada lynx relies on for sustainability, while speaking little of growth.

I have been unable to find any studies that can tell us to what point do we strive to save lynx from trapping activities, that the end result is the death of more lynx via competition than is attempting to be saved? It is my concern that the USFWS consider this concept before implementing further restrictions on trapping.

If the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is so restricted through unnecessary trapping laws, resulting in the further loss of whitetail deer, the state does, through the Endangered Species Act (10j), retain the right to apply for a permit to kill coyotes to save deer. This could become costly and complicated for both the state of Maine and the U.S. Government, when perhaps more careful consideration of the rules governing the ITP could ward off such actions.

Because nature does not “balance” itself in any idealistic fashion, man works hard at managing our fields and forests for health. At would run contrary to the Endangered Species Act and its intended goals, in consideration of protecting one species, it cannot come at the loss of another.

If the intended goal is to continue to rebuild the Canada lynx in Maine, consideration of all aspects is in the obvious best interest of not only the lynx but all species and the people of Maine.

It is my wish that the USFWS will thoughtfully consider that further actions to restrict trapping, could create a larger negative feedback in your efforts to recover the lynx by allowing for the increased growth of a direct competitor.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

Thomas K. Remington
Largo, Florida/Bethel, Maine

Share

Call to Action on Maine Application for Trapping Incidental Take Permit

*Editor’s Note:* Below is a copy of a letter sent to licensed trappers and others in the State of Maine from the Maine Trappers Association. It concerns a request for comments about proposed rules that will govern trapping in Maine to protect the “threatened” species of Canada lynx, according to the Endangered Species Act.

It may or may not be the position of this author to agree with the contents of the letter sent nor do I necessarily agree that all the content of this letter is accurate. I will, however, take this time to encourage everyone, not just trappers or those from Maine, but concerned outdoor advocates to carefully consider the Application the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for “incidental take” of Canada lynx. It’s a liability issue. Also consider reviewing the Draft Environmental Assessment crafted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

At the end of the following letter are instructions on the proper way to submit comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The deadline for comments is February 7, 2012. Please reference this website for additional information on this issue.

Dear trapper, December 28, 2011

We need your help! Twelve years ago the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the Canada lynx as a threatened species. Maine’s healthy lynx population was included in that listing. At the same time, the USFWS promised to adopt a rule to “to address incidental take of lynx resulting from otherwise lawful hunting and trapping”. Unfortunately, that never happened. Failure of the Service to address “incidental take” paved the way for animal activists to use the listing to attack trapping. They filed two separate lawsuits against the State of Maine, both of which attempted to outlaw trapping in lynx habitat, nearly half the State, and which eventually resulted in increased trapping restrictions. Until the incidental take issue is resolved, more lawsuits are likely and our trapping heritage remains in jeopardy.

The USFWS now appears ready to address the incidental take of lynx by trappers in Maine. They are currently accepting comments from the public in response to Maine’s application for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP). This permit, if issued, would allow a limited number of lynx to be taken incidentally in traps set for other furbearers. Depending on the conditions attached to the ITP, trapping for other furbearers would be allowed to continue, and individual trappers would be protected against prosecution for accidentally catching a lynx

Maine’s application spells out the things the State plans to do to try to keep lynx from being taken accidentally in traps. The State believes, and the MTA agrees, that what they have proposed is adequate to protect lynx. However, the USFWS has listed numerous additional requirements and restrictions for protecting lynx that could be added to, or adopted in place of, what the State has proposed. That’s where things get really scary for trappers. The animal fanatics will be pushing hard for the most severe restrictions and will be sending lots of written comments to support those restrictions. If the number of comments received by the USFWS is lopsided in favor of the protectionists, there is a possibility that the ITP could be accompanied by restrictions that would be devastating to trappers, including an end to land trapping in lynx areas.

In order for trappers to have any input, they must prepare comments in writing and submit them to the USFWS prior to February 7, 2012. The MTA will be submitting comments on behalf of our membership, but that’s not enough. The USFWS will consider it as “one comment received”. That’s why we are asking individual trappers, not just in Maine but from across the country, to help us out and send comments opposing the alternative restrictions listed by the USFWS.

