3/30/2017 news from the MN state capitol on the bill to require landowner permission to trap (HF 1924 / SF 1390):
On 3/29/2017, MN Sen. Jacob Isaacson brought the bill to the Senate floor as an amendment to the omnibus environment & natural resources finance & policy bill, SF 723. It passed on a voice vote.
On 3/30/2017, MN Rep. Peter Fischer brought the bill to the House floor as an amendment to the omnibus environment & natural resources finance & policy bill, HF 888. Unfortunately, it failed 58-76 on a roll-call vote.
The following members of the MN House voted to require landowner permission to trap on private property:
The following members of the MN House voted to continue to allow trapping without landowner permission:
The bills from which these amendments originated (HF 1924 / SF 1390 and HF 1931 / SF 9) have significant bipartisan support, including authorship by Republicans and co-authorship by Democrats.
The next step for the omnibus bills (HF 888 / SF 723) will be a conference committee to resolve the differences between the House and the Senate versions. The good news is that this issue of requiring landowner permission to trap will be one of the differences to be resolved; which means that, at least, the issue continues to be presented to MN legislators, it's being talked about and considered, and it's that much closer to passing into law.
MN Representative Peter Fischer presents the A33 amendment to HF 888 on 3/30/2017 to require landowner permission for trapping on private property.
This is an excerpt from the full video recording.
There is testimony pro and con. Representatives Considine, Pinto, and Masin speak in favor. Representatives Cornish, Drazkowski, Loonan, and Fabian speak in opposition. The amendment fails 58-76 on a roll-call vote.
This is an excerpt from the full video recording.
All of the testimony (including support from Senators Hoffman, Housley, Eaton, and Hawj) is in favor of the amendment. Senator Ingebrigtsen accepts it as a friendly amendment, and it passes on a voice vote.
Last month on the show Your Legislators (Pioneer Public TV 2017b), four members of the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives discussed some of the issues of the day, including the following question from a viewer in Brainerd, MN.
Before examining their responses, let's review the history of the question, the perspectives of the stakeholder groups, the ethics of trapping, and the role of the state legislature in resolving issues like this.
Ever year beginning in 2012, the call to protect dogs from body-gripping traps has been brought to the public, the Minnesota Trappers Association (MTA), the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance (MOHA), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR), and the Minnesota Legislature.
Here are a few of the milestones:
Here's a summary of the DogLovers bill SF 1325 / HF 1655 (Hoffman and Fischer 2015):
Limit the uses of medium to large-sized body-gripping traps to the following:
Add the following requirements to protect dogs from traps:
Paraphrased from the Minnesota Trappers Association (MTA 2012):
Minnesotans are represented at our state capitol in Saint Paul by legislators who make, revise, and repeal laws on our behalf. Laws are necessary in cases where two or more stakeholder groups disagree about what should be allowed, and what should not. When a dispute is brought to legislators, they try to hear both sides. They confer with experts on the issue; for example, wildlife and trapping experts at the MN DNR. The experts weigh the testimony from both sides with their knowledge of the subject area, and they make recommendations to legislators about how the dispute might best be resolved. It might be resolved in law or in rule; or through improved public education; or outside of the legislature, through mediation or the courts.
Of course, legislators do what they can to help all of the stakeholders reach consensus, because that's generally the most effective and enduring way to resolve disputes. But even then, the consensus might be that a law or rule should be established. And even then, when it comes to a vote, it's not likely to be unanimous. Most issues are decided by divided votes, and many are returned to the legislature in later years for reconsideration.
Rarely will all of the stakeholders come to a consensus outside of the legislature, agree to what's needed in legislation, and abide by the legislation that's passed. In fact, if that happened more, there wouldn't be much need for a legislature.
Of the several guides to the legislative process that are provided by the Minnesota Legislature (MN Legislature 2017), none of them advises stakeholder groups to resolve their differences outside of the legislature. To the contrary, they describe the process of resolving differences through the legislative process: beginning in committee hearings, information is gathered by legislators, agencies, and staff, testimony is taken from stakeholder groups for or against the proposed changes, votes are taken, and bills are recommended to the full legislature.
In other words, if someone tells you that you should "resolve your conflicts before bringing them to the legislature" he's probably an opponent who's trying to avoid the issue.
Considering the above history, stakeholders, trapping ethics and regulations, and role of the legislature, let's examine the responses of "Your Legislators."
The moderator of the show, Barry Anderson (Pioneer Public TV 2017a), stated the question "When will the Minnesota Legislature protect our dogs from body-gripping traps?" He made personal introductions including the history of trapping in each legislator's district, and each legislator's experience with the issue. Finally, he left them on their own to answer--without asking any follow-up questions.
