Beaver trapping season dates and town closures were not available at the time of printing, but dates and closures will be available to trappers in mid-October on the website at: mefishwildlife.com.
The Department has initiated rule making on several issues related to trapping. Any changes that pass will be included in the Trapper Information Booklet when it becomes available.
Landowners who trap can contact the Department at (207) 287-8000 to be added to a mailing list for updates on beaver closure and trapping changes annually.
What is a trap?
A trap is any device which is made to catch animals. There are many types of traps, but those which you are allowed to use to trap wild animals in Maine (under the rules explained in the following pages) are:
- foothold traps (including those manufactured with padded jaws);
- dog proof raccoon traps;
- killer-type traps of the body-gripping variety, including spring-type traps;
- cage-type live traps;
- colony traps;
- snares; and
- vector traps are legal for weasel and red squirrel.
What is trapping?
Trapping is the setting, placing or tending of traps. You are considered to be trapping if you do any of the following things:
- set one or more traps anywhere in the fields, forests or waters of the State;
- tend or visit a trap which has been set in the fields, forests or waters of the State;
- kill an animal which is being held in a trap;
- remove an animal from a trap; or
- assist another person in doing any of these things.
Who needs a trapping license?
Except for certain landowners, full-time Department employees authorized by the commissioner for animal damage control purposes, and children under 10, everyone (including animal damage control agents and animal control officers appointed pursuant to Title 7) must have the appropriate trapping license before going out to trap for wild animals or before going out to help another person who is trapping. (An unlicensed person may accompany a trapper only as an observer.)
Where can I get a trapping license?
All trapping licenses are issued from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife office in Augusta. Trapping license cannot be purchased online.
Which trapping license do I need?
- If you are a Maine resident under 10 years old, you may trap without a license, except bear. You must be 10 years of age to trap a bear.
- If you are a Maine resident who is at least 10 but less than 16 years old, you must have a junior trapping license. (Note: A junior trapping license issued to a 15 year old is good for the entire calendar year regardless of when the person turns 16.)
- If you are a Maine resident who is 16 or more years old, you must have a resident trapping license (see resident landowner below).
- Resident landowners, and immediate family members, as long as their license to trap is not under revocation or suspension, may trap without a license on their own land IF they actually live on that land AND the land is used only for agricultural purposes.
- If you are a nonresident, regardless of age, you must have a nonresident trapping license.(Note: Nonresidents are not allowed to trap for beaver unless their home state allows Maine residents to trap beaver.)
- If you are a nonresident who is not a citizen of the United States (nonresident alien), you are not allowed to trap in Maine.
- An apprenticeship trapper license allows a person who has never held a valid adult trapping license to go trapping with an adult supervisor for up to two years without having to take a trapper education course. An “adult supervisor” is one who has held a valid adult trapping license for the prior 3 consecutive years. The holder of an apprenticeship trapper license must, while trapping, be under the direct supervision of an adult supervisor at all times. An apprenticeship trapper license allows a person to trap for all species that may be legally trapped, except black bear. The fee for an apprenticeship trapper license is the same as a regular trapping license.
Do I need to take a trapper education course?
When you apply for any Maine trapping license (except a junior license), you must show proof of having successfully completed a state-approved trapper education course OR show proof of having held an adult trapping license (in Maine or in some other state, province or country) at some time since 1978.
How long does a trapping license remain valid?
A trapping license remains valid from July 1st through June 30th of the following year.
Are young people allowed to go trapping by themselves?
Children under 10 years of age are allowed to trap all legal species, except bear, without a license but must be accompanied at all times by an adult supervisor*. Children over 10 years of age and under 16 years of age who hold a junior trapping license must be accompanied, unless they have successfully completed a trapper education course. The person who accompanies a youth trapper is responsible for any violations committed by this trapper.
* “Adult Supervisor” for a junior trapper means a parent or guardian of the junior trapper or a person 18 years of age or older who is approved by the parent or guardian of the junior trapper and who holds or has held a valid adult trapping license or has completed a trapper education course.
What animals am I allowed to trap?
Maine has an open trapping season for the following species of animals:
- Black Bear
- Gray Fox
- Red Fox
- Red Squirrel
Note: There is also a trapping season for black bear. However, the black bear is not considered a furbearing animal, so the bear trapping rules will be explained separately. See bear trapping on Bear Hunting.
Except as explained in animal damage control laws, you are never allowed to trap for any species of wild bird, and you are never allowed to trap for any species of wild animal which does not have an open trapping season.