Here is a list of the things the State is proposing to do that would directly impact trappers. The Maine Trappers Association supports this list.
* Maintain most of the trapping rules that are currently in place.
* Maintain current restrictions on the use of killer-type traps in WMDs 1 through 11 and 14, 18 and 19, but consider expanding the use of killer-type traps at baited boxes, protected with lynx exclusion devices, on the ground.
* Maintain current size restrictions on cage-type live traps.
* Work with trappers to continue to develop techniques that will help reduce the incidental trapping of lynx.
*Eliminate the jaw-spread restrictions on foothold traps that are currently in place in WMDs 1 through 6 and 8 through 11.
* Maintain current rules regarding anchoring devices on foothold traps.
* Maintain current restriction regarding the use of visible bait.

The USFSW has listed other restrictions that could be implemented to protect lynx from being trapped incidentally. These things could be added to, or take the place of, the things the State has proposed. The MTA is adamantly opposed to every item in this list. However, the USFWS will have the final say. What they decide will depend a lot on the comments they receive.
* Require lynx-exclusion devices for all killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets on poles and trees, in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require that all trappers phase in foothold traps meeting BMP standards for fox, coyote and bobcat over the next 5 years and rescind existing jaw-spread restrictions once BMP trap requirements are fully implemented.
* Eliminate the use of drags and require short chains, swivels or in-line springs for foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Limit the use of killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets, to size #120 (5-inch) and smaller in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require 24-hour check of all killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets, in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require pan-tension devices on all foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Limit the use of foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19 to the months of October and November only.
* Prohibit trapping with land sets (including elevated sets) in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require periodic re-training of all trappers on how to avoid incidental lynx captures.

How to Submit Written Comments
It is important that your comments address one or more of the items mentioned in the list above. You should include factual information about why a particular restriction is objectionable and unnecessary. These comments must be submitted prior to February 7, 2012 in order for them to be considered. All comments must be in writing and may be submitted either through regular mail or by email to one of the addresses below.

Regular mail: Email address:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hcpmainetrapping@fws.gov
Maine Field Office
17 Godfrey Drive, Suite 2
Orono, ME 04473

Additional information about the Maine lynx situation, including Maine’s application for the ITP and the Environmental Assessment prepared by the USFWS in response to that application, is available online at the following website: www.fws.gov/mainefieldoffice/Canada_lynx.html

Thank you sincerely for your help!
Maine Trappers Association

Share

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

Share

“Recodification” of Maine Statutes in 2003 Gave That State It’s Ban on Snaring

In 2003, by mandate of the Maine Constitution, laws governing the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife were “recodified”. The end result was a statewide ban, with exceptions, on the use of snares for trapping, other than underwater snares for beaver and foothold snares for bear.

If you are puzzled, join the ranks of thousands of other Maine sportsmen.

Let me present a bit of personal history to help readers understand how I got here. As a hunter, I have become concerned over what I believe to be an overgrown population of coyotes in many parts of Maine. This has contributed to a sizable reduction in the whitetail deer population there. Efforts to do something about that population have seen many hurdles and are currently mired in court orders and confusion over just what the Maine laws are. Perhaps it is intended to be this way.

Trappers using snares has proven to be an effective tool to target those coyotes who like to consider wintering deer yards as their own private 5-star restaurants. Implementation of snares around deer yards took care of a respectable number of coyotes that would kill winter-weary deer.

Use of snares was stopped and subsequent lawsuits by environmental and animal rights groups, coupled with a federal listing for protection of Canada lynx, has left Maine in a situation where, even if IFW agreed coyotes were that serious a problem, there is little they are willing or able to do to stop the demise of the deer herd.

But confusion has run deep as to what the Maine laws governing trapping and in particular snaring are. Here’s a brief history.

In 1929, the Maine Legislature passed and was signed by the governor, a law that banned the use of snares…..period. Over the years there have been minor changes to what equipment and definitions constituted a snare. I believe it was in 1983 when the Maine Legislature mandated that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) begin a program to control the population of coyotes. This, to my knowledge, was the first attempt at implementing the use of snares.

Through the 80s and 90s, it seems the Maine Legislature as a whole has been mostly supportive of controlling coyotes and have instructed MDIFW to do something about coyote control, and yet there is none.

