Maine Trappers Association September 2009 Report

President — Dana Johnson Sr., 115 Thompson St.,
Wells, ME 04090; phone: 207-646-5467
Vice President — Dave Wilson, 76 Drummond Rd.,
Sidney, ME 04330; phone: 207-458-0590
Secretary — Pat Favolise, 115 Farnsworth Rd.,
Columbia, ME 04623; phone: 207-483-4779
Treasurer — Joe Powers, 352 Carvell Rd.,
Mapleton, ME 04757; phone: 207-765-0236
Editor — Gary Sewell, 262 Lake Rd.,
Monticello, ME 04760; phone: 207-538-0945
Membership Director — Ted Perkins, 1826 Hudson Rd., Hudson, ME 04449; phone: 207-947-5109
Legislative Liaison — Norm (Skip) Trask, P.O. Box 265, Readfield, ME 04365; phone: 207-685-4643
NTA Director — Brian Cogill, 416 Moulton Hill Rd., Parsonsfield, ME 04047; phone: 207-793-4605

Membership Options:
• Regular with The Trapper & Predator Caller subscription — $31
• Supporting with The Trapper & Predator Caller subscription — $36
• Junior (under 16 years) with subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller — $16
• Family (up to 2 adults and all children under 18 yrs.) with subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller — $34
• Regular lifetime (under age 65) — $235
Plus $11 per year for subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller
• Senior lifetime (65 yrs. and older) — $110
Plus $11 per year for subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller

Complete membership application on first page of
association section and send dues to:
MTA Membership Director
Ted Perkins
1826 Hudson Rd., Hudson, ME 04449

EDITOR’S REPORT

Wolf Expert Testifies For Plaintiffs In Lynx Lawsuit

The trial to resolve Maine’s lynx related lawsuit began at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, April 13. The stakes were high. The outcome would determine what, if any, further concessions Maine trappers would be required to make in an effort to keep lynx out of legally set traps. The plaintiffs in the case, the Wildlife Alliance of Maine and the Animal Welfare Institute, called their first witness. Their immediate goal? To bring an end to land trapping in the northern half of the state. Their ultimate goal? To outlaw all trapping.

Dr. Paul Paquet is no stranger to the witness stand. He has testified as an expert witness in other wildlife related trials and has sided repeatedly with animal protectionists. It took several minutes for him to detail the credentials that qualify him as a wildlife expert. Although he testified about having trapped in his younger days, his terminology was not consistent with someone intimately familiar with traps, and, under cross-examination, his knowledge of modern trapping techniques appeared to be very limited. Based on his testimony, he is strongly opposed to the use of traps for both fur harvesting and research. In spite of his personal bias against trapping, his qualifications are quite impressive.

Dr. Paquet lives in Saskatchewan. He holds a PhD in zoology from the University of Alberta. He worked as a biologist for the Canadian Wildlife Service for many years. He is an Adjunct Professor of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary, where he supervises graduate student research. Dr. Paquet is Senior Ecologist with the Conservation Biology Institute and Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

He is a long-time fellow of World Wildlife Fund Canada. He was one of the architects of the World Wide Fund for Nature and the European Union’s Large Carnivore Initiative. Dr. Paquet has written more than 100 scientific articles and reports and published several books on the behavior, ecology and management of wolves. He appears to be much more knowledgeable about canines than felines.

Dr. Paquet was on the witness stand for one full day and part of another. Much of his testimony focused on the stress related impact of lynx being captured in traps, both cage traps and footholds, by both trappers and researchers. Although acknowledging that stress is very difficult to measure, Dr. Paquet testified that stress related damage to lynx from being caught in traps would negatively impact their ability to hunt, to reproduce and to survive. He also testified that the death of only a few lynx, in a population of more than 500 animals, could negatively impact the entire population’s ability to sustain itself.

Motion Denied, Answer The Question!

The plaintiff’s second and final expert witness was Ms. Camilla Fox. She testified as a representative of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). Under cross-examination, Ms. Fox made it clear that the connection between her and Mr. Dejoy, executive director of WAM, does not include marriage. She described their relationship as “partners”. There had been rumors that the two had “tied the knot” after working closely together in the previous lawsuit where Ms. Fox was employed as an expert witness by the Animal Protection Institute (API).

I’m not sure how Ms. Fox qualifies as an expert witness in this lawsuit. Her expertise is based almost entirely on various studies she has “ferreted out” that support her anti-trapping agenda. Most of her testimony consisted of her reading into the record portions of studies that were conducted by someone else. I wasn’t impressed with her testimony, and I don’t think she said anything that was detrimental to our case. If anything, she may have helped us.

