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Regulated trapping is a useful way for biologists to collect information on wildlife biology and diseases. Trapping can control and remove nuisance animals and indirectly benefit other species, particularly threatened or endangered wildlife. Live trapping can be used to reestablish or increase wildlife populations. In Maine, trapping has long been considered a traditional use of public lands, but now Maine residents are questioning the role of trapping in their wildlife management programs.
Maine is the only state that allows trapping as a hunting method during bear season. However, this November, and for the second time in a decade, Mainers will decide if the hunting rules need to change. A November referendum asks residents if all trapping should be banned.
Anti-hunting groups that want to ban trapping in Maine believe this practice is cruel and scientifically indefensible. However, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) believe a trapping ban would deplete the state’s tourism revenue. Many people visit Maine to trap and hunt and they often hire guides to lead them on these outdoor experiences. Additionally, resident and non-resident license fees go directly back to the MDIFW and support wildlife management and conservation efforts.
Trapping is an activity mainly used for furbearing species that are abundant or overly abundant in their habitats. It is managed by each state’s Department of Fish and Game, with harvest seasons and bag limits in place. Licensing is necessary to be a trapper, and there are strict standards in place. Seasons only last a few months and are hardly ever in spring or summer when animals are caring for their young.
Within Maine’s Wildlife Management Districts, trappers help biologists collect and evaluate data and fine-tune management recommendations. Better refinement of wildlife population management leads to increased hunting opportunity and harvest for species. Since 1975, the bear population has grown in Maine by 253%.
Furthermore, threatened and endangered species benefit from regulated trapping. Efforts of trappers and local wildlife managers have aided in the reintroduction of the river otter throughout America’s river systems. Revised management strategies, cooperation between trappers and state biologist and a multistate reintroduction effort have restored the river otter to much of its historic range. The trapping and transporting of live river otters into new habitats has kept the population thriving and sustainable.
Although some people may see trapping as an archaic tradition, to many others it is a lifestyle that defines them and has a deeper meaning and aide in wildlife management. This is an integral part of their life, and is an enduring element of their relationship to nature and link to the land. Trappers tend to have strong support for conservation programs and environmental protection. SCI Foundation wants the best solution for wildlife, and hopes that whatever Maine decides ensures that policies are producing the best management plans with strong science-based practices. Trappers are an important part of wildlife management, not to mention the best person to have if you’re ever lost in the woods.
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