Legislative News

James Cote, Legislative Liaison 
for the Maine Trappers Association. 

by James Cote

First, let me say that it is an absolute pleasure for me to join the Maine Trappers Association as your legislative liaison. Many of you may know me in my work as campaign manager for the Save Maine’s Bear Hunt/NO on1 campaign. However, what you may not know is that I have been working with the Association for many years. In the early part of my career I worked often with MTA’s Skip Trask on the development of the Natural Resources Network, and many individual wildlife issues - not the least of which was on beaver issues in the north country. I’ve also worked closely with other groups such as SAM and MPGA and the Maine Forest Products Council - all organizations that we must work with closely in the months ahead.

In the coming months, I’ll be working on some very specific objectives:

Attend and monitor DIFW Advisory Council meetings and make sure that MTA has an effective voice

Work closely with DIFW to strengthen our partnership

Develop and strengthen relationships with legislators

Work closely with partners such as SAM, MPGA and others to make sure that our collective voice is as strong as possible at the Legislature

Advocate strongly for MTA on issues dealing with lynx and bears

Communicate with members about issues that impact them

The Legislature will begin its work on January 7th and by the time you are reading this I will have already been to the most recent Advisory Council meeting and working on a variety of different issues for the Association. I look forward to reporting back to you the progress that we make.  
The issues that we will face in the coming months will be intense, diverse, and likely a bit entertaining in some cases as well.  Of course, recent focus on bear trapping and the new lynx issues will pose serious questions for us, and we must be diligent in our work to make sure trapping opportunities are protected. I hope I can count on you to contact policymakers when the time comes to make sure they understand impacts to trappers in Maine, and vote accordingly.

Happy New Year!

Best Regards,

James Cote

The Maine Trappers Association is working closely with SAM, MPGA, the US Sportsmen's Alliance and legislators to develop a strategy to proactively protect sportsmen (trappers) from abuse of frivolous ballot initiatives in the future. At this point, many bills are still in the Revisor's Office, and will likely not be scheduled for public hearing until later this month or sometime in April. 

James Cote, MTAs Legislative Liasion, is watching this conversation closely. Because there are several bills that each take a different approach, it will be critical to coordinate our efforts with other groups. We should note that any effective measure will likely take weeks and months of preparation to pass, and then would require a 2/3 vote of the Legislature, and a majority vote of Maine's electorate. The timing of these bills must be carefully planned. 

We will continue to keep members updated as our legislative strategy crystalizes in the following weeks. In addition, the bill to ban the use of dogs and trapping for bears has still not been scheduled. We realize these are both keystone bills for MTA and will send you more information as it becomes available. You can be sure MTA will be aggressive on these fronts. Please contact James Cote at jmcotecompany@gmail.com with any questions. 

Legislative Update:

Things have been relatively quiet in Augusta on the trapping front, but we are working diligently on two items in particular. First, a public hearing was held on Tuesday in the IFW Committee on two bills that sought to end hunting bears with dogs, and one seeking to end hunting bears with dogs and bear trapping. I spoke in strong opposition to these pieces of legislation on behalf of MTA, as did Don Kleiner from the Maine Professional Guides Association and David Trahan of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine. In support of the legislation were Katie Hansberry of the Humane Society of the United States and a few members of the public who supported the YES ON 1 campaign last fall. These bills were largely viewed as dead on arrival, but after the hearing, there is no doubt that they stand no chance of passage. George Smith did a good recap of the hearing and you can read it here: http://georgesmithmaine.com/articles/georges-outdoor-news/may/2015/ugly-and-personal-bear-debate-legislature-today

On another note, we have been diligently working on constitutional amendments to protect hunting, fishing, and trapping from the ballot initiative process in the future. I want to be clear that even though all of these bills will likely not succeed this session, some good things are happening. Changing the constitution is a very difficult thing to do, and requires 2/3 vote of both the House and Senate. Because we do not have the votes this year, we are asking the Legislature to take up the issue next year, which will give us the summer and fall to have more discussions with legislators. That's ok because Maine's outdoor community does not have the resources we need to win an issue like this at the ballot this year, so having this discussion next year is more favorable for us anyway. The worst thing that we could do is lobby the amendment successfully in the Legislature and then lose in the election because we don't have the resources. HSUS has relayed that if this issue did get to the ballot they would lead the fight in opposition—so we know it would be a well funded campaign.

I suspect the rest of the session will be relatively quiet for us, although I do spend a significant amount of time in the IFW Committee monitoring issues that may impact trapping.

Lynx Update:

I attended the IFW Advisory Council meeting last Wednesday. No major news to report. The Department reported to the Advisory Council about the work we have done over the last several months and alerted them to the fact that they would present a written draft of the trapping proposals for next season at their meeting in June. MTA anticipates that we will see this proposal in written form in coming days and will keep you apprised of any new developments. I know that you are all anxious to see what the dimensions for the exclusion devices will be, as well as what the proposed regulations themselves look like.