The plaintiffs have insisted from the beginning that this lawsuit is about protecting lynx and not about trying to end trapping. In cross-examining Ms. Fox, Assistant Attorney General Chris Taub asked the following question, “Ms. Fox, isn’t it true that you are opposed to all recreational trapping?”

The room went quiet, and the expression of the witness appeared similar to that of “a deer caught in the headlights.” After what seemed like minutes, but was probably only seconds, the plaintiff’s attorney jumped up and objected to the question as being irrelevant. The motion was overruled, and the judge instructed Ms. Fox (more than once) to answer the question. Eventually, after further discussion and a repeat of the question, Ms. Fox testified that if it were up to her, all recreational trapping would be stopped.

Dr. Ken Elowe Testifies On Behalf Of The State

I heard a lot of good witnesses during my law enforcement career, but I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anybody do a better job under very stressful circumstances than the State’s only expert witness, Dr. Ken Elowe.

His credentials are very impressive, and he has a tremendous amount of practical experience dealing with wildlife. Dr. Elowe gave direct testimony for the better part of one day and was cross-examined relentlessly for most of another. His knowledge of the Maine lynx situation was far superior to the previous witnesses, and, in my opinion, he discredited much of the testimony given by Dr. Paquet.

When testifying about the stress related impacts on lynx from having been held in traps, Dr. Elowe cited case after case where collared lynx trapped in Maine dozens of times, in both cage traps and footholds, as part of the ongoing lynx research project, continued to exhibit good health and produce healthy litters year after year after year. One of these ’cats has been caught more than four dozen times over a four-year period and has produced four litters of kittens. The animal appeared to be healthy and in good condition each time it was handled.

Time Runs Out – Case Continued!

Both the plaintiffs and the defendants had previously assured Judge Woodcock that four days would be more than adequate to complete this trial. Wrong! At the end of business on Thursday, the fourth day, Dr. Elowe was still on the witness stand being “grilled” by the plaintiff’s attorney. We (the MTA and the other interveners) hadn’t even started with our testimony. We were out of time, and the judge’s calendar was full for the next several days. Consequently, we all went home with the understanding that the trial would be continued later in the summer.

We have since been notified that the trial will resume at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, June 29, and continue through July 1, if necessary. As a result, by the time this newsletter reaches you, the trial will probably be over. When we resume, the Plaintiff’s attorney will finish her cross-examination of Dr. Elowe. We (the interveners) will present our case, consisting of direct testimony from Maine trappers and from Dr. Craig McLaughlin, a wildlife biologist who conducted much of the early lynx research in Maine. Our witnesses will be cross-examined, and then both sides will be allowed to call witnesses back to the stand for rebuttal testimony.

Attorneys will get one last chance to sway the judge during closing arguments, bringing the trial to an end. It may then be several more days, or possibly several weeks, before Judge Woodcock issues his decision. I’ll give you the “rest of the story” in the October newsletter.

MTA Gets Outstanding Legal Help

It’s amazing what can be accomplished when we all work together. During the earlier Maine lawsuit that was settled in 2007, the MTA received a tremendous amount of help from our friends who joined us as interveners in that case. In addition to the MTA, interveners included the US Sportsmen’s Alliance, Fur Takers of America, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the National Trappers Association.

The USSA alone spent upward of $200,000 in legal fees. Their attorney, Jim Lister, came to Maine to argue on our behalf and did an outstanding job! In the end, we walked away with a negotiated settlement (Consent Decree) that has allowed us to continue to trap in lynx habitat with most of our existing equipment. Yes, we were forced to make concessions that have negatively impacted some trappers, but it could have been much worse. The reason we fared as well as we did was a direct result of the financial help and legal assistance we received from our friends.

Heading into the current lawsuit, the MTA decided that we were done trying to negotiate with these fanatics and would go to trial. The US Sportsmen’s Alliance came through again and sent Jim Lister back to Maine to continue providing us with top-notch legal representation. The terms of our agreement with the USSA was that the MTA would pay all the costs of our local attorneys. The length of the trial has made it an expensive proposition for us, and the MTA has already spent more than $16,000 in legal fees. The USSA is again taking on substantial costs, and Fur Takers of America continues to support us every step of the way.