To keep my focus where it needs to be in this article, I’ll become more directed to the events of 2003. The Maine Legislature and Gov. Baldacci, signed into law LD237, “An Act to Improve the Coyote Control Program”. Initially, LD237 was a bill to ban snaring again, even after it had shown its effectiveness. Subsequently and during debate, etc., LD237 was amended and thus the title I gave above was attached to the bill.

LD237 was not an all out ban on snaring. What remained was the authority given to the commissioner of MDIFW to use “agents” to “meet management goals established by the commissioner for deer……”. I say this with all due diligence that I firmly believe the overwhelming majority of Maine sportsmen believe this is the law that is in place today as it pertains to snaring. If this were the case, then surely the Commissioner, Chandler Woodcock, or any commissioner before him or after, could have easily put together a plan to implement a targeted snaring program for coyotes in areas of Maine most vulnerable to coyotes……if that were the law.

As the result of a lawsuit filed against Maine by the Animal Protection Institute, in 2007 a Consent Decree was activated by the Courts. In that Consent Decree, the use of snares was prohibited within those Wildlife Management Districts that had been deemed critical habitat for the Canada lynx; a species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Because the majority of hunters and trappers (and to be honest, I think the ignorance ran deeply into MDIFW and probably the Maine Legislature) were still thinking that Maine was operating under the statute of LD237, people began asking why MDIFW didn’t implement snaring programs in areas outside critical lynx habitat. Downeast regions come to mind.

The Consent Decree was to remain in effect until such time as Maine was granted an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), for the “incidental” taking of lynx during trapping season. Once again, sportsmen waited eagerly for Maine to acquire such a permit, believing that with this ITP, the commissioner has authority under LD237 to begin a snaring program. In the meantime, the deer herd is suffering.

I was one of many in the ranks of those led astray, or poorly informed, who wrote extensively on LD237 and the commissioner’s authority granted in that bill, fully believing through many hours of research that LD237 was the snaring law we were abiding by. Nobody has attempted to clear this up that I am aware of.

So, what law is the MDIFW, trappers and the people of Maine being governed by as it pertains to the use of snares? It took me many hours of research and a lot of dead ends and frustration, before I contacted the Maine Law Library seeking information, hoping it would answer some of my many questions.

What really piqued my level of frustration came when I was reading the Application for an Incidental Take Permit. Included at the end of this application was a copy of the trapping laws and rules that govern trapping in Maine. This is where I came upon Maine Statute 12252. Reading that statute, it says that it is unlawful to “set or tend a snare…….”. I told myself that there was something seriously wrong here. This isn’t even close to LD237, the law I and many others believed to be the law governing snaring.

A very important note that needs to be made here: This is the only statute provided in the ITP application that refers to the use of snares for capturing and killing coyotes. More in a minute.

Once the fine people at the Maine Law Library helped me and sent me some 800 pages of files and documents, I have learned that LD1600, “An Act To Recodify the Laws Governing Inland Fisheries and Wildlife” is the bill that governs trapping statewide.

Before I proceed, I want you to embed into your memory that LD237 was signed into law by Governor John Baldacci on April 25, 2003.

On June 3, 2003, Governor John Baldacci signed into law LD1600. LD1600 was introduced by Senator Bruce Bryant. There were no sponsors or cosponsors. Mr. Bryant was Chairman on the Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at that time I was told by the Law Library. By law, the Joint Committee was to read LD1600 and debate all 600 pages or so and they ultimately made a unanimous recommendation to the Maine Legislature, “Ought to Pass”. According to House and Senate records there was no debate on LD1600. It passed the Legislature on May 27, 2003 and was signed into law by the governor as described above.

The Maine Constitution, Article X, Sec. 6, mandates the “recodification” of statutes every ten years beginning in 1973.