Sen.Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) stated the importance of AnimalDamageControlTrappers to farmers, and the right of RecreationalTrappersEthical and RecreationalTrappersLegal to pursue their pastime and supplement their incomes (as their predecessors have done in the great history of the North American fur trade). He ignored the problem of dog deaths, and ignored the concerns of the other stakeholder groups.
Sen.Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) recounted his experience in trapping, and implied that, since the problem doesn't lie with RecreationalTrappersEthical, that they shouldn't be restricted by a "one size fits all" solution to enforce trapping ethics on RecreationalTrappersLegal. He ignored the problem and the concerns of the other stakeholder groups, and failed to offer a solution that he might find more flexible.
Sen.Thomas Bakk (D-Cook)--without identifying himself as a lifetime member of the MN Trappers Association and an opponent of the DogLovers bill--suggested that the only way to bring the issue to a workable resolution would be for the stakeholder groups to work out their disputes outside of the legislature--and to bring their consensus to the legislature if there was a need to "enact something into law." He ignored the history of efforts to find solutions by consensus, ignored stakeholder groups other than RecreationalTrappersEthical and AntiTrappers, and attempted to cast the AntiTrappers stakeholder group as 1) lacking in credibility and 2) driving the issue (apparently as part of its "thinly-veiled plan to ban all forms of trapping").
Again, it should be noted that the Minnesota movement to protect dogs from body-gripping traps has been driven by the group Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN (DogLovers), representing the stakeholder groups RecreationalTrappersEthical, HuntingDogOwners, and HikingDogOwners. The DogLovers group represents hunters, trappers, and other outdoor recreationists; and is fiercely independent of the anti-trapping movement.
Sen.Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) began by explaining that she didn't know anything about trapping. That might have been an appropriate point to stop talking--except that it wouldn't have sounded so "decisive" as repeating what Sen. Bakk had said about resolving disputes outside of the legislature.
This is how politics fail: 1) evidence is either stressed or ignored, depending on whether it supports a party's preferred conclusions, 2) undecided legislators vote according to their political alliances, 3) premature conclusions are made with an air of "decisiveness," and 4) the discussion moves onto the next item on the agenda.
The way politics are supposed to work is illustrated, at least in part, by the way the 2015 MN Senate committee hearings were held: 1) evidence is presented and heard, 2) sound solutions are offered and evaluated, 3) conclusions are made based on all of the evidence regarding the problem and the proposed solutions, and 4) the matter is either voted down or forwarded to the legislature for a vote.
Unfortunately, politics haven't been operating as they should on this issue.
AKC. 2015. "MN Update: Bill to Modify Use of Hunting Traps That Could Harm Pets." American Kennel Club. March 25. http://www.akc.org/government-relations/legislative-alerts/minnesota-senate-file-1325-update/
CBD. 2016. "Support for the Limiting Inhumane Federal Trapping (LIFT) for Public Safety Act." Center for Biological Diversity. September 8. https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2016/wildlife-traps-09-08-2016.html
DogLovers. 2012. "What We Want - Proven Methods." Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN. http://www.doglovers4safetrappingmn.org/what-we-want
Hackbarth, Tom, and Bill Ingebrigtsen. 2012. MN 2012 HF 2171: Omnibus Game & Fish Bill. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=House&f=HF2171&ssn=0&y=2012
Hoffman, John A., and Peter Fischer. 2015. MN 2015 SF 1325 / HF 1655: Wild Animals Trapping Modifications. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=senate&f=sf1325&ssn=0&y=2015
HSUS. 2014. "Statement on Wild Animals." Humane Society of the United States. http://www.humanesociety.org/about/policy_statements/statement_wild_animals.html
Kimmel, Richard O. 2014a. "Dogs Are Being Killed in Traps." Outdoor News MN, March 7 and March 14. http://www.doglovers4safetrappingmn.org/blogs/news/hunter-survey
Kimmel, Richard O. 2014b. "Hunter Survey: Thoughts on Dogs Being Killed by Traps in Minnesota." Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN, December 22. http://www.doglovers4safetrappingmn.org/blogs/news/body-grip-trap-impacts-on-mn
MOHA. 2013. Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance. http://www.moha-mn.org/about
MN DNR. 2010a. SONAR for Proposed Change to Rule 6234.2200 Subpart 7 (use of traps in the road right-of-way). Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 4/9/2010. https://www.leg.state.mn.us/archive/sonar/SONAR-03934.pdf
