- Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board
Please oppose an extended otter trapping season!
Vermont residents! Please sign to oppose the trappers' request to extend otter trapping season in Vermont.
Protect Our Wildlife has been fighting a trapper's proposal, which seeks to expand bobcat and otter trapping seasons, since last fall. Thankfully, the trapper's request to expand the bobcat trapping season was denied (by a narrow margin), but both the Fish & Wildlife Department and Board - that's comprised of all hunters/trappers - support expanding the otter trapping season through the end of March.
Many of us would prefer to not see otters trapped at all. Otters are typically trapped in body crushing traps known as Conibear™ traps and their fur is sold at auction, likely ending up in Russia and China. Otters are listed in the Department's Wildlife Action Plan as Species of Greatest Conservation Need, meaning that there are new threats to the future of their populations and need to be closely monitored.
The Department states on their own website that the current season, which ends last day of February, is in place due to concerns over killing birthing otters in March, thereby placing their pups in danger. Expanding the trapping season through the end of March benefits one party - trappers - who pay licensing fees to the Department and who are heavily represented on the Board.
POW represents members who are biologists, wildlife photographers, avid kayakers, wildlife educators and many others who value the presence of otters on our waterways, yet our interests are routinely ignored while the interests of those who trap seem to take priority.
Thank you for taking action!
- Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board
Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board
Re: Trappers’ Petition to Change Furbearer Rule
Dear Members of the Fish & Wildlife Board:
I am writing to you on behalf of the hundreds of POW supporters who have written you since last year to oppose the trapping petition. Our supporters have also shared varied concerns at the three public hearings, with public opposition to the petition heavily dominating the last public hearing in Saint Albans.
We’d like to share the results of POW’s petition, which in just five weeks gathered 4,832 signatures, with 1,010 of them being Vermont residents. Coupled with the most recent poll performed by UVM’s Center for Rural Studies that reveals 75% of Vermont residents want to ban trapping altogether, these measures should tell you that the general public wants change.
There are a multitude of reasons to deny this petition, including the lack of data needed for the Department to come to a reasoned conclusion on the number of otters present in the state and the impact that the proposed rule would have on these vulnerable animals. For example, the Department has no reliable data on otters that are trapped out of season under 10 V.S.A. §4828, “wild animals doing damage.” Further, the Department has admitted that trappers have not faithfully returned surveys, which further calls into question the reliability of data obtained from surveys. Experts, including scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, who specialize in otter conservation, have also spoken out in opposition to the proposed rule. All of this leads us to believe that the proposed rule is rooted in trapper convenience – the petitioner himself admitted that modifying the trap’s trigger during the month of March is “cumbersome.”
To say that this proposed rule change has anything to do with improving animal welfare is unprincipled. If animal welfare were truly a concern, then the Department and Board
would be seeking long overdue changes to current trapping regulations, or lack of regulations. In Vermont trappers may stomp on, bludgeon, suffocate, strangle, drown and shoot a trapped animal. There are virtually zero regulations pertaining to how a trapped animal must be killed, again an apparent nod to trapper convenience. Further, the use of drowning traps are commonly used to catch and drown multiple semi aquatic animals at once. Where are the Department’s welfare concerns here? Instead of showing a photo of an empty leghold trap during Ms. Royar’s presentation at the otter hearings, perhaps it would’ve been more honest to show a video of animals drowning in legholds, Conibears and other types of traps or a video of a trapped frightened bobcat in a leghold, like the one that was shared by POW with the Board months ago. If we’re going to talk trapping at these hearings, it should be done honestly and transparently and that was not accomplished during Ms. Royar’s presentation. Many members of the public left those hearings feeling like the Department and the Board were trying to dupe them.
You have received testimony from Vermont scientists, biologists and also testimony from well-respected, northeast otter expert, Dr. Thomas Serfass, urging you to not extend the season. You have received testimony from Vermont residents who share concerns over new threats to otter populations from the effects of climate change to water pollution impacting otter reproduction. Others have urged the Department to shorten the beaver season to end in February as it did back in 2007 so it again runs concurrently with otter season. The Department was challenged on its lack of alternatives to remedy the perceived problem they seek to fix by extending the season, such as requiring certain Best Management Practices during the month of March. It is clear that the only ones who want to extend trapping are the trappers, and an institutionalized ideology that caters to trapping interests.
We would also like the Board and Department to consider the attached letter we sent with suggestions to improve the trapper mail survey. The survey, in its current form, leaves room for inaccurate reporting and doesn’t capture vital information including incidental takes. We also urge the Department to seek unbiased, objective methods of gathering data on furbearers including sign surveys, scat analysis at latrine sites, telemetry and other options to afford more accurate, unbiased studies. The 21st century offers so many innovative and groundbreaking ways to monitor the health of wildlife without having to rely heavily on trapper-sourced data.
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