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Hunting/Trapping on Private Property

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The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Landowner Relations Program is actively working towards enhancing the relationship between landowners and land users. With approximately 94% of the land in Maine privately owned, everyone MUST respect landowners and their rights. Landowner wishes have to be followed by all outdoor recreation participants to help ensure access and use of private property in the years to come.

The Maine Legislature has enacted laws that address the concerns of landowners.

Summarized below are several of those laws and a brief description of each. For further detail on these laws, consult Maine Revised Statues cited in parenthesis.

Landowner Liability (14 MRSA §159-A) Limited Duty

An owner, lessee, manager, holder of an easement or occupant of premises shall owe no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others for recreational or harvesting activities or to give warning of any hazardous condition, use, structure or activity on these premises to persons entering for those purposes. This subsection applies regardless of whether permission has been given to another to pursue recreational or harvesting activities on the premises.

Exceptions to Limited Duty

  1. For a willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity; and
  2. When financial consideration is paid for the exclusive right to make use of the property for recreational activities.

Costs and fees

The court shall award any direct legal costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees, to an owner, lessee, manager, holder of an easement or occupant who is found not to be liable for injury to a person or property pursuant to this section.

Posting of Land (17-A MRSA, §402)

Posting may be done in one of the following four ways:

  1. Use of signs placed no further than 100 feet apart that deny access for a particular activity or for all activities.
  2. Paint system utilizing two silver horizontal paint marks placed on trees, rocks, fence posts or other objects now mean access by permission only. (These objects must be placed no further apart than 100 feet.)
  3. Landowners may post their land “in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of the intruder.”
  4. Landowners may verbally or in writing convey to others to stay off their property.

Other provisions of posting

  1. Signs or paint markings must be at all vehicular access entrances from a public way.
  2. It is unlawful to post the land of another and to remove, destroy, mutilate or deface any signs or paint marks.
  3. Trespass by a motor vehicle is a violation of the trespass law.

Trespass Damages (14 MRSA, §7551-B)

Any person who enters the land of another without permission and causes damage to the property of another is liable to the owner in a civil action. Violations of this law will have the following results:

  1. If the damage is intentional the person doing the damage is liable to the owner for 2 times the actual damage plus additional costs which include the attorney fees of the landowner.
  2. If the damage is unintentional, the person doing the damage is liable to the owner for the amount of the actual damage plus additional costs which include attorney fees of the landowner.
  3. A person doing damage to property of another may also be charged criminally for doing the damage.

Unlawful cutting of trees (14 MRSA, §7552, and 17 MRSA, §2510)

It is unlawful for any person to intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or negligently cut down or fell any tree without the consent of the owner of the property on which the tree stands.

Abuse of Another Persons Property While Hunting (12 MRSA §10652)

It is unlawful to tear down a fence or wall, destroy any crop, leave open any bars or gates, or insert objects into trees on another person’s land without permission (see observation stand information).

Littering

It is unlawful to dispose of litter anywhere in this state except in areas or receptacles designed for that purpose. See laws pertaining to field dressing lawfully harvested wild game.

Civil Trespass (12 MRSA, §10657)
Prohibition

While engaging in any activity regulated by the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, a person, knowing that the person is not licensed or privileged to do so, may not:

  1. Enter or cause a projectile to enter any place from which that person may lawfully be excluded and that is posted in accordance with Title 17-A, section 402, subsection 4 or in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders or that is fenced or otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders; or
  2. Enter or remain in or cause a projectile to enter or remain in any place in defiance of a lawful order not to enter or an order to vacate that was personally communicated to that person by the owner of the place or another authorized person.

Definition of projectile: For the purposes of this section, “projectile” means a bullet, pellet, shot, shell, ball, arrow, bolt or other object propelled or launched from a firearm or a bow, crossbow or similar tensile device.

For information on other provisions of these laws, contact the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000.

Commercial Shooting Areas

A person may not charge any fee for access to land if the fee is contingent upon the taking of game on that land or directly related to the taking of game on the land, unless the land is an authorized commercial shooting area licensed as follows: The Commissioner may issue licenses for the establishment and operation of commercial shooting areas, authorizing the owner of a commercial shooting area to charge others for the opportunity to hunt mallard ducks, pheasants, quail, Chukar partridge, and Hungarian partridge in that area (12 MRSA section 12101).

The operator of a commercial shooting area may authorize a person to hunt other wild birds or wild animals in a commercial shooting area during the regular open season on those species, in accordance with the provisions of 12 MRSA Part 13, as long as the person possesses a valid state hunting license that allows the hunting of those wild birds and wild animals.

The operator of the commercial shooting area shall provide to each person taking birds in that area a receipted invoice or bill of sale for possession and transportation of those birds.

Enforcement

Enforcement of the trespass laws of a commercial shooting area is the responsibility of the owner and may not in any manner be considered an obligation of the Department.

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This is not the full law. Consult the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife for further details. All persons are reminded that the statutes, code and regulations are the legal authorities.
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