June-July 2006 Editor’s Call
By Paul Wait
Wisconsin Opens Up to Nonresident Trappers
For the first time, nonresidents will soon be allowed to legally set traps in Wisconsin.
In April, Gov. Jim Doyle signed into law a bill to permit out-of-state trappers to trap Wisconsin furbearers. The law took effect immediately, so nonresidents can trap in Wisconsin this fall.
As legislation goes, the new law figures to have minimal impact on the state. It’s doubtful that more than a few dozen nonresidents will trap in Wisconsin, because the new law has a reciprocity clause attached, which excludes Minnesota residents from trapping in Wisconsin. Minnesota and South Dakota do not allow nonresidents to trap.
“We don’t anticipate a lot of nonresidents wanting to come to Wisconsin to trap,” said John Olson, furbearer ecologist for the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
Fiscal estimates for the law put the expected numbers of nonresident trappers at 10 to 20 per year when fur prices are low, and 30 to 40 when fur prices are high. Wisconsin’s numbers were based on nonresident trapping licenses issued in other states.
“In Illinois, when fur prices were low, they sold zero to two licenses, and when prices were high, they sold 10 to 12,” Olson said. “But we have species to trap that Illinois doesn’t — fishers, bobcats and otters.”
Opponents of nonresident trapping have expressed concern that Wisconsin could become a trophy trapping state if it allows nonresidents to trap fishers, bobcats and otters — which are regulated by a limited-permit-draw system.
The new law allows Wisconsin to “impose greater or stricter limitations on trapping by nonresidents than on trapping by residents.”
The state could limit the number of tags allotted to nonresidents for fishers, bobcats and otters, or even make trapping those species off-limits, Olson said.
“We’re wrestling with that right now,” he said. “The direction we’re taking is to allow nonresidents to apply equally with residents.”
If Wisconsin has separate pools of tags for residents and nonresidents, it could turn out that nonresidents would have an easier time drawing a tag, Olson said.
For example, if 30 otter tags were set aside for nonresidents and only 10 non-residents applied, each would draw three otter tags. Meanwhile 2,000 resident trappers applying for 1,000 otter tags would result in only half drawing one tag, while the others did not draw a tag.
“We felt that system would not be fair,” Olson said. “It’s hard to determine what percentage of tags to allocate to nonresidents until we know how many nonresidents will apply.”
License fees and trapper certification requirements are likely to discourage many nonresidents from trapping in Wisconsin. A nonresident trapping license will cost $149.25, and all trappers must have completed Wisconsin’s trapper education course to purchase a license — no matter their years of experience or certification in another state.
In addition, Wisconsin imposes separate $3 application fees for fishers, otters and bobcats. In recent years, trappers could expect to draw a bobcat tag every fourth or fifth season, and depending on zones, an otter tag every other season. Fisher tags have been easier to get, with most trappers drawing a tag each year.
“It’ll take a serious, committed trapper to travel to Wisconsin with the fees and expenses involved,” Olson said. “It may take a year or two of planning for a nonresident to be ready to trap in Wisconsin.”
Supporters of the new law point out that Wisconsin trappers will benefit because they will now be allowed to trap in states with reciprocity clauses in their nonresident trapping laws.
“That was the driving force behind the law,” Olson said. “Wisconsin trappers discovered the doors in other states were closed because Wisconsin didn’t allow nonresident trapping.”
However, it appears Wisconsin trappers will not be able to trap in Michigan as a result of the new law, nor will Michigan residents be allowed to trap in Wisconsin.
Michigan law allows nonresident trapping to residents from states that provide equal opportunity. Because Wisconsin does not have a pine marten season and regulates otters, fishers and bobcats through a permit draw, Michigan doesn’t view it as equal opportunity.
“I’ve talked with Michigan, and they’re going to review our law,” Olson said. “They may change their opinion, but as it stands now, Michigan will not allow Wisconsin trappers.”
But Wisconsin will welcome nonresident trappers from most states this year. If you decide to come, as a fellow trapper from Wisconsin, I bid you good luck.