MN DNR. 2010b. Proposed Change to Rule 6234.2200 Subpart 7 (use of traps in the road right-of-way). Minnesota State Register 34(41) p. 1364, 4/12/2010. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/state_register/?vol=34&num=41
MN Legislature. 2017. "How a Bill Becomes Law in Minnesota." https://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/howbill
MTA. 2012. "Trapping Ethics." Minnesota Trappers Association. http://www.mntrappers.org/mtatrappingethics.html
NWCOA. 2017. National Wildlife Control Operators Association. http://www.nwcoa.com/
Orrick, Dave. 2012. "Will Minnesota's New Trapping Rules Mean Fewer Dog Deaths?" Pioneer Press, October 20. http://www.twincities.com/ci_21812576/will-minnesotas-new-trapping-rules-mean-fewer-dog
Pioneer Public TV. 2017a. "Your Legislators: about the show." http://www.pioneer.org/about-your-legislators.html
Pioneer Public TV. 2017b. "Your Legislators: body-grip traps." February 9. http://www.tpt.org/your-legislators/episode/body-grip-traps-february-9-2017/
Sierra Club. 2012. "Policy on Trapping of Wildlife." https://www.sierraclub.org/sites/www.sierraclub.org/files/uploads-wysiwig/Trapping-Wildlife.pdf
Slocum, Scott. 2012. "2012 MN Trapping Legislation: Fake." SS-Slocum. March 27. http://www.ss-slocum.info/home/trapping/blog/mnnon-functional
Slocum, Scott. 2015a. "Quadrants of Dog Owner's Goals vs. Trappers' Advice (Ethical or Slob)." SS-Slocum. January 18. http://www.ss-slocum.info/home/trapping/blog/quadrants-goals-vs-trappers-advice
Slocum, Scott. 2015b. "2015 Body-Gripping Trapping Bill Will Help to Protect Dogs!" SS-Slocum. March 4. http://www.ss-slocum.info/home/trapping/blog/mn_2015_body-gripping-trapping-bill-will-protect-dogs
Smith, Doug. 2015. "Ruffed Grouse Society Supports Minnesota Trapping Bill to Reduce Dog Deaths." Star Tribune, April 2. http://www.startribune.com/sports/blogs/298486391.html
Spielman, Tim. 2007. "Pheasant Bag Limit, Conibear Use, and Bow Draw Weight on Topic for DNR Meetings." Outdoor News, March 1, MN edition. http://www.outdoornews.com/March-2007/Pheasant-bag-hike-a-top-topic-for-DNR-meetings/
Ward, John E., and Charles Wiger. 2012. MN 2012 HF 2243 / SF 1736: Body-Gripping Trapping Restrictions. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=House&f=HF2243&ssn=0&y=2012&ls=87
Wyoming Untrapped. 2014. "Wyoming Untrapped: Our Work: Education, Reform, and Advocacy." Wyoming Untrapped. http://wyominguntrapped.org/our-work/
Mr. Anderson: A viewer from Brainerd wants to talk about, is concerned about, "when will the legislature protect our dogs from body-grip traps?" I'm going to pick on you, Rep. Torkelson, on the theory that your district is more rural than Sen. Pratt's. Why don't you take us into the body-grip trap problem and tell us what's going on there, if anything?
Rep. Torkelson: Well, it's certainly a controversial issue. We have a trapping industry in Minnesota that is very important to controlling unwanted critters, and also an economic opportunity for those that do trap and sell furs. There's a long history in Minnesota. Most trappers do a really good job: they're very careful about how they set their traps, and they do their best to protect against unwanted trappings of dogs. But it does happen [that a dog is caught], there are examples where it does happen. I don't know if we can prevent every mishap, but we can take steps, so that trappers understand what they can do to protect dogs. And, at the same time, I feel strongly that we need to protect the trappers and what they do for our state.
Mr. Anderson: I probably should have picked on you first, Sen. Bakk, because I know you and I have had this discussion before on prior programs. Tell us how you see this issue unfolding.
Sen. Bakk: Well, I think in my experience at the legislature, when two sides come in and bring their battle to the legislature, oftentimes they don't get the resolution that they want. And I've kind of learned over time... and you've got the trappers: very, very important heritage in this state; you've got people who don't want to worry about the safety of their pets... so for years, I've told those two parties "don't bring your dispute to us, and make us try to pick a winner or a loser." I frankly don't understand why those two sides can't get together around a table someplace and figure out how both can be considerate of each other's concerns. But there are requirements already on body-grip traps: depending on the size, they have to be so far off the ground, larger ones need to be set in water. But it's a very emotional issue for people who have lost a pet to them. But some of it has been driven by outside groups that are just anti-trapping, period. Right? For a long, long time, there was a campaign against leghold traps, and how bad leghold traps were. Well the truth is, body-gripping traps kill animals, so they're much more humane to use. Well, now the attack seems to be less on the legholds, and it's moved over to the body-gripping traps. I hope the sides can get together and bring some resolution, and then bring us the solution, and if we need to enact something into law, we will.
