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 that 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 IF&W based 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 has documentation that proves that both lynx and bald eagles have been killed by neck snares in Maine, although since the system relies upon trappers to report nontarget catches, the numbers are probably much larger than reported.

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.


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