Section 6. Constitution to be arranged by Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court; Constitution to be enrolled and printed with laws; supreme law of the State. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court shall arrange the Constitution, as amended, under appropriate titles and in proper articles, parts and sections, omitting all sections, clauses and words not in force and making no other changes in the provisions or language thereof, and shall submit the same to the Legislature; and such arrangement of the Constitution shall be made and submitted to the regular session of the Legislature in 1973 and every 10 years thereafter unless sooner authorized by the Legislature; and the draft and arrangement, when approved by the Legislature, shall be enrolled on parchment and deposited in the office of the Secretary of State; and printed copies thereof shall be prefixed to the books containing the Revised Statutes of the State. And the Constitution, with the amendments made thereto, in accordance with the provisions thereof, shall be the supreme law of the State. (emphasis added)

My first knowledge about codification as it pertains to laws taught me that codification was more of a housekeeping measure. Its intent was to clear up language, redundancies, typos, grammar, etc., that sometimes made it difficult to interpret and administer the laws, but never to alter the law. Once statutes have been “codified”, which according to the Maine Constitution appears to have been in 1973, each ten-year term becomes “recodification”.

Wikipedia defines “recodification” this way:

Recodification refers to a process where existing codified statutes are reformatted and rewritten into a new codified structure. This is often necessary as, over time, the legislative process of amending statutes and the legal process of construing statutes by nature over time results in a code that contains archaic terms, superseded text, and redundant or conflicting statutes. Due to the size of a typical government code, the legislative process of recodification of a code can often take a decade or longer.

I think it becomes clear and should be a logical conclusion that the purpose of recodification isn’t to rewrite existing laws; only to clear up any confusions, etc. that make it difficult to understand the law.

And so, with the passage of LD1600 by the Maine Legislature, this is where the MDIFW came up with the statute that they provided in the application for an ITP to the USFWS that included a statewide ban on the use of snares.

As you might expect, this story doesn’t end here. In the “recodified” MDIFW trapping laws, i.e. Maine Statute 12252, Section 2, paragraph A reads: “A. Set or tend a snare for the purpose of trapping any wild animal or wild bird, except as provided in section 10105, subsection 1 and section 12259;” (emboldening added). If we examine the “recodified” MDIFW statutes under section 10105, subsection 1, we see that it tells us that the commissioner has the authority to issue permits to anyone in order to assist in the “taking and destruction of any wildlife”.

However, there is no mention in Statute 12252, of any reference to section 10105, subsection 3, “Coyote Control Program”, which I am under the impression is an attempt to recodify LD237. There exists no other place in the MDIFW statutes any law that resembles LD237 except for what is found in Statute 10105, subsection 3.

But, I’m left here with some of what I am considering serious and troubling problems with this entire procedure and the end results. First, if the purpose of recodification is to clear up confusing laws, errors, etc., one would think that during this process that Maine Statute 12252, Section 2, paragraph A. would have been changed to read: “A. Set or tend a snare for the purpose of trapping any wild animal or wild bird, except as provided in section 10105, subsection 1 and subsection 3 and section 12259;” (I emboldened what should have been added during recodification.)

As far as the laws that govern snaring, doesn’t it make sense that if a law is created that bans snaring and there were exceptions to that ban that all exceptions would be listed? Furthermore, shouldn’t it be expected that this should have been corrected during the recodification process? So was this a mistake by those undertaking the ginormous task of recodification, or something more sinister?

Second, before you answer that last question about the possibilities of something being more sinister, let me get back to something I mentioned before about the only snare-relevant statute included on the application for an ITP was 12252. Why didn’t the application also include statute 10105? The ITP application was drafted, according to dates on the draft, August 13, 2008. Gosh, the recodification and passage of LD1600 took place on June 2003.

The purpose, I am to presume, of MDIFW including the trapping statutes for Maine, is to show the USFWS what Maine’s current laws are that pertain to trapping, including snares so that USFWS officials can better determine how current laws will effect protection of the Canada lynx. The application included 12252, which “exceptions” 10105 subsection one but no mention of subsection three.

Was the omission of Statute 10105, the recodified law about coyote control and snaring an error, or something more sinister? You have permission to attempt to answer that now, however, you might want to read further.

Third, I have one more issue to discuss and bring to light. Above I provided information that I had as it pertains to codification and recodification. I think I made my case that recodification is not a tool to be used to rewrite existing laws, only to clear up discrepancies.

If that be the case, then certainly there is room for debate as to whether the recodification of the laws governing snaring were clearing up discrepancies or rewriting laws.