Mr. Anderson: Sen. Pratt, any thoughts on this topic?
Sen. Pratt: It's been years since I've run traps. I used to run traps with my cousin. But I think responsible trappers are doing a good job, and I agree with Sen. Bakk: let's see if we can find a solution, because we tend to take a very big approach, a one-size-fits-all approach, and it's not always the best way to solve a problem. I think we need, more often, parties coming to the table to work it out before they come to us.
Mr. Anderson: Rep. Omar, any thoughts on this? Not a lot of body-grip traps in your district, I guess. Your district is pretty urban, right?
Rep. Omar: It is very urban, and I don't think I've ever actually seen trapping or anyone who actually practices trapping. But, to me, I would agree with what Sen. Bakk was saying about making sure that we are not the body that people use to solve every problem. And I think the people need to see themselves as being part of the solution, and this is something that I think we can find the proper advocates from both sides to really come up with a solution that everybody can live with.
This is a video excerpt of the 3/9/2015 MN Senate hearing of the wolf-trapping and snaring regulation bill SF 0592: no recreational wolf trapping, snaring, electronic calling, prey-distress calling, or hunting over bait; gross misdemeanor penalty for wolf poaching; no recreational snaring. Almost all of the debate is about snaring. Proponents focus on the potential for the effective and humane uses of snares in research, predator control, and the fur trade. Critics focus on the suffering of animals in snares.
MN Senate Subcommittee on Fish and Wildlife, Committee on Environment and Energy, 3/9/2015.
It includes testimony from Maureen Hackett of Howling for Wolves, Gary Leistico of the MN Trappers Association, and Dan Stark and John Erb of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR).
00:02 Senator Matt Schmit, Chairman of the Subcommittee, opens the hearing of SF 592.
00:40 Dr. Maureen Hackett, President and Founder of Howling for Wolves, supports the bill. This bill addresses recreational trapping, snaring, and baiting--not government programs of depredation control. Non-target catches by snares are high, for example in situations where a bait pile is made and the area around it is saturated with snares. Snaring is an indiscriminate method that catches not only the intended, target animals, but also many non-target animals (ref. to a statement by Carter Niemeyer to that effect). Jellyhead is one of the horribly-painful injuries that can be caused by snares. Snares can become embedded in animals skin (ref. to letter from Peggy Farr, veterinarian and wildlife rehabilitator). Wildlife belongs to all of us. Non-target catches amplify the take of wildlife far beyond the intended targets. In a Lake Research Partners poll, 66% of respondents were opposed to the use of traps and snares for wolves, and even more were opposed to baiting and calling.
06:12 Mr. Gary Leistico, MN Trappers Association (MTA), opposes the bill. MTA members have been lawfully and ethically trapping and snaring in Minnesota since the State was established. Wolf trapping is no different from the trapping of other animals. Modern snaring is improved over the old technology, with its use of aircraft cable and other components including stops, springs, and swivels. Snares operate better than foothold traps in MN winters. Snares are used in depredation-control trapping. He's not aware of statistics on non-target catches by snares. The selectivity of a snare depends on how and where it's set. Snares can be as selective as foothold traps. In his own trapping and snaring, there's almost no incidental catch. He's not aware of any MN incidents of "jellyhead." He's read about it, but hasn't witnessed it. The MN DNR has been recording incidents in which dogs have been caught in traps, but he hasn't seen an incident of a dog killed by a snare in those records.
08:45 Mr. Ray Sogard, MN Forest-Zone Trappers Association (MFZTA), opposes the bill. Predator control also controls the spread of disease, including mange. Humans can also suffer from mange. This is one of the services provided to society by trappers. Snares can be set selectively. Moose stops and breakaways are required on snares that are set for wolves. Snares can be constructed and set with lethal and non-lethal options. Snares are impervious to MN winter weather. Snares cause little or no damage to domestic animals that are caught incidentally, or to wild animals that are captured for research. Snare best-management practices (BMP) have been developed based on snare studies in states including WI, TN, etc. Snares provide an affordable opportunity for young trappers to get started in trapping on a low budget. Trapping is a 400 year-old tradition that the MFZTA promotes for all of its members.
11:40 Senator Chris Eaton asks the MTA and MFZTA testifiers to provide references to the snare studies they've mentioned, and to support their statements that snares can be used humanely and safely.
12:08 Mr. Thom Peterson, MN Farmers Union, opposes the bill, supports the wolf hunting & trapping season as it is. He's concerned about controlling livestock depredation by wolves, and about providing funding for wolf-depredation compensation payments to farmers from wolf-hunting and trapping license fees.
12:53 Mr. Cory Bennett, MN Deer Hunters Association (MDHA), opposes the bill, supports the MN Wolf Management Plan, including trapping as part of the Plan.
