Trappers Try Unlawful Trick: Swift Fox, Others Threatened

Contact:
Wendy Keefover-Ring, Director of Carnivore Protection Program
Sinapu: 303.447.8655, Ext. 1#

In their undated petition to the Colorado Wildlife Commission, the Colorado Trappers’ Association requested that they be allowed to “live” trap wildlife that are now currently off limits: swift foxes, gray foxes, long- and short-tailed weasels, pine martens, minks, ringtails, western-spotted skunks, and opossums. Trappers would kill the trapped animals, and presumably, sell the fur. Conservation groups argued that the Trappers’ petition violates Colorado’s Constitution.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission will consider this proposal at its March 9th public hearing. If the Commission approves the idea, the petition will move forward through a public process over the next several months. In 2001, however, the Wildlife Commission rejected a similar request to trap these species.

In 1996, Colorado citizens passed a Constitutional Amendment that prohibits the use of leg-hold traps or other body-gripping devices and poisons on public lands, but allows for certain specific exemptions, such as for the protection of human safety or for scientific research projects. [Article 18 §12(b).] The regulations that implement the Constitutional Amendment require that the State “discourage the use of inhumane methods” of wildlife management, but allow for certain exemptions including for “bona fide” scientific research. [C.R.S. 33-6-201 et seq.]

“The Colorado Trappers’ Association is attempting an end run around state law,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu. “While this handful of people assert they want to trap for biological purposes, it’s really about recreational trapping our state’s precious native wildlife for personal benefit,” she added.

Sinapu and 13 partner groups argued in their March 1st letter to the Colorado Wildlife Commission that recreational trapping undermines the spirit and the will of the majority of the Colorado public, is not legal under Colorado’s Constitution, and the that the Trappers’ petition does not qualify as “bona fide” research pursuant to Colorado’s wildlife regulations definition. [Wildlife Regulation Chapter 13, Article 1, #1300.]

The status of many of these species’ populations are unknown, and renewed trapping could harm them. Swift foxes, for example, were a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act, but were removed in 2001 because of a conservation agreement between several states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Currently, Colorado acts as a source for augmenting swift fox populations in other states, including South Dakota.

“Trapping wild animals for the sake of profit or recreation is unethical and frivolous,” said Keefover-Ring.

“Swift foxes are so tiny—it would take a half dozen or so to make a fur trim for a coat. These native species are a state treasure, whose populations we should conserve.” added Keefover-Ring.

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