I am of the opinion that Maine Statute 12252 is a clear attempt at re institution of a statewide ban on snaring as was done in 1929. Maine Statutes in 1929, Chapter 331, Section 44 reads: “No person shall set a snare…..for any fur-bearing animal…”. Statute 12252 reads that it is unlawful to: “Set or tend a snare for the purpose of trapping any wild animal or wild bird”. Other than changing up some non existent and outdated terms and language, the recodification appears cut and dry.

I’m not sure the same can be said about Maine Statute 10105, Section 3, paragraphs A, B, and C. This has to be either an attempt to recodify LD237 or LD237 was stricken from Maine Statutes and this law was inserted in its place. This article is already quite lengthy but I believe it’s imperative to post the following information in order that readers can easily review and decide for themselves.

First, is LD237 passed into law on April 25, 2003:

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

Sec. 1. 12 MRSA §7035, sub-§3, ¶B, as amended by PL 1999, c. 636, §1, is repealed.

Sec. 2. 12 MRSA §7035, sub-§3, ¶B-1 is enacted to read:

B-1. An agent may use snares to control coyotes during winter months under the following conditions.

(1) Agents may use snares only for animal damage control purposes to help meet management goals established by the commissioner for deer, threatened or endangered species or other wildlife species or to benefit agricultural interests as described in paragraph C.
(2) Agents must be trained and certified by the department in the use of snares.
(3) Agents must be deployed by a department wildlife biologist before setting snares.
(4) Agents shall post access points to areas in which snaring activity is taking place, including, but not limited to, roads and trails for motorized vehicles, cross-country skiers or hikers or other obvious travel ways that may be used by people.
(5) An agent shall plainly label snares with the full name and address of that agent.
(6) An agent shall keep an accurate record of the number and location of snares set by that agent and must be able to account for those snares at all times.
(7) An agent shall check that agent’s snares that are equipped with relaxing locks on a daily basis.
(8) Department employees may accompany agents at any time an agent is checking snares.
(9) Agents shall report monthly to the department on forms provided by the department the coyotes and nontarget species taken by snaring during the reporting period.
(10) The commissioner shall revoke the snaring certificate of an agent who violates any provision of this paragraph.

The commissioner shall adopt policies and procedures on the use of snares as necessary to minimize the potential for taking nontarget species and to adequately protect threatened and endangered species.

And the following is Maine Statute 10105, Section 3:

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.

It certainly would appear to me that certain liberties were taken in “recodifying” LD237, if that is what this is supposed to be. While at first glace it may appear that this recodified statute is the same or at least similar to LD237, there is at least one specific qualifier in this statute that does not appear in LD237 and is far more than a clarification of text or outdated language, etc.

The first sentence in subsection “B” above states: “Agents must be trained in the use of snares and must be deployed in the unorganized townships to control coyotes during the winter months. (emphasis added).

In my opinion, this far exceeds what should be considered “recodification” of existing laws. Nowhere in LD237 did it state that snaring can only take place in “unorganized townships” nor was it limited to the winter months.

Granted LD237 gave the authority to the commissioner to formulate a plan which may spell out precisely that snaring will be in unorganized townships and in winter only. However, that was not necessarily the desire of LD237 nor was it even implied, nor is it the point of this article. If the Maine Legislature had intended to ensure that snaring was only going to take place in unorganized townships during the winter, then the bill would have stated such. Whoever rewrote this took the liberty to add in language that didn’t exist in LD237.

The question should become, who authorized or took in upon themselves to rewrite the laws of the state of Maine? Unless the laws in Maine that govern the recodification process are so lenient as to provide for such action, one must be left questioning whether this in an illegal action that needs some serious attention.

It should matter not whether one thinks snaring should or shouldn’t be used. It matters not whether snaring, if used, were to be relegated to unorganized townships. It matters not whether snaring should take place in winter or summer. What should matter is whether or not the recodification process in Maine results in the rewriting of laws enacted by the people of Maine? This cannot be. There has to be some kind of better oversight here, otherwise what confidence do any of us have that every 10 years our laws will get changed and we know nothing about it.

Did the process fail the people or was the failure a result of the process, which includes certain checks and balances or lack thereof? The Maine Supreme Court, via the constitution, is responsible for this undertaking. Were there all the necessary checks and balances done here to ensure no rewriting would take place.