13:17 Maureen Hackett returns to the testimony table to add information. Twenty U.S. States have effectively eliminated snaring. She had not presented the graphic examples she has of injuries caused by snares to dogs, wolves, even moose. MN DNR records on incidental trapping are incomplete; animals die unrecorded. The wolf-hunting firearms season would have been sufficient to meet the State's harvest quotas, without adding the wolf-trapping season. The wolf-trapping season was indiscriminate and harmful. You've heard it said by the trapping associations: snaring is cheaper, easier, you don't need a professional, the young guys can do it, anybody can snare. Anybody can go out and set thousands of snares, kill thousands of animals--and in the process, many thousands will go unknown. These animals belong to the public. In setting wildlife policies, we need to consider the public interest, not just the interests of those individuals who want to "take" those animals by hunting and trapping. We need to question "how many [non-target] animals does it take to get those [target] animals by trapping?"
15:03 Mr. Bob Meier, Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR), opposes the bill. He introduces John Erb and Dan Stark.
15:25 Mr. Dan Stark, Large Carnivore Specialist, MN DNR, opposes the bill. The MN wolf-hunting and wolf-trapping season is the most highly-regulated of all the State's hunting and trapping seasons. Regulations include limits on number of licenses, number of hunters, timeframe, and harvest target. Trapping is the most efficient method of capturing or killing wolves. Capture is used in research, for example to radio-collar wolves in order to track their movements. Baiting and calling of wolves is necessary to boost success in the recreational hunting seasons; these methods are now recognized by the MN DNR as "fair chase" methods of hunting.
17:20 Dr. John Erb, Furbearer and Wolf Research Biologist, MN DNR, Grand Rapids, opposes the bill. Although snares are relatively simple devices, there are a number of components to them that allow diverse uses--both for live restraint and for killing. Snares and cable restraints are used in research on foxes, coyotes, raccoons, beavers, wolves. National Trap Research Program has tested and certified "many forms of snares for live-restraining animals" [for information to the contrary, see the note above about the limitations of published AFWA BMP testing of traps and snares on wolves]. Most of the devices that were tested met the standards [he doesn't say what those standards were: again, please refer to the note about the AFWA BMPs above]. Subject animals were fully examined by necropsy by veterinarians following testing. There's a significant amount of data on the use of live restraints. Less information is available for killing snares. "A snare is not a snare:" there's a lot of diversity in how they can be used. Snares can be set selectively, depending on which options are used, including options for live-restraint and for killing. MN trapping regulations require daily trap checking for restraining-type traps, 3-day check for killing-type traps or drowning sets.
19:51 Sen. Eaton comments that, although she understands that it's legal and effective to snare and trap animals, she questions whether it's ethical. She challenges the distinction between how we, as a society, treat our domestic pets vs. how we treat our wildlife.
20:20 Sen. Wiger reminds the subcommittee that the bill would not affect the MN Predator Control Program or the wildlife-removal operations that are allowed under it.
21:07 John Erb reiterates that the bill would prevent the use of snares by private trappers, even those who operate their snares humanely and selectively.
21:41 Mr. Jeffrey Wiles, resident of Coon Rapids, MN, supports the bill. He specifies that his comment is limited to the practice of recreational snaring. He emphasizes the quote on the Howling for Wolves fact sheet from Carter Niemeyer about the danger and lack of selectivity of snares. He notes that those dangers are a concern both for pets and wildlife.
22:23 Sen. Schmit concludes the hearing of SF 592. The bill will be laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus Game & Fish Bill, SF 1303.
22:33 End of video excerpt.
AFWA. 2007. "Best Management Practices (BMP) for Trapping in the United States." Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA).
AFWA. 2014. "BMPs for Trapping Wolves in the U.S." Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies.
Austin, Phyllis. 2003. "Maine IF&W Biologist Critical of Coyote Snaring, Slated for Demotion." Maine Environmental News. March 11.
Orrick, Dave. 2012. "Will Minnesota's New Trapping Rules Mean Fewer Dog Deaths?" Pioneer Press, October 20.
Smith, Doug. 2013. "Number of Dogs Killed by Traps Concerns Owners." Star Tribune, January 15.
Williams, Ted. 2002. "Maine's War on Coyotes." Audubon. September 1.
TV News series by FOX 4 News at 9:00 reporter Gretchen Parsons.
Part 1: Lynn D. Mitchell describes the Alaska Safe Trails petition to prohibit trapping near designated trails and on school grounds.
Part 2: Jim Maddry describes the problem of traps for MAT+SAR Search and Rescue. With comments by Jane Baldwin and Mike Webber,
Part 3: Several stories on the increasing problem of dogs caught in traps set near trails in the Mat-Su Valley (Matanuska-Susitna Borough, north of Anchorage, AK).
