Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Public hearings to be held on new regulations by DWF

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On Wednesday, July 17, after receiving recommendations from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the state Fish and Wildlife Board voted 6 to 1 to hold a public hearing regarding three matters: the prohibition of hunting contests for coyotes and other fur bearers such as foxes, bobcats, raccoons and opossums; inclusion of a "wanton waste" provision prohibiting the intentional killing of wildlife without retrieving animals for consumption or other use; and altering the reporting requirements for fox and coyote.

Board member Steven Sears, representing the Western District, voted with the majority. The lone no vote was given by newly appointed board member Robert Durand. His reasons for the negative vote will be given further on in this column and in a subsequent one.

Last Tuesday, Berkshire County League of Sportsmen President Wayne McLain and I met with Western District DFW Supervisor Andrew Madden and Sears. At that time, no written regulations had been made available to the public or, so I was told, to the board members themselves who approved it and forwarded it on. Only a power point presentation was made at the July 17 meeting. That is one reason why Durand opposed it. He brought up the fact that the board didn't have the info that staff was contemplating for the coyote regulations at the board meeting. "Why would we move to public hearing," he said, "when we don't know the parameters of the regs?"

Well, that was the issue that Wayne and I were also dealing with now. I must credit Madden and Sears for their efforts in trying to obtain the information for us. The formal proposed regulations were finally made available to the general public Wednesday.

Rather than risk erroneously paraphrasing the proposed regulations, I am including them verbatim in this column. I, and many other hunters have serious issues and concerns with the above proposed regulation and how it came about, but due to space limitations, we'll have to get into them in next week's column.

"DFW SUMMARY:

In response to public concern related to coyote hunting contests sponsored by private entities, MassWildlife and the Fisheries and Wildlife Board conducted a review of policies and regulations associated with coyote hunting and contests. To gather public feedback, MassWildlife held 4 listening sessions from April through June in Barnstable, Shelburne Falls, Westford, and Bourne. Phone calls, letters, and emails from the public were also reviewed and factored into MassWildlife's analysis and review. In addition to gathering input from stakeholders, MassWildlife professionals considered the best available science and consulted with wildlife professionals from other state agencies.

MassWildlife staff made a regulatory recommendation to the Fisheries and Wildlife Board based on this comprehensive review. The recommendation addresses public concerns that these hunting contests are unethical, contribute to the waste of animals, and incentivize indiscriminant killing of wildlife, inconsistent with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Further, recognizing that public controversy over this issue has the potential to threaten predator hunting and undermine public support for hunting in general, MassWildlife recommended the following regulatory changes:

— Prohibit hunting contests for predators and furbearers.

— Prohibit "wanton waste" of all wildlife taken during regulated hunting and trapping seasons.

— Change harvest reporting requirements for fox and coyote to be reported within 48 hours, consistent with current reporting requirements for deer, turkey, and bear.

The Fisheries and Wildlife Board voted to hold a public hearing on the Agency's recommendations. Details about the public hearing and proposed regulatory language will be available soon on Mass.gov/MassWildlife-Public-Hearings.

THIS PROPOSAL DOES:

— Fulfill one of MassWildlife's core functions to develop and maintain hunting, fishing, and trapping opportunities in Massachusetts.

— Address public concern that certain contests contribute to the waste of animals.

— Recognize and address the fact that public controversy over this issue has the potential to threaten predator hunting.

— Discourage the waste of wildlife and reinforce a core principle and expectation that all animals taken during the regulated seasons are utilized to the greatest extent possible, as taught in Hunter Education.

— Recognize that coyotes and other furbearers are managed as a valuable natural resource

THIS PROPOSAL DOES NOT:

Reduce opportunity for hunting coyotes or other furbearers.

— Apply to the defense of people or property.

— Apply to problem wildlife, such as Beaver Emergency Permitting and Problem Animal Control.

— Apply to animals "unfit for consumption or use" (damaged, destroyed, decayed, rotting, diseased, or infected).

Article Continues After These Ads

— Apply to certain animals listed in M.G.L. c. 131 Sec. 5: English sparrow, starling, crow, chipmunk, flying squirrel, red squirrel, porcupine, skunk, weasel, or woodchuck.

— Apply to wounded or dead animals that cannot be retrieved after a reasonable effort has been made.

DETAILED SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES

Prohibition on contests for predators and furbearers

A predator or furbearer contest is where participants compete for prizes of cash value or other inducements in the capture or take of predatory or furbearing animals.

It shall be unlawful for any person to organize, sponsor, promote, conduct, or participate in a contest (as described above) for take of coyote, bobcat, red fox, gray fox, weasels, mink, skunk, river otter, muskrat, beaver, fisher, raccoon, and opossum. (Animals regulated under 321 CMR 3.02(3) or 3.02(5)(b)(2, 5-11)).

Prohibition of wanton waste

"Waste" means to intentionally or knowingly leave a wounded or dead animal or bird in the field or the forest without making a reasonable effort to retrieve and use it.

It is unlawful for any person while hunting or trapping in accordance with 321 CMR 3.02 to waste an animal or bird. Each retrieved animal or bird shall be retained or transferred to another until processed or used     for food, fur, feathers, or taxidermy.

The draft waste regulation does not apply to:

— Animals "unfit for consumption or use" - animals or birds and their parts that are damaged, destroyed, decayed, rotting, diseased, or infected.

— Defense of people or property (M.G.L. Ch. 131 Sec 37)

— Problem wildlife, such as Beaver Emergency Permitting (321 CMR 2.08) and Problem Animal Control (321 CMR 2.14)

— Certain animals listed in M.G.L. c. 131 Sec. 5: English sparrow, starling, crow, chipmunk, flying squirrel, red squirrel, porcupine, skunk, weasel, or woodchuck.

— Wounded or dead animals that cannot be retrieved after a reasonable effort has been made.

Change harvest reporting requirements for fox and coyote

— Fox and coyote shall be checked within 48 hours of harvest, consistent with deer, bear, and turkey requirements. Fox and coyote may be checked online or in person."

Field Trials

Next weekend, the Berkshire Beagle Club will be conducting field trials on its lands located on Sleepy Hollow Road in Richmond. The trials start on Friday, Aug. 2 at 2:30 p.m. with the Field Champions. On Saturday the two-couple packs will run.

There will be an AKC Judges field trial seminar starting at 9 a.m. and a JR Fun Bench show at 6 p.m. There will also be a cookout on Saturday evening.

On Sunday is the derby and all age. The club will be raffling off a TT15 mini collar each day and there will be T-shirts for sale.

For more information, contact John Demary at 413-684-2228.

Gene Chague can be reached at berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or 413-637-1818.


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