The recoded laws, done by whom I am not sure, then went to the Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Did they read the entire revised statutes or give it a cursory nod that it must be alright? Was there a failure to perform according to the wishes of the people of Maine?

And then it went on to the Legislature in which there was no debate recorded. This should tell us nothing was read and obviously no questions asked. It all appears like a very easy and convenient way to make changes and rewrite existing laws for which most people will never be informed about until one day it might effect them personally.

While recodification may be a great idea and may help in the process of reading, understanding and applying laws, if laws are being rewritten, whether intentional or not, whether allowed by law or not, it can’t be. Something must change. This is a faulty process to say the least.

In my mind, I am left with three very important and unanswered questions:

1. Was it someone’s intent through recodification of the MDIFW statutes to actually alter the existing laws that govern snaring or was it ignorance, lack of proper skills and poor workmanship?

2. Was the omission of Maine Statute 10105 on the application for an Incidental Take Permit from USFWS an error, oversight or was it intentionally left off in order to deliberately deceive anyone reading the application?

3. And during the recodification process was it also intended to NOT make reference to Maine Statute 10105, subsection 3 when the recodification of Maine Statute 12252 was carried out?

Answers to these questions will never come about as there is no way to prove a person’s intent. I feel it is my duty and responsibility to share what I have learned and to ask questions that many of us will also be asking.

If, however, there is intent here somewhere to deliberately mislead the people of Maine through, 1). Using recodification as a tool to rewrite Maine’s laws, and/or 2). intentionally deceive the USFWS in order to achieve an ITP, then I shall have nothing to do with that. Other than exposing what I know, there is no way that I will become partner to any unethical, illegal or deceitful acts in order to obtain an objective that I feel is important.

I hope my efforts have helped some to come to better understand where we are as it pertains to snaring and trapping and its associations with Canada lynx.

Tom Remington

Share

Wolves in Maine – Part VI – (Did Wolves Leave Maine and Why?)

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

In the book “Early Maine Wildlife” – Historical Accounts of Canada lynx, Moose, Mountain Lion, White-Tailed Deer, Wolverine, Wolves, and Woodland Caribou, 1603 – 1930 – by William B. Krohn and Christopher L. Hoving, as the reader progresses through the chronological order in which the book was laid out, a few things become clear in the debate about game animals and predators during this time frame.

For instance, in recent times I have heard information being passed about by biologists within the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and others, that whitetail deer never were abundant in the northern part of the state and that moose and deer did not and could not survive together. In this claim some have said that when the deer moved north, the moose disappeared and/or when the moose were plentiful through the state, the deer were not. Accounts recorded in this book do not show that to be the case at all in my opinion when considering all written accounts. In actuality all three species of moose, deer and woodland caribou existed throughout the state together, at times very plentiful and other times not.

What does become apparent is that the proclivity of more or less game animals, i.e. caribou, moose and deer, was all dependent on the presence of wolves. What remains unsettled is when, if ever, did wolves leave the state of Maine and what was the reason for their exodus?

Most accounts in this book seem to agree that widespread and numerous packs of wolves in Maine had disappeared by the 1860s – 1870s, even though there are accounts of wolf encounters by people into the early 1900s. As is typical even to this day, hunters and trappers reported seeing wolf tracks many times and yet the continuing presence of wolves would not be acknowledged unless someone killed one and brought it out of the woods.

As an example, appearing in the Maine Sportsman, of an account in 1899, an anonymous writer says, “Thaddeus Coffron of Grand Lake Stream, claims to have seen two large gray wolves not long since on Big Lake near the mouth of Little Musquash stream. He walked up within a few yards of them, being armed only with an axe. Their tracks had been frequently seen in the vicinity previously.”

But as appears in “Forest and Stream”, we read this, “Again there are reports of wolves in Maine with their tracks followed by old wolf hunters, who ‘could not be mistaken.’ They do not bring out the trophies, however, and until they do the ordinary individual is inclined to regard their stories in the same light as that of the well-read fable.”

According to the editor of Shooting and Fishing in 1920 the last officially recorded wolf kill happened in Andover. “The report of the State Treasurer of Maine for 1895 shows that there was one wolf killed in the state during that year, for which a bounty was paid. This single specimen was killed in Andover, and is said to be the only wolf killed in Maine for many years.”

