Changes to Trapping Rules

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In 2016, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board received a petition asking for six regulatory changes related to trapping. The Department recommended that the Board consider two of these changes, expanding the otter season through March and lengthening the check time on muskrat colony/cage traps, which the Board passed after receiving considerable public input and several rounds of deliberation and voting. Below is a quick summary of the Department’s rationale for supporting these changes.

Muskrat Colony/Cage Trap Check Times

Prior to 2008, the legal check time for muskrat colony/cage traps set underwater was three calendar days as it was with all other kill type traps set in aquatic environments. However, when the furbearer rules were consolidated in 2008, these muskrat specific traps were inadvertently left off the list of traps requiring a three-day check thereby requiring them, by default, to be checked every day. The changes to this rule bring the check times for these traps back to three calendar days in compliance with other similar traps.

Otter Trapping Season Extension

Otter trappers take only two animals annually for every 90 square miles, posing no threat to the population and providing critical data to help us understand and protect otters throughout the state. Also, given that trapping pressure declines throughout the winter (93% of harvest is completed by January 31), the expanded March harvest is expected to be fewer than 10 additional otters per year.

Beaver and otter often occupy the same habitats and, therefore, require a management strategy that considers both species. The beaver and otter trapping seasons always ran concurrently until 2007 when the beaver season was expanded to address burgeoning damage complaints. At that time, trap trigger regulations were also enacted to specifically minimize the accidental take of otter during the expanded beaver season. These triggers regulations, however, were reported on rare occasions to inhibit proper trap function resulting in the captured animals not being immediately killed as the traps are designed to do. The newly expanded March otter season eliminates the need for these trigger regulations thereby improving the animal welfare of these trapping systems.