When does the trapping season open?
- General trapping season for bobcat, coyote, fox, mink, muskrat, opossum, otter, raccoon,
red squirrel, marten, fisher, skunk, and weasel opens on November 1, 2015, and closes on December 31, 2015.
- The fisher season in WMDs 12, 13 & 15–29 opens November 15, 2015 and closes December 15, 2015. The fisher season in WMDs 1–11 & 14 opens November 1, 2015 and closes December 31, 2015.
- See below for early fox, coyote, and muskrat trapping season dates.
- See Bear Hunting for bear trapping season dates & information.
Am I allowed to trap for muskrats while I’m beaver trapping?
After the end of the general trapping season, you are allowed to continue to trap for muskrats in any area of the State which is open to beaver trapping. Please see the Trapper Information Booklet, on our website, for current muskrat trapping rules during the spring beaver season.
What if I catch a mink or otter in my beaver (or muskrat) traps?
Although you are not allowed to trap for mink or otter after the general trapping season closes, you are allowed to keep a mink or otter if you catch one by accident during the beaver trapping season.
Are there “special” trapping seasons for any furbearing animals?
There is an early statewide fox and coyote trapping season prior to the regular trapping season, and there is an early muskrat trapping season in Wildlife Management Districts 1 through 6, 9, 10, and 11 prior to the regular trapping season. Details about these two early seasons will be explained later.
Am I allowed to put out bait or prepare sets before the trapping season begins?
Except for beaver and muskrat, you are allowed to go out before the season starts and make preparations in the area you plan to trap; however, you are never allowed to fasten a trap (set or unset) at any trap site location before opening day. You are not allowed to make any advance preparations for trapping beaver and muskrat. You may not use meat or fish as bait in trapping for beaver.
Also, you are not allowed to set any footholds or killer-type traps within 50 yards of bait that is visible from above.
What does “advance preparation” include?
Advance preparation includes:
- the preparation of the site where your trap will eventually be set; and
- the placement of trapping implements (such as drowning devices) or associated materials (such as trap stakes or guide sticks) in the water or on the ice of any wetland.
Is there a season limit on any species of furbearing animal?
The only furbearing animals which have a season limit are marten and fisher. You are not allowed to take or possess more than 25 marten or 10 fisher during the trapping season. (See special tagging requirements for marten and fisher.)
When and where am I allowed to set the different types of traps?
As already mentioned, you are allowed to use foothold traps, dog proof raccoon traps, body gripping killer-type traps, cage-type live traps, colony traps and snares, but you must obey the following rules:
Foothold or killer-type traps must not be set within 50 yards of bait that is visible from above. Bait may be used for trapping if it is completely covered to prevent it from being seen from above, and it must be covered in such a way as to withstand wind action and other normal environmental conditions. Bait is defined as animal matter including meat, skin, bones, feathers, hair or any other solid substance that used to be part of an animal. This includes live or dead fish. For the purpose of this paragraph, bait does not include animal droppings (scat), urine, or animals, dead or alive, held in a trap as the result of lawful trapping activity.
You are not allowed to use any visual attractor during the early fox and coyote season. You are allowed to use visual attractors during the regular trapping season, but if they are any part of an animal (antler, bone, feather, etc.) they must be completely covered to prevent it from being seen from above. See above section for more details.
Foothold traps & Killer-type
Dog Proof Raccoon Traps
Dog proof raccoon traps that are designed primarily to catch raccoons and avoid incidental catches of other animals may be used throughout the trapping season.
Cage-type live traps
Cage-type live traps may be used to trap for all legal species of furbearing animal, except that in WMDs 1–6 and 8–11, no cage trap which has an opening of more than 13 inches in width or more than 13 inches in height may be used unless the cage trap is being used (1) for wildlife research and survey activities; (2) for the removal of animals that are causing damage to property; or (3) to capture bear.
Snares may be used only in the following situations:
- snares may be used to trap for beaver, but they must be set completely underwater,
- foot snares (cable traps) may be used only to trap for bear. See Bear Hunting for more information on bear trapping.
Colony traps may be used to trap for furbearing animals throughout the trapping season, except that:
- the outside dimensions of colony traps may not exceed 7 inches high by 7 inches wide by 40 inches long, and
- all colony traps must be set so as to remain completely under water at all times.
- For tending purposes, colony traps are considered killer-type traps.