Traps in the Valley: Mike Webber's dog Von Braun killed in a body-gripping trap set near a trail near home.
MN Senate hearing of body-gripping trapping road & trail setback bill SF 1070, 3/9/2015.
Good news: it's something.
Bad news: it offers even less protection than it did when it was introduced (trapping lobby chipping away).
Conclusion: your conclusion might depend on whether you're a "glass half-full" person or a "glass half-empty" person.
Summary, full strength, as introduced:
Summary, as weakened at the request of the trapping lobby, 3/11/2015:
What the bill would do:
The bill would set the following trapping regulations:
1) Restrict, as follows, the uses of medium to large-size body-gripping traps (i.e. between 5-1/2 inches and 7-1/2 inches, in other words larger than Duke #160 and smaller than a #280) on public and private lands and waters:
a) completely submerged in water; or
b) in an elevated enclosure with a top opening at least 4 feet above ground or snowpack, sized 50 sq. in. or less, with a trap recess 12-inches or more from the opening; or
c) in an enclosure with a top or side opening 25 sq. in. or less and a trap recess 12-inches or more from the opening; or
d) in an unbaited enclosure with an opening no more than 4 inches above ground and a trap recess 18-inches or more from the opening, at least 20 feet from bait; or
e) at least 5 feet above the ground.
2) Require written permission to set traps or snares on private property.
3) Require the reporting of incidental catches of pets and companion animals in traps.
4) Revoke a trapper's license for killing a pet or companion animal in an illegally-set body-gripping trap or snare.
What the bill would not do:
Legal challenges (numbered as above):
Possible resolutions of the legal changes (numbered as above):
Authors and co-authors:
Authors: Minnesota Senator John A. Hoffman and Representative Peter Fischer.
Senate Coauthors: Minnesota Senators John Marty, Charles W. Wiger, Patricia Torres Ray, and Alice M. Johnson.
People's dogs are being killed by traps that are set--surprise!--without permission or notification--on their land! Perhaps the biggest part of this problem is in the ditches along the roads. Many of these ditches are public road rights-of-way (ROW) on private land. Minnesota Statute allows the use of unposted private lands--including these rights of way--for "outdoor recreation" including hunting and trapping. Although it would be illegal for a hunter to discharge a firearm on a ROW, it remains legal for a trapper to set traps there. And it remains legal for a trapper to kill a dog that's out with its family for a walk along a country road, or to kill a dog that's come out with its family to the end of their long driveway, to wait for the bus or to get the mail. Dead dog. Heartbroken family. No trapper liability.
A partial solution to that problem was introduced in the 2015 MN Senate bill SF 591, which has since been heard, refined, and favorably received (but not yet passed into law).
Description of the 2015 bill
Language of the 2017 bill
Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 97B.001, is amended by adding a subdivision to read:
Language of the 2015 bill
Minnesota Statutes 2014, section 97B.001, is amended by adding a subdivision to read as follows:
Good points of the bill
This bill would help to solve one problem with trapping: it would require landowner permission to trap on unposted private property--and that would be a good thing.
Limitations of the bill
This bill would not solve all of the problems with trapping. For example, it would not require landowner permission to trap on a public road right-of-way ROW.
It would leave the controversial, confusing, and dangerous problem of trapping along roads as it is. We need additional legislation (e.g. SF 1070 / HF 1070) to solve that problem.
Background of the bill: 2014 MN Statute 97B.001
MN Statute 97B.001: Trespass.
The next Section of MN Statute, 97B.002, sets penalties for civil trespass.
Not addressed by this bill: the State of Minnesota allows trapping on the ROW without landowner permission.
Could be addressed by this or another bill: other States allow trapping on the ROW only with landowner permission.
Wisconsin requires landowner permission.
Diagram of a public road right-of-way (ROW)
The grid above represents four situations in which a dog owner has a goal for protecting his or her pet, and a trapper has advice for that dog owner. In the top two quadrants, the dog owner's goal is to protect his or her dog from traps that are set for predators (or, really, from any traps that might harm or kill his or her dog). In the two lower quadrants, the dog owner's goal is different: to protect the dog from predators.
In the left-hand two quadrants, the trapper's advice to the dog owner is to keep his or her dog "under control." In the right-hand two quadrants, the advice is different: let your dogs be dogs. The acknowledgement that "dogs will be dogs" is an acknowledgement that dogs will sometimes roam off of the trails where they're walking with their owners, or out of their yards to follow a scent; or that people will sometimes let their good dogs safely off the leash to let them stretch their legs and run. It's also an acknowledgement that leash laws are not universal: that they exist only in certain cities, parks, and natural areas where dogs might otherwise cause problems for wildlife or neighbors.
