Maine Trappers Association November 2010 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

— Linda Bridges, 93 Arundel Road, Kennebunkport, ME 04606; phone: 207-967-4237

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


MTA Rendezvous Continues To Grow

The 2010 Rendezvous went very well. The Capital Area Chapter of the MTA is to be commended once again for pulling everything together. The weather was perfect, trappers showed up in good numbers and vendors seemed to be selling lots of supplies. For those of you who missed it, you missed a really good time! Be sure to mark your calendar for next year’s event. It will be held at the same location – the Silver Spur Riding Club in Sidney. This great location is easy to find, is just a couple of miles from the Interstate and has lots of room for expansion. There are acres of great tent and camper sites, with hookups for electricity and water. If it were my call, I’d hold the Rendezvous at this same location every year.

As more trappers and vendors discover what a great location this is, more will plan bring their families and camp out there for the entire 3-day event. My hope is that the MTA Rendezvous will eventually draw crowds that compare favorably with those at the annual Trapper’s Weekends hosted by Neil Olson in Bethel. Neil started out pretty small, but after 34 years of holding his event at the same time of year in the same location, Neil now draws fantastic crowds. I believe the MTA can do the same if we keep at it.

Trappers Compete For Leadership Roles In The MTA

I don’t ever recall having multiple candidates actively campaigning for the top MTA positions, but that’s what happened this year. As a result, we actually had a wooden ballot box set up at the MTA booth. We gave members all morning to go to the booth and cast their written ballot for President and Vice President. We then had to hold a second round of voting in the afternoon to break a tie vote for the Vice President’s position. I found it very encouraging that trappers are actually competing for these positions. That can only be viewed as “good news” for the future of the MTA. It wasn’t too long ago that we almost had to drag somebody into these positions. Not anymore! And I believe a lot of the credit for the renewed enthusiasm belongs to the man who has decided to step down as president after many years on the job.

Dana Johnson Decides To Take A Breather

Dana Johnson has worked his “butt” off for the rest of us trappers for more than a decade. He served four years as Vice President before moving into the top slot where he has worked diligently on our behalf for the past nine years. And it hasn’t been easy! Dana has guided the MTA along a path that has been filled with obstacles. He has worked tirelessly on numerous issues that threatened the future of trapping in the State of Maine. Here are a few of the threats that emerged during Dana’s “watch”: (1) the listing of the lynx by the Feds as a threatened species; (2) the elimination by the Baldacci Administration of the coyote snaring program; (3) the 2004 attack on our bear harvesting methods by the Humane Society of the United States and Maine Friends of Animals; (4) the lynx related lawsuit brought by the Animal Protection Institute that was resolved by a consent decree; (5) the more recent lawsuit brought by the Animal Welfare Institute and the Wildlife Alliance of Maine that was settled in our favor last fall by Judge John Woodcock; (6) the appeal of Judge Woodcock’s decision by the plaintiffs to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. In addition, Dana has almost single-handedly revamped Maine’s trapper education program. He’s also worked very closely with me in helping to defeat numerous bills in the Maine Legislature that would have outlawed trapping or seriously restricted our trapping privileges. I hated to see him step down, but I also, perhaps better than anyone else (except Cindy!), know how much he has given. He’s long overdue for a “breather”. To use the words he frequently used at our Board meetings and elsewhere, Dana, “you’ve done one hell of a job!”

Wagner And Wilson To Oversee MTA Operations

Dan Wagner is the new President of the MTA. Dan is an avid trapper. He’s young, aggressive, ambitious and full of new ideas. His first Board meeting, as President, will be in December. It should be both interesting and fun.

Dave Wilson was voted in for another term as Vice President. Spend a little time around Dave, and you’ll quickly realize how important trapping is to him. Dave has already proven, after several years as Vice President, that he has good ideas and common sense.

I believe that Dan and Dave will function well together and that, under their leadership, the MTA will continue to prosper and grow. I’m looking forward to working with them in the coming months as we strive to do what’s best for the MTA membership and the future of trapping.

Oral Arguments In Lynx Lawsuit Appeal

It was nearly a year ago that Judge Woodcock issued a decision in Maine’s second lynx related lawsuit. He ruled in favor of the defendant and defendant interveners and against the plaintiffs. In a nutshell, he found that the small number of lynx taken incidentally by trappers does not pose a threat to the lynx population.