As you all know, we continue to participate in the Friends of Animals lawsuit against the DIFW. We are doing this in partnership with the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and the National Trappers Association. As I reported at the spring meeting, that case has been transferred to Maine from the Massachusetts courts, which is a very good outcome for us. We suspect it will still be months before the issue is heard before Judge Woodcock.

IFW has been having some productive discussions with the USFWS in regard to the current lynx listing status. We anticipate that IFW will be invited to participate in some discussions with other states in coming weeks about the current status of lynx—and I think that has the potential to be very positive for us. I will continue to keep you posted on this.

Maine Wildlife Conservation Council Update:

MWCC continues to organize and raise funds for two purposes: 1) to make sure that we have a solid base of resources in case HSUS does bring another referendum in 2016, and 2) to raise resources to fund a campaign to pass a constitutional amendment campaign that would protect hunting, fishing, and trapping, and wildlife management from the ballot initiative process forever. We could really use some help in helping us to meet our 60 day goal of raising $100,000. Please visit www.mainewildlife.org and donate today if you haven't already.

Have a great weekend.

James Cote
MTA Lobbyist 
 AMEND CHAPTER 4.01, (G. 2-A; J and K) AS FOLLOWS:

4.01 Upland Game and Furbearing Animals

G. Open Seasons for the Hunting and Trapping of Furbearing Animals

2-A. Early Fox and Coyote Trapping Season Statewide

There shall be an early fox and coyote trapping season statewide beginning on the Sunday 2 weeks prior to the           opening of the regular fall trapping season and extending through the day prior to the opening of the regular fall           trapping season. Any raccoon, skunk or opossum taken incidental to fox and coyote trapping may be lawfully               possessed. During this early trapping season, except as provided in this section, it is unlawful to take or possess any furbearing animal other than fox, coyote, raccoon, opossum and skunk. Any other furbearing animal caught incidentally in a fox or coyote set must be immediately released alive, or, if found dead in the trap, must be reported to a game warden as soon as possible and prior to removal of the animal from the trap and trap site location. Any such incidental catch found dead in the trap must be turned over to an agent of the commissioner within 48 hours from the time it was discovered

During this early fox and coyote trapping season, in addition to department rules and state laws which affect trapping in general, the following restrictions also apply;

a. Killer-type traps are prohibited;
b. Traps may not be set in the water;
c. The use of exposed bait or visible attractor at any trap site location is prohibited.

J. Size of Traps

Animals may be trapped with any common ordinary steel trap except that in Wildlife Management Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11, no foothold trap (also known as a leghold trap) may be used that has an inside jaw spread of more than 5 3/8 inches, except that a foothold trap with an inside jaw spread of more than 5 3/8 inches may be used if it is set so as to be fully or partially covered by water at all times. Inside jaw spread is the distance, with the trap in the set position, from the inside center of one jaw (at the dog) to the inside center of the opposite jaw when measured directly across the center of the pan and perpendicular to the base plate. Killer-type traps with a jaw spread not to exceed 8 inches may only be used, as provided in paragraph K. During the open season on beaver it shall be lawful to use a killer-type trap with a jaw spread larger than 8 inches if, when set, placed and tended, the trap is completely under water. Killer-type traps shall include so-called Conibear traps and all other traps of that type. It shall be unlawful to use any trap with teeth on the jaws unless when set, placed and tended, the trap is completely covered with water.

It shall be lawful to trap furbearing animals with a common cage type live trap, except that in Wildlife Management Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11, no cage trap which has an opening of more than 13 inches in width or more than 13 inches in height may be used unless the cage trap is being used (1) for wildlife research and survey activities; (2) for the removal of animals that are causing damage to property; or (3) to capture bear. Cage traps also include suitcase-type live traps, such as Hancock traps. The setting of suitcase-type live traps during the recreational beaver trapping season is prohibited except under the authorization of a Regional Wildlife Biologist as part of the Department’s Animal Damage Control program. These traps must be set with the bottom portion in the water, and with the opening of the trap facing away from land.

Furbearing animals may be trapped with so-called colony traps having outside dimensions no greater than 7 inches high by 7 inches wide by 40 inches long, only if set so as to remain completely under water at all times.
Furbearing animals may be trapped with so-called egg traps, duffer traps and all other traps of that type that are designed primarily to catch raccoons and avoid incidental catches of other animals.
Wooden-base rat traps may be set on land for weasel and red squirrel trapping if recessed in a wooden box with a hole no larger than 2 inches in diameter.

K. Location of and Preparation for Traps

No person shall stake, hook, fasten or position a trap at any trap site location in the fields, forests or waters of the State prior to the opening day of the trapping season.
No person shall make any advance preparation on the trapping grounds for the taking of beaver or muskrat previous to the open season on these animals.

No person shall use meat or fish as bait in trapping for beaver.

Except as provided herein, no person, except an agent of the Commissioner, shall place, set or tend any traps (i) within 10 feet of a beaver house, muskrat den or house, (ii) within 5 feet of a beaver dam, or (iii) within 4 feet of a beaver trap that has been set by another trapper. In Wildlife Management Districts 1, 2, 4, 8, 9, and 10 there is no required setback distance from an active beaver dam. In Wildlife Management Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 there is no required setback distance from a beaver house.