The editor further accounts that even though there may be a stray wolf killed sometime into the future, his “trustworthy sources” believe the wolf is “practically extinct” in New England.

What we don’t know for certain is why the wolf became “extinct” or “practically extinct” in Maine and New England. We have been led for decades to believe that the wolves were all shot, trapped or poisoned by man. Accounts in the book don’t seem to readily agree with this hypothesis nor does it that the caribou were killed off due to uncontrolled hunting.

As was recorded in the Maine Sportsman for the year 1900, a man who worked as a log scaler in the Penobscot region and traveled by foot as far away as 60 miles between lumber camps tells of his observations. “During the whole winter we saw no deer and but few moose, the entire absence of deer being due to the wolves with which the woods were overrun. Caribou we saw everywhere and I plainly remember that one day, coming out upon them trailing along in single file was a herd of 17 caribou.”

However, the scaler’s recall of what was once is soon become reality as he wonders where the caribou went. According to several writings in this book, deer, moose and caribou had once been reduced drastically, probably from a combination of predators and uncontrolled hunting. When the wolves disappeared, the deer and moose recovered and caribou for a time before it is believed, for whatever reasons, they just migrated out of the state. Perhaps they were simply tired of being harassed by predators, including man.

F. E. Keay writes in 1901 that wolves were the “most dreaded” of wild animals and that by their nature were found to be “ferocious and cunning” and did “incalculable” damage to livestock. In dealing with these large predators, Keay describes the effort this way: “They traveled in companies, sometimes of ten or twenty, and were caught or killed only with great difficulty.”

As I have pointed out in other parts of this review of wolves in Maine, the majority of reports all seem to agree that wolves were quite prevalent in Maine until around the year 1860, in which most also agree the wolf simply left the state with the exception of pockets of areas where some packs remained. While it is inarguable that the efforts of hunters and trappers, in conjunction with bounties being paid over 130 years and more, a sizable dent was put in Maine’s wolf population but evidence from these accounts can support the notion that this was not the cause of the final “extinction” of wolves in Maine.

While some accounts in this book of “Early Maine Wildlife” say that wolves for the most part left on their own, coinciding with a time in which many accounts tell of very little game, i.e. moose, deer and caribou, this would support the theory that large predators, like the wolf, will move into an area and essentially devoid it of prey and then move on. We seem to see that here, although several wolves and packs remained behind until the late 1800s when “trustworthy sources” declared the wolf “practically extinct”.

In having a better grasp of more recent coyote/wolf history in Maine, we discovered that it was not long after the wolf had become “practically extinct” that what was called the eastern coyote began populating the region. I recall in the 1960s seeing a stuffed eastern coyote that had been killed in Maine. This version of coyote was approximately 30 pounds in weight. This is a far cry from the more abundant sizes of coyotes now present in Maine, commonly reaching 50 -70 pounds in size.

It has been determined that what roams today’s forests in Maine and are commonly referred to as coyotes, are actually some concocted conglomeration of mixed breeds of wolf, coyotes, and domestic dog. It became common knowledge after the influx of eastern coyote into Maine that this varmint, perhaps because of a very small migrating population, interbred with “wild” dogs or domesticated dogs left to run unrestrained. No one is sure of how the wolf mix got into these animals.

It has been theorized that what was once called the gray wolf in Eastern Quebec, Canada, began migrating or random scatterings of these wolves, entered northern Maine and as such resulted in the inbreeding of the already inbred coyote/dog.

Considering the evidence provided in “Early Maine Wildlife” one has to honestly consider that given the relatively short period of time from when “trustworthy sources” declared the wolf in Maine “practically extinct”, that some of those earlier wolves remained behind and began breeding with the migrating coyotes.

It would be intellectually dishonest not to consider all the facts in educating ourselves to the changes of wildlife, including predators and large game animals and use them to better be able to effectively manage these species. It is reasonable to consider that man’s efforts to eradicate, – and make no bones about it, that was their intent – was not wholly what drove wolves out of Maine. If this is the case, then it would be beneficial to gain facts and knowledge to understand what events total caused this to happen.

Share