Trappers snare state victory: Mink, pine marten seasons approved by wildlife panel

The state Wildlife Commission on Thursday established a hunting season for mink and pine marten, giving Colorado trappers a partial victory in their pursuit to snare more fur-bearing animals.

The Colorado Trappers Association had requested that the commission allow them to kill 10 animal species currently off-limits. Among those animals: skunks, foxes, weasels, opossums and ringtail cats.

Against the advice of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the commission decided to add seasons for mink and marten, saying they didn’t think that hunting the animals would cause serious population declines.

Several trappers told commissioners some of the animals were plaguing both suburban homeowners and residents of the state’s high country.

“I’ve done weasel jobs in Grand Lake and Summit County,” said Jim Hooks, a Kremmling wildlife control specialist. “One lady in Silverthorne had a pine marten that kept chewing holes in her windows and coming in.”

The trappers said they were pleased with the commission’s decision, but will likely come back at a later date to press the issue of hunting the other animals.

“I think the division will see just how useful we can be and that we’re not out to destroy all fuzzy creatures,” said Opal Watts, president of the trappers association.

Members of several environmental groups had argued against creating a hunting season for the animals, saying the Division of Wildlife didn’t have good population data on each species.

Wendy Keefover-Ring, carnivore protection director for Boulder-based Sinapu, said the group anticipated filing a lawsuit challenging the commission’s decision.

“They’re basing their decisions on anecdotal eyewitness accounts rather than good science,” she said. “It’s an abomination of the conservation of the species.”

Much of Thursday’s discussion revolved around Amendment 14, a 1996 ballot initiative prohibiting steel-jawed leg-hold traps.

Environmental groups argued that Amendment 14 was a clear message that Colorado residents were opposed to trapping.

The trappers, however, argued the amendment was spearheaded by Front Range activists and California transplants and didn’t reflect Colorado values.

“I believe people who voted for Amendment 14 were not completely informed,” Hooks said.

Other means of trapping, such as using box traps, are not banned.

In other business, the commission heard from the public for the first time regarding the division’s proposal to allow explosive gases to eradicate prairie dogs and other burrowing animals.

Many of those who spoke said they were appalled the commission would consider such an idea.

But Agriculture Commissioner Don Ament said Colorado’s farmers and ranchers need another method to combat burrowing creatures, which are destroying valuable rangeland and cropland.

“In dry weather, you have a great deal of trouble getting toxicants to work,” Ament said. “You put it in a dry hole and it just won’t gas.”

The commission is scheduled to vote on the matter at its meeting in September in Gunnison.

Staff writer Kim McGuire can be reached at 303-820-1240 or kmcguire@denverpost.com.

By Kim McGuire
Denver Post Staff Writer

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