Rat snap traps
Except in Wildlife Management Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11 rat snap traps may be set on land for weasel and red squirrel trapping if recessed in a wooden box with a hole no larger than 2 inches in diameter.
Am I allowed to set traps in the built-up section of a town?
Unless you are on your own land, the only trapping you are allowed to do within ½ mile of the built-up section of a city or town is with the use of cage-type live traps and drowning sets.
What’s a drowning set?
A drowning set is a trap that is set completely under water and rigged in such a way as to reasonably ensure the drowning of any species of trapped furbearer that would reasonably be expected to visit the set location and be held in the type of trap used at the set. (Note: You are allowed to trap in shallow water where a trapped animal is not likely to drown, but traps set in this manner are not considered to be drowning sets and are not allowed within ½ mile of the built up section of a city or town.)
Do I need permission to trap on land I don’t own?
You are strongly encouraged to seek landowner permission before going on someone else’s land for any purpose. The trapping laws, with some exceptions, require that you have prior written permission from the landowner before setting traps:
- anywhere in an organized town,
- within 200 yards of any occupied dwelling, and
- on cultivated or pasture land in an unorganized township if someone is living there.
Landowner permission is not required when trapping for beaver that can be legally accessed via water. A new law has also eliminated the written landowner permission requirements:
- when trapping with the use of drowning sets on state-owned land and on public rights of way, and
- when trapping with the use of drowning sets along navigable rivers and streams on privately owned land as long as the traps are set at least 200 yards away from any occupied dwelling.
Note: Although you are not always required to obtain written landowner permission before setting traps, you are never allowed to set traps on privately owned land if the landowner has asked you not to trap there, either by a conspicuously posted sign or by word of mouth.
When trapping on someone else’s land, there are certain things you are never allowed to do unless the landowner has given you specific permission to do so:
- You are never allowed to tear down or destroy a fence or wall.
- You are never allowed to leave open a gate or bar way.
- You are never allowed to trample or destroy crops.
- You are never allowed to cut trees or remove branches from trees.
What are the rules about trapping around muskrat houses, beaver houses and beaver dams?
You are not allowed to destroy or damage a muskrat house or den, a beaver house or a beaver dam. You are not allowed to set a trap within 10 feet of a muskrat house, a muskrat den, or a beaver house, and you are not allowed to set a trap within 5 feet of a beaver dam.
The exceptions to this rule are that in Wildlife Management Districts 1, 2, 4, 8, 9, and 10 there is no required setback distance from an active beaver dam, and in Wildlife Management Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 there is no required setback distance from a beaver house.
How do I know if a hole in the bank of a lake or stream is the entrance to a muskrat den or beaver house?
For enforcement purposes, the Department uses the following definitions in deciding if a hole in the bank is part of a muskrat den or beaver house:
A muskrat den is any cavity which is capped by muskrats with vegetative matter, including but not limited to hollow stumps and bank cavities. Holes in the bank not capped with vegetative matter are not considered to be muskrat dens.
The term beaver house includes any cavity in the bank which is capped by beaver with mud and sticks. Holes in the bank not capped with mud and sticks are not considered to be beaver houses.
Am I allowed to set traps on an abandoned beaver dam which no longer holds back water?
Yes. As long as the dam is inactive or breached, is in disrepair and is no longer being maintained by a beaver and shows no evidence of beaver activity.
Am I required to set my traps a certain distance away from another person’s traps?
You are required to set your traps at least 4 feet away from another person’s beaver traps; however, as a matter of common courtesy you should always set your traps a reasonable distance away from any trap which has been set by someone else.
How do I know if my traps are set the required distance away from a muskrat house or den, a beaver house or another person’s beaver traps?
If there is any question, you should always measure the distance to your trap using the following guidelines:
- Beaver and muskrat houses should be measured from where the nearest edge of the house meets the water or ice. If the house or den is a capped cavity in the bank, the measurement should be made from where the nearest edge of the cap meets the ground, water or ice.
- Beaver dams should be measured from where the nearest edge of the dam meets the ground, water or ice.
- All measurements should be made from the trap itself. Sticks and poles used to construct the set or to secure the trap are not considered part of the trap.
Do my traps need to be marked or identified in any way?
Each trap you set must be clearly labeled with your full name and address.
Note: The recommended method for labeling traps is to attach to each trap chain with a piece of wire a small metal tag preprinted with your name and address.
When trapping beaver (or other animals) under the ice, am I required to display my name and address above the ice on the pole to which my trap is attached?
