By Michael Bielawski
This Thursday a third public hearing on new rules for trapping and coyote hunting will take place, at least 34 speakers will give their take. A proponent of trapping says his opponents want “death by a thousand cuts” for the practice.
The Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR), which is tasked with writing up the new rules due to legislation signed into law in 2022, will host. The current proposals for trapping can be read here.
Trapping in particular elicits strong sentiments from both proponents and opposition. Chris Bradley, president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsman Club, is on the list and he spoke with VDC by phone on Monday morning. He suggested the opponents of trapping are chipping away from the practice.
“As my opposition would say, their goal is death by a thousand cuts, and every time they can make a cut or establish a rule that didn’t exist previously they feel that they are winning,” Bradley said.
Bradley said that he remains confident that LCAR will focus the rules to allow for trapping to continue, which is the legislative intent of Act 159 passed by lawmakers last year.
“The fact of the matter is trapping continues and what started as a ban is the legislature’s acknowledgement that trapping is an integral part of population management, there are benefits and it’s necessary,” Bradley said.
More than a dozen anti-trapping speakers are lined up to speak first on Thursday, Bradley noted. He said that they can make their statements but LCAR is bound by legislative intent to make sure that trapping is allowed to continue.
“So that raised concern from our side,” Bradley said. “We were like wow what’s going on here? Someone made the wrong conclusion that they were invited in, they weren’t. This was in my opinion my opposition’s last gasp at having a forum to attack trapping and to a lesser extent coyote hunting with dogs.”
A concern is that some of the current proposals include rules that could become confusing and/or prohibitive. For example, they will attempt to regulate where traps can be placed in relation to trails.
Bradley noted that just to define what accounts for a “trail” in Vermont’s vast wilderness could prove to be a dubious task. The current proposal is traps must be 50 feet from trails that appear on the Vermont Agency of Transportation highway maps.
The current language notes the challenges of addressing the trail policy.
“There is no existing research to dictate the appropriate distance, and different user groups have different opinions on what constitutes an appropriate setback distance. This makes the issue more complex than simply applying an existing standard or asking the stakeholders to find consensus among themselves,” the proposed rules state.
Another issue the rules may tackle will concern the threat that these traps pose to pets.
“A lot of those rules really came from those opposed to trapping, they wanted to end trapping so they were using any argument they could come up with including trapping of pets,” Bradley said.
He said estimates ranging from 12 to 18 pets have been captured by traps, of which at least three have died. Bradey said it’s important to keep in perspective the millions of hours that traps collectively are set in Vermont.
He said that cars or coyotes each likely kill significantly more pets than traps do. He also said it’s important to consider if the pet was unsupervised at the time and/or if the trap was set improperly.
Massachusetts has banned trapping, but the result may not be what was intended. Instead of trapping going away, it continues in The Bay State only now it’s less regulated than before.
“They banned trapping and there’s now more animals being taken by traps because they [the animals] are doing damage than there ever was under legal trapping,” Bradley said. “And one of the bad things about this is we are trapping nuisance animals off-season instead of reducing the numbers in season, it amounts to wanton waste.”
The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle