By Anne Crimaudo, NoSnare Task Force
There are few harder ways to die than slowly strangling to
death in a wire neck snare, yet every winter, from December through March,
the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W)
pays trappers to set snares to reduce the coyote population. The
reason? Coyotes are
viewed as competition for hunters eager to kill whitetail deer. Coyotes
do prey on deer during harsh winters, but wildlife biologists agree
natural predators like the coyote are necessary in order to maintain
a healthy deer herd and ecosystem.
In reality, the coyotes are being blamed for the
fluctuating numbers of deer, while the real reasons, like the unrestrained
clear-cutting of Maine’s northern forests, widespread poaching and the
limits of the whitetail deer’s natural range are ignored.
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The irony is that the program doesn’t even work. Coyotes,
who are amongst the most adaptable species in the world, have responded to
all attempts to reduce their numbers by an increased birth rate – females
bearing litters earlier and producing more and larger litters.
Yet despite testimony from biologists (including the
state’s own biologists!) that snaring is ineffective, despite an outcry from
the public that snaring is cruel and inhumane and editorials from the
state’s major newspapers that the program should be disbanded, the
legislature has refused to act. Two bills were introduced in the last
session: one which would end the snaring program, and one which would ban
the snare altogether. When they came before the powerful IF&W committee,
which is made up heavily of hunters and trappers, not only did the bills not
pass, one of them was actually amended to “improve” the snaring program.
After passing out of the committee this farce of a bill passed both the
House and the Senate, although encouragingly for the future of the coyotes
and other wildlife, not by overwhelming margins.
The hunting and trapping lobbies in Maine are still
powerful, but are starting to lose ground as the public becomes more
informed about the facts of the wildlife killing industry.
Rather than wait for the legislature to respond to the
wishes of the people instead of special interest groups, a group of citizens
called the No-Snare Task Force has filed a lawsuit against Maine
on violations of the Endangered Species Act. Neck snares are non-specific,
killing many animals other than just their intended targets, including
endangered species such as lynx and bald eagles. The Task Force
documentation that proves that both lynx and bald eagles have been killed
by neck snares in Maine, although since the system relies upon
report nontarget catches, the numbers are probably much larger than
As of this writing, the state has temporarily halted the
snaring program. Maine’s Attorney General is filing an application for an
“incidental take permit” and a Habitat Conservation Plan with the US Fish & Wildlife
Service. This will be published on the Federal Register for public comment
for a period of 60 days, probably no earlier than February 2004.
The NoSnare Taskforce can be reached at:
Contact them to keep abreast of developments and see
what you can do to end the use of the neck snare in Maine permanently.