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Trapping comes under scrutiny

Trappers and animal-rights groups will meet Thursday in Salem to begin hashing out just how often traps targeting coyotes, rodents and other damage-causing predator species should be checked in the field.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission formed this trapping advisory committee to help it define an acceptable time limit that allows trappers to target predators effectively but addresses concerns over what some see as an inhumane treatment of wounded or dying animals.

Oregon currently has no set time in which a snare or kill trap set specifically for predators must be checked, making it the most lax state on the issue. A two-day limit exists for mink, beaver and other species trapped for their fur.

Animal-rights groups are arguing for a 24-hour limit, while trappers want at least three days, and the schism has forged a hot wildlife issue in a state where fewer than 200 trappers likely hunt predators.

— I don't know if it's totally polarized, but there's definitely a difference of opinion, said commission spokeswoman Anne Pressentin Young, who will help facilitate the committee's work. We're going to try to get them closer.

If they can't come to a consensus recommendation, then it will be whether there's at least a range they can come up with.

In 2001, the Oregon Legislature passed a law requiring all 891 licensed trappers to check their traps every 48 hours when targeting mink, beaver and other animals classified as furbearers.

The law requires predator traps to be checked on a regular basis. The Legislature left it up to the commission to define regular basis.

The commission attempted to reach that definition this fall, but the effort stalled Oct. 10 after more than two dozen people testified on the issue during a commission meeting in Roseburg.

A handful of states require predator traps to be set three or more days later, with trappers saying it takes at least two days for the human scent to dissipate.

But 30 states have a 24-hour limit, and some animal-rights groups want Oregon to follow suit. Kelly Peterson of the Oregon Chapter of the Humane Society of the United States believes doing so can reduce suffering to snared or injured animals, particularly species not targeted by the predator traps.

Imagine your hand caught in a car door for one minute, then two minutes and three minutes, says Peterson, who is on the committee. We're talking the difference between 24 hours and 72 hours, and there's a lot of suffering in that time frame.

If somebody's going to take the public's wildlife, they should be respectful of it.

Rod Harder of the National Trappers Association says that exaggerates the issue. Most coyotes, which are the most common target of predator trappers, shy away from the traps for a few days and virtually all die in the traps ' so a time limit for checking is moot.

Harder served on a legislative committee that recommended a 76-hour limit for predator checks. That would allow Wildlife Services agents, the so-called government trapper, the opportunity to set traps on Fridays and be given four hours on Monday mornings to check them, Harder says.

Harder expects some kind of concrete resolution from the committee.

I thought we had this all settled, Harder says. I'm going to go do this with an open mind ' at least as open as I can get it. I've been accused of being reasonable sometimes.

The ODFW last week empaneled the committee. Along with Harder and Peterson, members include Bob Sallinger from the Portland Audubon Society; Warren Aney of The Wildlife Society's Oregon Chapter; Mike Dykzeul from the Oregon Forest Industries Council; Greg Addington from the Oregon Farm Bureau; and Bob Gillman, a private trapper.

ODFW biologist Larry Cooper says the committee's opinions must be collected by mid-November because the commission expects a briefing at its Dec. 12 meeting in Salem.

Whatever ODFW recommends on the trap-checking time will be up for public comment in December, and the commission is set to vote on the issue at its Jan. 9 meeting in Salem.

In Oregon, predatory animals as defined in state law include coyotes, rabbits, rodents, feral swine and birds that are, or may be, destructive to agricultural crops.

Furbearers are defined as beaver, bobcat, fisher, marten, mink, muskrat, otter, raccoon, red fox and gray fox.

Today's meeting will begin at 8 a.m. in the second floor wildlife conference room of the ODFW headquarters office in Salem, 3406 Cherry Ave. NE. Members of the public are welcome to attend and some time will be set aside for public comment, Cooper says.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail