If you were among the 52 percent of Colorado voters who voted “yes” in 1996 on Amendment 14, did you did you think you were banning all trapping of animals for fun and profit? I sure did.
First, in recognition that ranchers sometimes need to protect their herds and flocks from predators, Amendment 14 specifically allowed for trapping on private land 30 days per year. The amendment also expressly allowed the use of non-lethal trapping methods, but only for scientific research, falconry, relocation or medical treatment of wildlife.
In other words, by laying out exceptions, the law also made clear what was not allowed.
But in July, the Colorado Wildlife Commission gave in to the Colorado Trappers Association and voted to allow non-lethal “box trapping” of marten and mink — which would be killed for their pelts.
Their reasoning? Box trapping is allowed because Amendment 14 only banned certain types of cruel, lethal traps, not for-fun and profit trapping in general. Get it? The animals don’t die in the traps, so it must be OK!
The commission seems to have bought the CTA’s laughable claim that such trapping is “scientific research” because trappers could give “tooth, carcass, and DNA samples” to the Colorado Division to “re-start the data stream” on mink and marten.
But CTA’s real goal is to “re-start the money stream,” over the wishes of voters. That’s why Boulder-based Sinapu, a carnivore-protection nonprofit, and Forest Guardians have filed suit to stay the commission’s ruling.
“The intent of 14 was to ban commercial and recreational trapping,” says Wendy Keefover-Ring, director of carnivore protection for Sinapu.
This is about the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law. Even some trappers have acknowledged that voters meant to ban trapping for fun and profit. But, they say, the law was written imprecisely, so tough luck.
Colorado Springs trapper Claude Oleyar (who waxes ecstatic about eating mountain lions and beavers) told the commission in July that voters “did intend to end recreational fur trapping,” but said the law was silent on box-trap killing. (Oleyar did not return my phone call asking for comment.)
The CTA’s attempt to baste its desire to sell pelts with a glaze of bogus “science” is pitiful. First, trappers would be under no obligation to provide samples to DOW. And even if a few did so, the “data” would be worthless in determining population and other crucial information.
And we don’t know enough about these species to allow indiscriminate trapping. The commission refused to allow box trapping in 1996 and 2001 because there was not enough data to understand whether the numerous species in CTA’s sights (weasels, foxes, skunks, opossums, martens, minks and ringtails) can withstand free-wheeling trapping.
Finally, in applying for permission to box trap, CTA acknowledged that it hoped to “head off (an Endangered Species Act) listing of these species.” Because, you know, that would really put a crimp in their hobby and exotic suppers.
Trappers, unsurprisingly, are all about trapping — and making money. But voters have said they don’t want a small segment of the population profiting from killing scarce wildlife that belongs to all of Colorado. That’s the spirit and intent of the law.
As wildlife commissioner Tom Burke noted before casting his “no” vote in July, he got into trouble as a kid when he followed the letter, but not the spirit, of his parents’ rules. The CTA and the commission ought to be sent to their rooms for this brazen attempt to dodge the wishes of voters.
Contact Clay Evans at (303) 473-1352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boulder Daily Camera
October 15, 2006