DENVER — New regulations allowing the trapping of pine martens and mink have been put on hold while environmentalists challenge them on grounds that they violate a voter-approved trapping ban.
The decision earlier this month by Denver District Judge Larry Naves reverses the rules at least until their legality is determined in court. A trial is set for Sept. 10.
Wendy Keefover-Ring of Boulder-based Sinapu, a wildlife advocacy group, said environmentalists challenging the regulations believe they violate a 1996 voter-approved ban on leg-hold and body-gripping traps, snares and poisons.
“We think it clearly banned all commercial and recreational trapping,” Keefover-Ring said.
Last summer, the state Wildlife Commission approved the use of box traps to capture pine martens and mink, weasel-like animals valued for their fur.
The commission, which oversees the state Division of Wildlife, rejected a request from the Colorado Trappers Association to use the traps for seven other animals, including swift fox and gray fox.
Spokesman Tyler Baskfield said the Division of Wildlife is doing everything it can to make sure hunters are aware of the court decision and that they shouldn’t be trapping the animals.
Mink and pine martens can be hunted by other means.
Baskfield said the contested regulations were part of the commission’s effort to provide hunters as many opportunities as possible.
But Keefover-Ring said she sees the regulations as a trampling of the rights of voters who approved the trapping ban.
The 1996 ballot measure didn’t explicitly prohibit box traps, which capture animals alive. It allowed non-lethal traps and snares to relocate or treat animals and for scientific research.
The trapping law includes a 30-day exception each year for ranchers on private land.
“The commission said, `Oh, here’s a loophole that’s going to allow box trapping,”‘ Keefover-Ring said.
Members of the Colorado Trappers Association didn’t immediately return messages.
In 1992, Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment outlawing the spring bear hunt to protect cubs that are still with their mothers. Four years later, voters approved expanding trapping restrictions previously adopted by wildlife commissioners.
By JUDITH KOHLER
Associated Press writer
January 25, 2006