In addition, the National Trappers Association has come through for us in a big way during this lawsuit. Their attorney, Gary Leistico, did a lot of the legal work getting us ready to go to trial, and the NTA flew him to Maine to participate. Gary is from Minnesota. He is a trapper and a member of the Minnesota Trappers Association. He and Jim Lister worked together on a similar lawsuit in Minnesota that was resolved last year. Gary and Jim have now joined forces here in Maine to continue to fight for the rights of trappers. The MTA, USSA, FTA and NTA, all working together, are a formidable force.

Whatever the outcome of this lawsuit, I don’t know of anymore we could have done or how we could have done it any better. Trappers in Maine and across the nation have every reason to feel proud. Please support your state trapping associations and the three national associations that stand ready to come to the assistance of trappers whenever and wherever we need them!

Legislative Session Ends – Little Impact On Trappers

The First Regular Session of the 124th Maine Legislature came to an end in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 13. There were few bills submitted this session that would have directly impacted trappers. The biggest hurdle was a bill submitted by Senator Nutting (LD 457) that would have given towns the authority to shoot beaver found in the act of plugging culverts and flooding roads. The MTA strongly opposed this bill. We were successful in getting a unanimous “ought not to pass” committee vote on this legislation, killing it immediately. We may not be as fortunate the next time around — read more about nuisance beaver problems later in this article.

A bill dealing with the placement of coyote bait (LD # 138), as originally written, would have been a nightmare for trappers. However, as I reported in the April newsletter, we were able to get the objectionable language removed, and trapping will not be affected. The amendment language that replaced the original bill was enacted and signed into law. For those of you who hunt coyotes over bait, this is how the new law is worded:

— “Bait site” means the place where the bait has been placed and the immediate surrounding area.

— “Bait” means an animal or plant or a part of an animal or plant used to attract wild animals for the purpose of hunting. “Bait” does not include a derivative of an animal or plant in a liquid or paste form, including but not limited to urine or commercially prepared lures or scents.

— A person may not place bait unless the bait site is plainly labeled with a 2-inch-by-4-inch tag identifying the name and address of the person establishing the bait site.

— A person may not hunt at a bait site established by another person unless that person has permission from the person that established the bait site.

— A person placing bait may not leave the bait or bait label at the bait site and must clean up the bait site immediately after the landowner requests the removal of that bait or, if not requested by the landowner, within 20 days from the last day the bait site was hunted over by the person that established the bait site.
(Note: The above requirements do not apply to the placement of bait on the ice of inland waters and do not apply to bear baiting. Bear baiting is already highly regulated and the bear baiting laws did not change.)

Also for you coyote hunters, another bill was enacted to provide additional opportunity to hunt coyotes at night. LD # 54 was sponsored by Representative Howard McFadden of Dennysville and was signed into law on April 21 (Public Law, Chapter 46). Effective this year, the night hunting season for coyotes will open on Dec. 16 (previously Jan. 1).

LD # 164 would have required the operator and passengers in any type of watercraft to wear a Coast Guard approved Type I, Type II or Type III personal flotation device. The MTA strongly opposed this bill. The bill died in committee when it received a unanimous “ought not to pass” committee vote.

Fees Increase Substantially – Resident Trapping Unchanged

Heading into this legislative session, it appeared that the Fish and Wildlife Department might have to lay off nearly three-dozen employees, including wardens and biologists. In an attempt to avoid most of these lay offs, the budget submitted by the Governor for the two-year period (beginning July 1, 2009) contained an increase in fees for all licenses and permits issued by Fish and Wildlife. The increase would have applied equally to residents and nonresident — a $2.50 increase in 2010 and another $1 in 2011.

The Fish and Wildlife Committee didn’t like that formula, so they put together their own budget for the Department. The fee increases they proposed included a $2 hike on resident hunting, fishing, archery and combination licenses (other resident licenses and permits would have stayed the same), a $6 increase on nonresident hunting, fishing, archery and combination licenses and a $2 increase on all other nonresident licenses and permits.

The Appropriations Committee has the final say on what goes into the budget. They liked the concept used by the F&W Committee, but they felt that additional revenue was needed to keep the Department operating efficiently. As a result, they further increased the fees. Those increases have now been enacted into law as part of the state budget and will go into effect on Jan. 1 of 2010.

The increases, which will allow the Department to operate without any lay offs, are as follows: (a) resident hunting, fishing, archery and combination license fees will go up $4; (b) all other resident licenses and permits (including trapping licenses) will remained unchanged; (c) nonresident hunting, fishing, archery and combination license fees will increase by $12; and (4) all other nonresident licenses and permits will go up $7.

In addition, registrations for all motorized watercraft will increase by $5, with the entire increase going to the Fish and Wildlife Department. Snowmobile registrations for residents will also go up by $5, all of which will go to the Department of Conservation for maintaining snowmobile trails. Finally, beginning this fall, the fee for tagging a moose, deer, bear or turkey will increase to $5. (Fur tagging fees remain unchanged.)