So, in each quadrant we have one situation, one conversation, one comment made anonymously online under a newspaper article about a dog that was harmed or killed by a trap or a dog that was attacked by a predator. In the upper-left quadrant, the newspaper article might be about a little girl's little dog that was killed while he played with her near a walking trail (Orrick 2012). The unethical (slob) trapper's patent advice to dog owners would be to keep their dogs leashed. In the upper-right quadrant, the ethical trapper's advice would be for trappers to avoid sets that could harm or kill people's dogs, or other non-target animals (“Trapping Ethics” 2012).
In the lower-right quadrant, the newspaper article might be about a coyote attack on a dog--in the dog's yard (Gauthier 2011). Yes, that's alarming! But the unethical (slob) trapper's advice to dog owners would be to leave things with the dogs as they are, ignore the other food attractants that might be encouraging the presence of coyotes, don't waste your time trying to deter coyotes, but instead just bring in trappers to remove the "vermin." In the lower-left quadrant, the ethical trapper's advice would be to take expert advice, and implement an integrated program of (lethal and non-lethal) depredation control and coexistence.
In other words, if you're concerned about protecting your dog from traps, the unethical (slob) trapper's advice for you is to "keep your dog under control." So that he doesn't have to take proper, ethical precautions to avoid non-target catches.
On the other hand, if you're concerned about protecting your dog from predators, the unethical (slob) trapper wants you to forget he ever said that (about all of the responsibility being on you to "keep your dog under control"). Now he understands that not all dogs are going to be leashed at all times. Now he wants you to feel comfortable with whatever you're doing (even if it's contrary to expert advice on integrated depredation control), and leave everything up to him. So that he can be the important person who "protects" people and their dogs from predators.
See how many comments you can find to fit the pattern of the upper-left or lower-right quadrants of this grid, under articles about dogs being killed by traps or dogs being attacked by predators, respectively.
Orrick, Dave. 2012. “Minnesota: Weekend Dog Death Highlights Dangers of Small Traps, Too.” Pioneer Press, October 25. http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_21854559/weekend-dog-death-highlights-dangers-small-traps-too.
Gauthier, Ryan. 2011. “Second Edina Coyote Attack Spurs Council Response.” Edina Patch, May 3. http://patch.com/minnesota/edina/second-edina-coyote-attack-spurs-council-response.
“Trapping Ethics.” 2012. Minnesota Trappers Association. http://www.mntrappers.org/mtatrappingethics.html.
There have been some recent (misleading) headlines to the effect that Maine has "shut down" trapping in response to the killing of two endangered Lynx. By now, I think we know not to believe exclamations like "shut down" or "banned" or "outlawed," etc. when they're made about trapping regulations. That holds true in this case, too.
They didn't shut down trapping in Maine, in general, as evidenced by the following unchanged regulations and programs:
The big change is that these emergency rules (ME DIF&W 12/9/2014) shut down foothold trapping on land in the northern part of the State. This makes sense in a way, since that's the way many Lynx have been injured (and probably died of their injuries). But, on the other hand, it's not a direct response to the two deaths that triggered the emergency rules. Those two deaths were presumably caused by lethal traps, not by foothold traps.
Meanwhile, a number of major trapping issues are still being ignored in Maine, including the following:
Figure 1: Maine Wildlife Management Districts, with the Lynx zone in green. Diagram from the Bangor Daily News.
(ME DIF&W 2011. Openings highlighted by the blogger in orange).
Matteson, Mollie, and Daryl DeJoy. 2014. “Feds Approve Maine Trapping Plan Allowing Rare Canada Lynx to Be Harmed, Killed.” Center for Biological Diversity. November 4. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2014/canada-lynx-11-04-2014.html.
ME DIF&W. 2011. Lynx Exclusion Device Rule. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/pdfs/Lynx%20Exclusion%20Device%20flyer.pdf.
ME DIF&W. 10/28/2014. Incidental Take Plan for Maine’s Trapping Program. United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Augusta, Maine, USA: Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. http://www.fws.gov/mainefieldoffice/Canada_lynx.html.
ME DIF&W. 12/9/2014. “IFW Adopts Emergency Trapping Rule Changes In Northern Maine.” Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. December 9. http://www.maine.gov/ifw/aboutus/news_events/pressreleases/single.shtml?id=633146.
The following four pieces of Minnesota and Wisconsin trapping news deliver more information together than they do separately.
In short, the MN DNR would do well to follow the lead of the WI DNR on these issues.
News item #1--Wisconsin regulations reduce hunting/trapping conflicts in recreational areas
In a press release, the WI DNR described the limited trapping that is allowed in WI State Parks: only watersets, enclosed-trigger traps (referred to by Kevin Auslund as "dog-proof raccoon traps"), and cage traps are allowed. No lethal traps or snares, no foothold/leghold traps, not even cable restraints are allowed (Olson 2014).