Shortly after that decision was handed down, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Wildlife Alliance of Maine filed notice that they were appealing Judge Woodcock’s decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. The plaintiffs hired a new law firm from Washington DC (Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal) to handle their appeal. On February 22nd of this year they filed their opening brief with the Court of Appeals. Their “brief” consisted of 127 pages. We (interveners), as well as the State, filed responses to the plaintiff’s brief at the end of March. In August, we received word that the Appeals Court would hear oral arguments pertaining to this appeal on September 8, 2010.

At 4:30 AM on September 8th, I met Don Dudley in Augusta. We drove to Portland and then traveled by bus to Boston. Dana Johnson and Brian Cogill took the train from Wells. We all met at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse and spent some time conferring with our attorneys, Jim Lister (USSA) and Gary Leistico (NTA). We were soon joined by the two attorneys representing the State, Chris Taub and Nancy Macirowski (from the Attorney General’s Office). We then spent the entire morning in the courtroom. There were six cases on the docket, and ours was the last. Although the Court consists of six full time judges, cases are usually heard by a panel of three. The three judges selected to hear cases on September 8th were Chief Judge Lynch , Judge Boudin and Judge Howard (a woman and two men).

The oral arguments in our case lasted only about half an hour. The plaintiffs (appellants) went first and were allowed 15 minutes. The defendants (appellees) also had 15 minutes, so we had agreed with the State ahead of time that we (trappers/interveners) would use the first 5 minutes and the State would have the remainder. There was a time clock on the podium counting down the seconds. When 15 minutes had elapsed, a buzzer sounded and you were finished. As it turned out, neither side got much chance to give their prepared arguments.

Most of the time was spent in responding to specific questions raised by the judges, who each asked several questions. Based on questions and comments from the judges, however, we were able to get a feeling for how things were going. Jim Lister did the talking for us and Chris Taub spoke on behalf of the State. Both did an outstanding job.

All told, it didn’t appear that any of the three judges was especially sympathetic to the plaintiffs (appellants). A couple of their comments appeared to indicate support for at least portions of Judge Woodcock’s decision. Other comments seemed to indicate a feeling by at least one of the judges that the State has done a good job in providing information and adopting rules to better protect lynx from incidental takings.

I spent a lot of my earlier life around courtrooms, but this was a completely new experience for me. I wouldn’t dare bet on the outcome of this appeal, but I know I left the federal courthouse in Boston feeling pretty good about our chances of having Judge Woodcock’s decision upheld. The only thing we can do now is wait. It may be several weeks, or possibly months, before we hear anything more. As soon as we get a decision, I’ll get the information out on our website as soon as possible and will follow-up in greater detail in the next newsletter.

The Ongoing Saga Of The Incidental Take Permit

The “blame game” continues over why the State still hasn’t received an Incidental Take Permit for lynx from the Feds. A communication written by Mark McCollough, Endangered Species Specialist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, explains the current status of the ITP. His communication was distributed via email the day prior to the oral arguments in the lawsuit appeal. Here it is:

“September 7, 2010”

“To: Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Wildlife Alliance of Maine, Animal Welfare Institute”

“From: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5”

“Concerning: Status of the State of Maine’s Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) application”

“Prior to the September 8, 2010 hearing in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service wishes to be clear for the record concerning the status of the State of Maine’s HCP application. We are still working on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document. Once we complete preparation of the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) (which still requires Solicitor review and resolving any issues identified), we will obtain clearance to publish a notice in the Federal Register, provide a public comment period (possibly 90 days), compile and analyze public comments, work with the State to revise the HCP, revise the draft EA accordingly, and obtain final approval of the permit.”

“Preparation of the EA has taken a long period of time and has been difficult because the draft HCP submitted by the State does not satisfy the permit issuance criteria. Also, as is always the case, we must balance this work with many other competing priorities.”

“We can’t predict when the permit will be issued. However, we are confident we will not be able to issue it before or during this coming trapping season.”