Steel foothold or killer-type traps must not be set within 50 yards of bait that is visible from above. Bait may be used for trapping if it is completely covered to prevent it from being seen from above, and it must be covered in such a way as to withstand wind action and other normal environmental conditions. Bait is defined as animal matter including meat, skin, bones, feathers, hair or any other solid substance that used to be part of an animal. This includes live or dead fish. For the purposes of this paragraph, bait does not include animal droppings (scat), urine or animals, dead or alive, held in a trap as the result of lawful trapping activity.

Steel foothold traps must not be set above ground or snow level.

Steel foothold traps must have a chain that is mounted within the central portion of the base of the trap, and must have three swiveling points, with one swiveling point at the base of the trap, one midway in the chain, and one at the trap’s anchoring point. These restrictions do not apply to foothold traps that when set, placed, or tended are fully or partially covered by water, those that are set on a muskrat “float”, or dog-proof traps (also known as Duffer traps).

In WMD’s 1-11, 14, 18, and 19, foothold traps must be securely anchored to the ground. The use of drags is prohibited in these WMD’s. Foothold traps must have the catch circle cleared of woody vegetation, debris and manmade material that could cause entanglement of a trapped animal. Small sticks and rocks, and rotten/decaying woody material may be used for stepping guides, blocking, and backing for trap sets, if they are not rooted to the ground. A catch circle is defined as the area that can be circumscribed by the outer edge of a trap when the trap and trap chain are fully extended and moved in a circle (360°) around the anchoring point. These restrictions do not apply to foothold traps that when set, placed, or tended are fully or partially covered by water, those that are set on a muskrat “float”, or dog-proof traps (also known as Duffer traps).

No person may set, place, or tend any killer-type trap unless:

1) set completely underwater except or

2) killer-type traps with an inside jaw spread not to exceed 5 inches may also be used under the following conditions:

(a) when set so as to be partially covered by water at all times, or
(b) when set under overhanging stream banks, or
(c) when used at blind sets defined as –

any set designed to catch a wild animal, without the use of bait, lure or visible attractor, by intercepting the animal as it moves naturally through its habitat. Bait, lure and visible attractor do not include animal droppings (scat) or urine.

Notwithstanding the previous paragraph, in all Wildlife Management Districts killer-type traps with a jaw spread not to exceed 8 inches may be used on or above ground level if the trap is placed within a lynx exclusion device. The trap jaws must be completely within the device, the trap springs can be outside of the device. Exclusion devices will have the following designs:

(1) For traps with a jaw spread less than or equal to 5 inches (primarily used for marten trapping), the device must have an opening of 4 x 4 inches or less. The entrance hole may be placed on the end or on the side of the device, and the set trap must be a minimum of 18 inches from the closest edge of the entrance hole.

(2) For traps with a jaw spread greater than 5 inches but less than 8 inches, two designs may be constructed. The first design has an entrance hole on the end of the device that must not exceed 5 x 6 inches. A baffle must be placed no more than 6 inches back from the entrance hole and must not have an opening greater than 5 x 6 inches. With the baffle in place, the entrance hole and interior opening may not overlap to create an unobstructed view to the interior of the exclusion device.

For the second design the entrance hole must not exceed 6 x 7 inches and must be placed on the side of the device. A baffle must be placed at the edge of the entrance with the baffle opening opposite of the entrance hole, and the hole must not exceed 6 x 6 inches.

For both devices the trap must be placed no closer than 18 inches from the closest edge of the entrance hole. An example design is included in the annual Trapper Information Booklet.

The exclusion device can be constructed of wood, plastic, or wire mesh. If using wire mesh, the mesh cannot exceed 1 ½ by 1 ½ inches, or 1 inch by 2 inch openings, (side to side). The wire mesh has to be 16 gauge or less (wire diameter of 0.05 or greater). The opening slot in the exclusion device that allows the trap springs to extend outside the device can be no more than 7 ½ inches wide and a height of no more than 1 ½ inches. The back of the device must be secured to withstand heavy pulling; if using wire mesh with a wood or plastic box, the wire mesh must wrap around two opposite sides of the box and be secured. There must be at least 1 attachment point for each side of the device where a joint or panels come together. The opening slot in the exclusion device that allows the trap springs to extend outside the device can be no more than 7 ½ inches wide and a height of no more than 1½ inches. The trap must be anchored outside of the exclusion device. Bait must not be visible from above. When enclosed in an exclusion device, killer-type traps can be set directly on the ground, or elevated in trees or on poles, with no specific requirements as to the height above ground or diameter of the tree or pole.
The following is the text of the law changes for 2015.  Click on LAWS & TRAINING for a link to this information in a printable version.
Dear Members, 

Click here for a proposed rule making brief to extend the fisher season in non-lynx WMDs. MTA has been supportive of this change for some time. 

The public hearing for this rulemaking will be the evening of August 28 in Augusta at the Arboretum. I am waiting for final details on time. We would love to have members participate in the hearing, and stand in support of this proposal. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at jmcotecompany@gmail.com.