The law only requires that you label each trap with your name and address. However, most trappers label both their trap and the pole to which their trap is fastened. This eliminates the need for a warden to chop out or otherwise disturb the set in order to identify the trapper. (It is a Department policy that if the trapper’s name and address are displayed on the trap pole above the ice, the warden will not chop out the set to check the trap for a label.)
I trap with a partner, and we use each other’s traps. Do the traps need to have both names on them?
The purpose of the trap labeling law is to make sure that the trapper can be located if there’s a problem. Therefore, if two people are trapping together, it is not necessary to have the name and address of both trappers on each trap.
How often do I need to tend (visit or check) my traps?
That depends on where you trap and what types of traps you use. Under ice drowning sets for beaver and muskrat have no specific tending requirements. All other traps must be tended, as follows:
In organized towns
- killer-type traps must be tended at least once every three days, and
- all other traps must be tended each day.
- drowning sets must be tended once every 3 days, except within a half mile of the built up section of town, they must be check every 24 hours.
In unorganized towns
- killer-type traps or drowning sets must be tended at least once every five days, and
- all other traps must be tended each day (including all foothold traps placed in the water at non-drowning sets).
Am I allowed to have someone else tend my traps for me?
If you are unable to tend your traps, you are allowed to give permission to another licensed trapper to tend your traps for you.
Am I allowed to carry a firearm while tending my traps?
Any licensed trapper is allowed to carry a firearm at any time while tending traps (including nights and Sundays) for the sole purpose of dispatching trapped animals. (Note: If you have a hunting license, you are also allowed to use this firearm for legal hunting purposes.) Any person prohibited from possessing a firearm under the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 15, Section 393 is prohibited from carrying a firearm during the open trapping season for the purpose of dispatching animals unless they have obtained a valid permit to carry a firearm.
Am I allowed to hunt for furbearing animals with my firearm?
You may use a firearm or bow and arrow to hunt for bobcat, coyote, red and grey fox, opossum, raccoon, red squirrel and skunk during the open hunting season on these animals. You are not allowed to hunt for beaver, fisher, marten, mink, muskrat, otter, or weasel at any time.
What do I do when I catch an animal in one of my traps?
Any animal you find in one of your traps must be removed. If the animal is alive, it may either be released or humanely dispatched. You are not allowed to keep a trapped animal alive unless you also have a license to possess captive wildlife. (Contact the Department for more information about captive wildlife.) See the Trapper Information handbook for information on what to do and who to contact if you catch a lynx or bald eagle.
What if I catch an animal that I’m not allowed to keep?
If you catch an animal at a time when you are not allowed to trap for that species, you must immediately release the animal alive, except Lynx (see Lynx Protection Zone – Trap Restrictions for what to do if you catch a lynx). If the animal is found dead in the trap, you must report the incident to a game warden as soon as possible and turn the animal over to the Department.
During the seasons explained below, there are rules, in addition to the general trapping rules, which you must follow. Failure to follow these rules could result in the loss of your trapping license.
Early Fox and Coyote Trapping Season
Opens October 18, 2015 and closes October 31, 2015
- Dates and closures will be posted on the website at: mefishwildlife.com. The Department has initiated rule making on several issues related to trapping. Any changes that pass will be included in the Trapper Information Booklet when it becomes available.
- You must set all traps at or below ground level.
- You are not allowed to use killer-type traps.
- You are not allowed to set traps in the water.
- You are not allowed to use any exposed bait or visible attractor.
- You are allowed to keep any incidental opossum, raccoon or skunk which you catch in your fox and coyote traps. Any other furbearing animal caught incidentally in your fox and coyote traps must be immediately released alive, except lynx (as described on Lynx Protection Zone – Trap Restrictions), or, if found dead, must be left there, in the trap, and be reported to a game warden as soon as possible.
Early Muskrat Trapping Season
Wildlife Management Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 only. Opens October 25, 2015 and closes October 31, 2015.
- You must set all traps at or below ground or water level. (Note: For enforcement purposes, traps will be considered set “at or below ground or water level” when set on objects which muskrats frequently visit, such as floating logs, logs extending from the water onto the bank and tree stumps located in or near the water.)
- The only traps you are allowed to use are foothold traps not larger than size number 1 1/2, killer-type traps with a jaw spread of not more than 5 inches and colony traps (colony trap restrictions explained above).
- You are not allowed to use any exposed bait or visible attractor.
