Gun Owners’ Action League Alert on Coyote Management
Concerns Linger on DFW Proposed Regulations on Predators and Furbearers
Weeks ago, GOAL sent out an alert to our members about the concerns we had over proposed regulatory changes by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW). Just to recap for those who had not yet been aware of the issue.
The problem began when a local sporting shop ran a coyote hunting contest. These types of contests are quite common, especially at local fish and game clubs. Most of these clubs also run game dinners where the harvested animals are utilized. The rest were put in the freezer by the hunter who took them. Most often they are for the biggest buck, best antlers, turkey with the longest beard, etc. The Cape Cod coyote contest differs from traditional club contests in that it was conducted by a for profit organization and rewarded quantity over selectivity.
A small, but vocal group on the cape complained to their local politicians that these contests were unacceptable. The DFW reacted to the supposed controversy by conducting listening ses-sions in several locations across the Commonwealth. After conducting these sessions, the DFW staff proposed some new regulations to the DFW seven-person board that has ultimate control of the agency. The bullet points of those changes are as follows:
- Prohibit hunting contests for predators and furbearers.
- Prohibit “wanton waste” of all wildlife taken during regulated hunting and trapping sea-sons.
- Change harvest reporting requirements for fox and coyote to be reported within 48 hours, consistent with current reporting requirements for deer, turkey, and bear.
At the July meeting, the seven-person board voted 6 – 1 to bring the proposed regulations to a public hearing. After the meeting we asked for a copy of the proposed regulations. At that time, we were told they did not yet exist in a form fit to release to the public.
Fast forward to late September, the actual proposed regulations were finally released for re-view.
Proposed DFW Regulatory Changes/Additions
2.16: Prohibition on Contests for the Capture, Take or Waste of Predator and Furbearer Animals
It shall be unlawful for any person to organize, sponsor, promote, conduct or participate in a con-test in which participants compete for prizes or other inducements that results in the capture, take or waste of those predatory or furbearing animals regulated by the Division pursuant to 321 CMR 3.02(3) or 3.02(5)(b)(2.) and (5.-11.).
2.17: Prohibition on the Waste of Certain Game Animals and Birds
(1) It is unlawful for any person while hunting or trapping in accordance with 321 CMR 3.02 to waste an animal or bird. For the purposes of 321 CMR 2.16 and 2.17, “waste” means to intention-ally or knowingly leave a wounded or dead animal or bird that the person has hunted or trapped in the field or the forest without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the animal or bird and use it.
(2) Each retrieved animal or bird shall be retained in the individual’s possession or transferred to another and retained in their possession until processed or used as food, or for its fur, feathers, or for taxidermy.
(3) Each retrieved animal or bird shall be checked in accordance with 321 CMR 3.02.
(4) The requirements of 321 CMR 2.17 (1) and (2) shall not apply to animals that are unfit for con-sumption or use. For the purposes of this section, “unfit for consumption or use” shall mean ani-mals or birds or their parts that are damaged, destroyed, decayed, rotting, diseased or infected.
(5) The prohibition of waste in 321 CMR 2.17(1) and (2) shall not apply to:
(a) any animal or bird taken pursuant to M.G.L. c. 131, § 37; or
(b) those animals and birds identified in M.G.L. c. 131, § 5 except for fox and wildcat, the take of which are regulated pursuant to 321 CMR 3.02(3); or
(c) any animal or bird taken in accordance with 321 CMR 2.08 or 2.14.
Coyote and fox shall be sealed no later than 48 hours after the animal is killed.
321 CMR 2.00: M.G.L. c. 131, §§ 4, 5, 19, and 19A and 37.
The first part of the proposal “2.16” deals with prohibiting contests involving predators and furbearers. Since discussions began on these changes, it was widely believed that only “for profit” enterprises, like stores, would be restricted in this manner. That local fish and game clubs would be able to continue with any traditional contests they might operate. Perhaps this belief was more perception than anything.
With the release of the actual regulations, it turns out they would ban any contests based on predators or furbearers. This is caused by the use of: “It shall be unlawful for any person…” This not only goes beyond the banning of “for profit” entities running contests, it goes so far as to ban a group of friends pooling a few dollars to have a friendly challenge. This is of great con-cern.
The bigger question with this portion (2.16) is does DFW have the authority to regulate such contests? GOAL is leaning towards the belief that they don’t. GOAL has always been a big sup-porter of the Division and has backed its authority to manage wildlife and habitat. In reviewing the statutes, namely Chapter 140 of the Massachusetts General Laws, that authority is made pretty clear. However, is regulating contests within the purview of managing wildlife? As we view it, it is actually “post-management”.
To our thinking, management includes things like bag limits, how you harvest wildlife, where you harvest them, maintaining habitats, etc. These are management matters that assist in keeping healthy populations of wildlife species. The question then comes, after a hunter/trapper has followed all the imposed rules and regulations to harvest something, is that where DFW authority stops?
No one I have spoken to supports blatant wanton waste of wildlife. We are all taught about such ethics when we first get introduced to outdoor heritage through the hunter education pro-gram. With that, if you have followed the rules for the taking and have utilized the harvest to the best of my ability that is where the agency’s authority ends. If the agency truly believes it has post-management authority, things could get really scary for the outdoor heritage commu-nity in the near future.
The second major part of the regulatory proposal is to address “wanton waste”. Wanton waste means, “to intentionally waste something negligently or inappropriately.” For the purposes of this discussion it would be shooting a deer and just leaving it in the field. Or perhaps wounding an animal and not making any attempt to recover it. These parts of the effort may be well worth exploring if there is a legitimate problem with wanton waste in the Commonwealth.
Our big objection to the wanton waste piece is that it seems to specifically exempt poaching out of season and, more importantly, the killing for profit brought on by Question One of 1996. We brought up these concerns in our initial alert and they still remain.
After the passage of Question One, certain species began to be such a problem that a new in-dustry emerged. The new laws actually created the worst example of wanton waste in modern wildlife history in our state. Many animals, including beaver, a once valued resource, were now being killed for pure profit with the animal being tossed in the garbage. For sure, there were already businesses that would take care of a squirrel or skunk causing problems, but now we have furbearers killed and wasted for profit.
For decades now, DFW has complained that they have no knowledge of how many animals are being taken by this new industry. The main reason is that a great number of them are taken under permits issued by the health agencies and are not checked in/tagged to gather any sort of data.
Within the newly proposed changes the DFW seeks to speed up the check in time for coyotes and fox from four working days to 48 hours. How hard would it be to include language that all furbearers and predators must be checked in regardless of where a permit came from? Do not all “problem animal” contractors have to have a hunting and/or trapping license? If that is the case, then the DFW definitely has the authority to require them to report any taking of wildlife. Why wouldn’t the Division want to solve a longstanding problem they have been looking to deal with for decades?
GOAL urges its members to attend the public hearings scheduled for October and express their concerns over this regulatory proposal.
The Fisheries and Wildlife Board voted to hold public hearings on MassWildlife’s recom-mendations. Public hearings will be held at two locations:
October 22: Public Hearing on Predator Hunting Contests and Wanton Waste Regulations, Lenox – A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the Lenox Town Hall, 6 Walker Street.
October 29: Public Hearing on Predator Hunting Contests and Wanton Waste Regulations, Westborough – A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the MassWildlife Field Headquarters, Richard Cronin Building, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, off North Drive in Westborough.