I’m not sure why this communication was written the day before the oral arguments or who requested it. I’d be willing to bet that the plaintiffs asked Dr. McCollough to write it, but I could be wrong. We didn’t even know it existed until we received a copy of it from the plaintiff’s attorneys at 9 PM the night before the hearing. In my opinion, part of this communication was designed to make it appear that the State is the “bad guy” in the negotiations between the Feds and the State in trying to work out the details of an ITP. (Go back and take another look at the second paragraph of Dr. McCollough’s communication.) The plaintiffs made sure that the three judges hearing the appeal got to see this document.

I found it interesting that Dr. McCollough addressed his communication to the Department, to WAM and to AWI and didn’t have the courtesy to even mention the Maine Trappers Association or the other intervening organizations that represent trappers. I’m sure he’d say it was an oversight, but I suspect otherwise. I have copies of several email messages, memos and other documents in my files that were written by Dr. McCollough over the past several years regarding his views on what steps he thought the Department should take to keep eagles and lynx from being accidentally caught in traps and coyote snares. There are several things contained in those documents that, in my opinion, demonstrate an obvious bias against trappers and trapping. It also appears that he may have an “axe to grind” with his former employer (IF&W) or at least some of the individuals who work or used to work there.

I’m currently getting material together to be submitted to the USFWS and Maine’s Congressional Delegation as part of a formal complaint about the way this ITP application has being handled. (If the MTA Board decides to take that route.) In my opinion, there is no reason for this application to have been delayed this long except for intentional “foot dragging” by those who hope to use the ITP to micro-manage our trapping practices or don’t wish to see the ITP issued at all. This malarkey about blaming state wildlife biologists for the delay has gone on way too long and we’re not buying it!

Covered Muskrat Floats To Be Legalized

By the time you read this report, I’m just about certain that it will be legal to use foothold traps for muskrats on covered floats after the end of March in areas that are open to beaver trapping. The Department is in the process of making that change, and the only additional thing that needed to happen at the time I was finishing this report was Advisory Council approval. As most of you know, we’ve been trying to get this done for several years. In each of the last two years, I’ve petitioned the Department on behalf of the MTA to implement this change, including some possible language they could use to define “covered float”. The Department used some of the language I suggested, made changes to other parts and added some new stuff. I’m not in complete agreement with all of it. On the other hand, I applaud them for legalizing this effective method of trapping ‘rats in the spring and suggest that we go along with what they have proposed for the time being. After we’ve given it a try for a year, we can suggest changes that we think are necessary and/or desirable. Here’s the Department definition of “covered float” as it looked just about a week before the Advisory Council voted on it:

“A covered float is defined as a float completely covered on the sides and top with hardware cloth, screen, or other similar material, having a mesh size no greater than 1/2 inch square. Access to the float will be limited to openings at the extreme ends of the float and the openings will not exceed 7 inches in height, or 14 inches in width. The use of exposed bait or visible attractor on covered floats is prohibited. Only one trap may be placed per float; the trap must be recessed 3 inches or greater from any opening in the cover; the trap chain or wire must be at least 3 feet long; and the maximum foothold trap size for covered floats sets will be No. 1 1/2.”

Department Fixes Mistake on use of Footholds for Winter ‘Rats

Last fall when the F&W Department filed the 2009/10 beaver trapping rules with the Secretary of State, some of the language related to the winter trapping of muskrats was mistakenly left out. As a result, we inadvertently lost the use of foothold traps for taking muskrats during January, February and March. When I brought the error to the attention of Mark Stadler, Director of the Wildlife Division, he took responsibility for the mistake and promised to fix it prior to another trapping season. He has done that. The rule changes that will soon be approved by the Advisory Council contain language that will restore the use of footholds for muskrats from the end of December through March 31st in areas open to beaver trapping. Here’s the amended section:

“After the close of the Regular Trapping Season, muskrats may still be trapped, but only in those areas that are open to beaver trapping. After March 31, in those Wildlife Management Districts open to beaver trapping, muskrat trapping is restricted to 1) killer-type traps and colony traps, which must be set to remain underwater at all time; or 2) foothold traps on “covered floats.”