- You are allowed to keep any incidental mink or raccoon which you catch in your muskrat traps. Any other furbearing animal caught incidentally in your muskrat traps must be immediately released alive, or, if found dead, must be left there in the trap and be reported to a game warden as soon as possible.
Do the furbearing animals which I take by trapping or hunting need to be tagged?
The skins of all beaver, bobcat, coyote, fisher, fox, marten, mink and otter must be tagged within 10 days after the end of the season on each species. There is a 25 cent tagging fee for each skin. (Note: The skins of all bobcats taken by hunting must be tagged within 72 hours from the time they were taken.) Tags must be attached to the skins of these furbearing animals before you are allowed to sell them, give them away, send them anywhere or take them anywhere. Skins of other furbearing animals (muskrat, opossum, raccoon, red squirrel, skunk and weasel) do not need to be tagged.
If the beaver trapping season closes at different times in different districts, do some beaver skins have to be tagged sooner than others?
All beaver must be tagged within 10 days of the final closing date on beaver. If beaver are allowed to be trapped in some districts until April 30th, all beaver skins (regardless of where they were taken) must be tagged by May 10th.
What are the special tagging requirements for marten and fisher?
When you obtain your trapping license you will be given 25 temporary marten tags and 10 fisher tags. One of these tags, signed and dated, must be immediately attached to each marten and fisher at the time you remove the animal from the capture site. This temporary tag must match the number indicated on the trapper’s license. This allows you to keep the marten until you are able to have it officially tagged by the Department. Trappers who are not required by law to have a trapping license (residents under 10 years of age and residents trapping on their own land) may use, in lieu of the official temporary tag, a substitute tag (string tag) on which the name and address of the individual has been clearly written in ink.
What if I bring the skins of furbearing animals into Maine from another state or province?
The skins of furbearing animals taken in another state or province must be tagged in that state or province before being brought into Maine. If that state or province has no tagging requirements, you must have the skins tagged in this State. (The tagging of imported fur applies only to those eight species for which Maine requires tagging.) Note: Skins imported by taxidermists solely for taxidermy purposes do not require tagging.
Am I allowed to have a skin tagged before removing it from the carcass?
Yes, you may have a skin tagged while it’s still attached to the carcass, but you may find it more difficult to properly prepare the skin if it has already been tagged.
What about tagging frozen skins?
If a skin will be frozen at the time it is presented for tagging (even if it hasn’t been removed from the carcass), you should insert a popsicle stick, tongue depressor, or similar object from the mouth hole through one of the eye holes before you freeze it. Removal of the stick at the time of tagging allows the tag to be inserted in the skin without thawing it out. Tagging agents may refuse to tag frozen skins which have not been prepared in this manner.
Where do I get my furs tagged?
Except for bobcat and otter, you can get your furs tagged at one of the many fur tagging stations which are located throughout the state. You can find out the location of a fur tagging station in your area by calling the nearest Regional Headquarters. (Numbers are listed on Maine Wildlife Offices.) In addition to fur tagging stations, furs may be tagged at any regional office of the Department and, through prior arrangement, by any Department game warden or wildlife biologist. Bobcat and otter must be tagged by Department personnel.
What if I want to take or ship my furs out of the State?
If your furs have been properly tagged, you are allowed by Maine law to take or ship your furs out of the State, but Federal Law requires an export permit for black bear, bobcat, otter and ermine (weasel) before these animals may be transported outside the United States. For information and permit applications, please contact:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Office of Management Authority
4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 420C
Arlington, VA 22203
How much does a trapping License cost?
Resident Junior Trapping License
Resident Trapping License
Nonresident Trapping License
Resident Trapping License (Over 70 Years of Age)
Resident Bear Trapping Permit
Nonresident Bear Trapping Permit
Resident Apprenticeship License
Nonresident Apprenticeship License
Note: Serviceman licenses, resident disabled veterans and Native Americans (see 2015-16 Licensing Information) are eligible for a free license.
Always Seek Permission
Always seek permission before engaging in any form of outdoor recreation on property that belongs to someone else. If you know you are welcome to use someone’s land, don’t abuse the privilege. If you don’t know if you are welcome, find out. If the land is posted or you know you are not welcome, find another location. A hunting or trapping license does not give you the right — stated or implied — to go on another person’s land against their wishes.
You are not allowed to take or disturb any trap, or any wild animal which is caught in a trap, without permission from the owner of the trap.
If you are convicted of disturbing traps, you will lose any license in effect, and be ineligible to purchase any license issued by the Department for 3 years.