These trapping limitations would also be appropriate for recreational areas in the State of Minnesota.
News item #2--Please report trapping incidents
In a letter to the editor of the Outdoor News, 10/3/2014, Dan Wilm wrote in support of the MN DNR request for everyone to voluntarily report trapping incidents in which dogs are injured or killed (Wilm 2014). Wilm dismissed the "slippery slope" argument of Tim Spreck, MOHA President (Spreck 2014), in which Spreck suggested that it would not be wise to modify trapping regulations to protect dogs from lethal trapping and snaring because it might encourage animal-rights groups to call for more radical changes to hunting and trapping regulations.
News item #3--Warning: it's not easy to release a dog (even from a non-lethal foothold/leghold trap)
In an Outdoor News article, 10/3/2014, Todd Strohecker described how to release a dog from a foothold/leghold (Strohecker 2014). He properly included the warning that the first step--immobilizing the dog--can be very difficult to do alone. Unfortunately, Strohecker's also made the following false assumptions: 1) that there will be firm surface under the trap, and 2) that the would-be rescuer will have the body weight and/or hand strength necessary to compress the springs of a powerful trap. That "firm surface" assumption applies to any release method that depends on standing on the trap (which doesn't work in the mud). In addition, the larger long-spring traps (more than the coil-spring traps) require significant body weight and/or hand strength to compress the springs.
News item #4--Proposal limited to MN WIA areas and certain types of traps
In the Commentary column of Outdoor News on 10/3/2014, Kevin Auslund of Sportsmen Take Action described the historical and legal background of the Minnesota Walk-In Access Program (WIA) as it pertains to trapping on these publicly-designated hunting areas. He's right about the spirit of the law; we just have to get the letter of the law up to the same standard.
But, from that well-established foundation, Auslund made the mistake of moving onto a new subject that did not, in fact, build upon that foundation. Auslund proposed a compromise to his past call for a general ban of traps on WIA areas that can (if they're not used with proper precautions) kill dogs. That includes all of the lethal traps and snares, and all the dog-proof raccoon traps (referred to by the WI DNR as "enclosed-trigger traps") on Minnesota Walk-In Access areas (WIA). Regardless of the trapping method or location (Auslund 2014).
Auslund's new compromise was to allow the use of foothold/leghold traps--regardless of the trapping method or location--on WIA areas.
There are many problems with Auslund's trapping recommendations: they ignore the safety of some methods of trapping (using the types of traps he would ban), and they ignore the danger of some methods of trapping (using the types of traps he would allow). Furthermore, if there is more evidence, let's hear it: on the danger of dog-proof raccoon traps, on the differences between the dangers of different trap designs and baits in these traps. More evidence would be welcome, because by design and according to a number of experts, these dog-proof traps are safer for dogs, when used properly, than other types of foothold/leghold traps.
Underlying all of these problems is the major limitation of all of Auslund's proposals is that they're limited to only one, relatively-minor type of land in Minnesota: WIA areas.
For all the weakness of Auslund's proposed solutions, he has a general point: places like WIA areas where people take their dogs should be safe for the dogs. Let's retain that general point, and resolve this conflict statewide.
Auslund, Kevin. 2014. “WIA Trapping Compromise Needed for Respect, Safety, and Unity.” Outdoor News MN, October 3. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxzc3Nsb2N1bWluZm98Z3g6NDdhOThiNWUzY2FmZTY0ZA
Olson, John. 2014. “October Signals the Opening of Many Furbearer Hunting and Trapping Seasons.” Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. October 7. http://dnr.wi.gov/news/Weekly/?id=452#art6.
Orrick, Dave. 2012. “Will Minnesota’s New Trapping Rules Mean Fewer Dog Deaths?” Pioneer Press, October 20. http://www.twincities.com/ci_21812576/will-minnesotas-new-trapping-rules-mean-fewer-dog.
Spreck, Tim. 2014. “Trapping Walk-In Access Areas: Incorrect Assumptions and Points to Ponder.” Outdoor News MN, September 12. http://www.ss-slocum.info/home/trapping/blog/WIA_assumptions_critique.
Strohecker, Todd. 2014. “Releasing a Dog from a Foot-Hold Trap.” Outdoor News MN, October 3. http://www.outdoornews.com/September-2014/Releasing-a-dog-from-a-foot-hold-trap/.
Wilm, Dan. 2014. “Report Trapped Dogs.” Outdoor News MN, October 3. http://www.doglovers4safetrappingmn.org/blogs/news/wilm-report.
Wisconsin trapping regulations: a good model for Minnesota to learn from--and improve upon!