Governor’s Super Agency Goes Down In Flames!

In 2006, when seeking re-election, the Governor told us that he was opposed to merging the Fish and Wildlife Department into a large natural resource agency. His words at the time were, “I have said repeatedly over the past four years that departments like Inland Fisheries and Wildlife may be small by comparison to other state agencies, but they serve large and distinct constituencies that deserve, and have reason to expect, that they will have an agency whose focus is on their interests and needs.”

Two years later, we listened in disbelief as the Governor announced, in his televised State of the State speech, that the supplemental budget he was about to submit would include a directive that the four natural resource agencies be merged into “not more than two” larger departments.

The MTA worked with the other members of the Natural Resources Network to defeat that merger. In the spirit of compromise, however, we agreed to support the creation of a Governor’s Task Force to look at all the natural resource agencies and develop recommendations for improving the services that these agencies provide.

Many of us even agreed to serve on this Task Force with the hope that we could help bring about some changes that would benefit Maine people. In the end, after a tremendous amount of work by a lot of dedicated people, our efforts failed. The Task Force was unable to reach consensus on a major restructuring plan. The one thing that most of us did agree on was that throwing all the natural resource agencies into one big pot was a bad idea.

Contrary to what you might think, the story doesn’t end there. More than halfway through the session (in mid-April), the Governor submitted emergency legislation to merge the four natural resource agencies into one super agency. His bill (LD # 1453) would have combined the Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Conservation, Agriculture and Marine resources into the Department of Natural Resources. The effective date of this proposed merger was July 1, 2009. Unbelievable!

I found it very troubling that this Administration insisted on trying to merge the natural resource agencies even after it became abundantly clear that the people who would be most affected do not want it. The Administration preaches about the need to protect the things that make Maine unique and, at the same time, appears obsessed with discarding four unique state agencies that are extremely import to Maine people. It’s pretty unique for a trapper and his son to be able to walk into the office of the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and discuss trapping issues.

Long story short — the MTA and the other members of the Natural Resources Network turned out in force to oppose this merger. Our Network consists of fourteen organizations that rely on Maine’s land and water resources for both business and recreation. Our interests cover a broad array of pursuits from trapping, guiding and snowmobiling, to hunting and fishing, to growing salmon, potatoes and blueberries, to harvesting forest products and lobsters to producing fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

We have a combined membership of more than 65,000 people and enjoy a lot of political clout. We opposed the Governor’s plan, and Maine lawmakers listened. For the second year in a row, efforts to merge the natural resource agencies have been soundly defeated.

Debate Continues About Removal Of Nuisance Beaver

Unfortunately, the debate about who should be allowed to remove nuisance beaver is far from over. Several large landowners came very close to submitting a bill this past session to allow landowners to shoot nuisance beaver in situations where significant damage to a company road is imminent. However, because of the positive relationship between the MTA and the forest landowners, we were able to keep the issue out of the political arena, at least for now.

The MTA worked with landowners, the Forest Products Council and the Fish and Wildlife Department in hopes of collectively resolving most of the “emergency” beaver problems along company roads. The proposed solution is a liberalization of the Department’s depredation policy regarding beaver and increased assistance from MTA members in targeting problem beaver through more lenient trapping rules.

We still have a ways to go to get everything in place. However, if things go as discussed, beaver trapping season in a handful of WMDs, those with the most problems, would open at the same time as the early canine season (about two weeks earlier than in the past). In addition, the setback distance from houses and dams in those areas would be liberalized or eliminated. At the same time, foresters would be given depredation permits to remove beaver that are posing an immediate threat to the integrity of a company road.

There will obviously be some objections to these changes. Some trappers won’t think they are necessary, and some regional wildlife biologists have already voiced their concerns. The bottom line is this — if these measures are not implemented, there will be another bill submitted to the Legislature next winter.

It will force a public fight between trappers and landowners, something that, in my opinion, should be avoided at all costs. If a bill is submitted, it will be a tough for us to defeat it. Remember, beaver is the only animal in the state that cannot be killed when found doing damage to property.

If we force this battle, not only will we jeopardize our positive relationship with some of the landowners, but, if we lose, beaver will be fair game to anyone with a shotgun who doesn’t want their woodlot flooded or their maple trees chewed down. To me, this is a “no brainer”! The Department needs to get these changes in place as soon as possible.

Have an enjoyable summer!

— Gary Sewell

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