Nuisance Beaver Continue To Frustrate Landowners

A depressed fur market, along with high gas prices, has dramatically reduced beaver trapping effort in the more remote areas of the State. Beaver numbers are not being controlled in those areas and beaver problems are escalating. Last year, in an effort to increase the beaver harvest, the Department opened the beaver season in mid-October in these areas to coincide with the start of the special canine season. In theory, fox and coyote trappers running their lines along paper company roads will harvest many of the roadside beaver if the beaver trapping season is also open. To make it easier to catch these problem beaver, the Department also eliminated (in certain WMDs) the rule that’s been in place for ages requiring that traps be set at least five feet away from active beaver dams.

Trapping for beaver in mid-October runs counter to the MTA’s long-standing opposition to harvesting un-prime fur. However, the significant increase in nuisance beaver problems in remote areas of northern Maine, exacerbated by dwindling trapper effort, was adequate justification for what we considered to be extreme measures. As a result, the MTA supported those changes.

Things don’t seem to have improved a whole lot. If anything, the nuisance beaver situation has probably gotten worse, at least in some places. In other areas, trappers are extremely concerned about the continued removal of large numbers of 2-year old beaver during late March and April. Those young beaver are very vulnerable at that time of year. They’ve left “home” and are traveling widely in search of a place to start a new colony. Beavers don’t have a lot of natural predators, except man, and sometimes live for as many as twenty or so years if not taken before that by a trapper. The concern is that continued removal of large numbers of two-year-olds will eventually decimate the population. That’s certainly something that our furbearer biologist needs to keep a handle on. For the time being, however, we need to find ways to encourage trappers to take more beavers from many areas.

Otherwise, either the state or the landowner will be paying someone to kill these animals at times of the year when the fur is worthless. That’s a terrible waste of a valuable resource, and trappers are continually complaining about what they consider to be excessive removal of problem beaver by landowners during the summer and early fall. On the other hand, trappers have not, to this point, been able to keep the beaver population in check even though we have a six-month trapping season.

Department Continues To Liberalize Beaver Trapping Rules

This year the Department has taken additional steps to try to make it easier for trappers to catch more beaver in remote areas. WMD 5 has been slated to open to trapping in October. In addition, the Department has eliminated (in WMDs 1 through 6) a rule that’s been in place for decades requiring that traps be set at least ten feet from beaver houses. This change, at the time I wrote this report, was still awaiting Advisory Council approval, but I can’t imagine the Council will have a problem with it. At our annual fall meeting at the Rendezvous, MTA members had an opportunity to discuss these changes and were nearly unanimous in supporting them. At the same time, the MTA stressed to furbearer biologist, John DePue, the need to monitor the beaver situation on a statewide basis and keep the beaver harvest at an acceptable level in each of the WMDs.

Set-Back Distances From Beaver Dams Remains Same

Last year the Department eliminated (in WMDs 1, 2, 4, 8, 9 and 10) the 5-foot setback from active beaver dams. Part of their rational for choosing those particular districts (in addition to trying to increase the beaver harvest) was to try to determine if removal of the setback requirement would significantly impact the otter harvest. Depending on what happens, we may soon be able to set traps on active beaver dams throughout the state. To me, this is a pretty big deal when you consider how long it took us to legalize the setting of traps on abandoned dams.

When they put this “experiment” in place, their plan was to try it for two years. As a result, that change will remain in effect for the upcoming season in WMDs 1, 2, 4, 8, 9 and 10, and only those six WMDs. That makes things a bit complicated, and trappers will need to know for certain which WMD they are in when setting traps and which setback requirements (if any) still apply. It seems to me that it would have been much simpler to retain both setback requirements in each WMD or get rid of both of them, but what do I know? That’s probably something we should try to get straightened out before the 2011/2012 season. In the meantime, know where you are trapping and know which rules apply!
Department Adopts 2010/2011 Beaver Trapping Rules

Unless something unexpected happens when the F&W Advisory Council adopts the beaver trapping rules for the upcoming season, here are the rules that will be in place:

WMDs 1, 2, 4, 5, October 17 – April 30

WMDs 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, .November 1 – April 30

WMDs 18, 19, 28, November 1 – April 15

WMDs 7, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, December 1 – March 31

The 5-foot setback from beaver dams is not required in WMDs 1, 2, 4, 8, 9 and 10.

The 10-foot setback from beaver houses is not required in WMDs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Have a safe and enjoyable trapping season!!!!!

— Norm (Skip) Trask

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