This commentary is by Beverly Soychak, a wildlife advocate who lives in Monkton.
Wow, a lot going on in Vermont in regard to trapping.
The deaths of poor Clara and another dog in October have opened many people’s eyes.
We post signs saying “pack out what you pack in,” “no camping,” “stay on trail to protect ecosystems,” “don’t litter,” etc. We don’t post “trapping in progress” signs?
How can it be implied when a lot of Vermonters don’t even know trapping exists still, and if they do, a lot don’t support it?
It’s not posted because no one would hike in those areas anymore! People would then complain and Vermont’s dirty little secret would come up against a true challenge. Our governor and Fish & Wildlife Department would then have to pay attention to residents of Vermont and not the lobbyists.
I get that the trappers are fighting passionately to save their sport and I get that all the wildlife rescue groups are speaking up for the humane treatment of our wildlife. I side with the latter. Sport over humanity? In addition, a true sportsman would not tolerate the suffering of any animal in reality. I know several ex-trappers who have stopped for that very reason. They do still have wonderful hunting experiences in our wilderness that have meaningful effects on our environments.
I have learned a lot in the last few years about Vermont and the way wildlife is treated and it does seem like we are failing horribly at living up to our state’s mission statement.
We have no statewide dog leash laws, or should that be implied as well? The dog owners should not be blamed or judged as a defense to these tragedies. Thirteen domestic pets this year so far, according to Fish & Wildlife, have been injured in these types of traps. Regardless of the type or degree of injury, it should not happen. These are not made public unless requested specifically through the public records act through Fish & Wildlife or if owners come forward.
Maybe it should be left up to townspeople to make their own town ordinances on whether to allow trapping, just like the dog laws are made. That would solve the problem, since the nontrappers far outnumber the trappers. Maybe we should put it to a vote and let the people of Vermont decide.
Vermonters need to start asking questions and making choices.
Unfortunately, you can find any expert online to support any belief if you look hard enough. It doesn’t matter what group. The diversity is vast, whether it’s the trappers, wildlife rescue groups or Fish & Wildlife. We can try to make a million points but all the back-and-forth challenges on social media don’t help the situation. No one should be intimidated for what they believe.
No one on our Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board or payroll should ever be honored, participate in or profit from trapping regardless of the law. It’s vital that the board/wardens remain impartial and fair. We need to focus on the process, not the people. It seems like that’s what the wildlife groups are doing.
We need the support of and to follow recommendations from the Vermont Humane Society and Vermont Veterinarians Association, which have expressed some need for reform; it’s available online. From what information I have found, everyone wants some sort of change.
Do your homework, follow up with your legislators, and have the conversations with your groups, friends and towns. I have learned the hard way that for every positive opinion and positive action I have tried to save wildlife in my town, I’ve had to deal with lots of negative pushback from some trappers, and there is no reasoning with some of them. But you can’t let that stop you.
Trapping is legal. It seems like the main focus is on eliminating the use of leghold traps and body-crushing traps — even the names are horrific. Not all animals can be saved, but all animals deserve to be treated humanely. These are not humane.
If we can’t eliminate all trapping, we need to make this “sport” humane when needed and not recreational. It should be used in nuisance situations only by professionals when all other means of control have failed. This will not change until you speak up. We get more calls every day for change; don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard.