[Reprinted from original]
Regulations take effect on town-owned land
The Williston Selectboard came up short of a call from a group of about 230 petitioners to ban the use of body-gripping animal traps on town land but did approve limits to the practice in a new policy unanimously approved last Tuesday.
Williston residents submitted a petition two years ago urging the town to prohibit the practice, calling animal traps “inhumane and indiscriminate” and posing a risk to pets and children. The effort to ban the practice mirrors a broader initiative by wildlife activists to enact a statewide ban.
“I am worried about this for my dog, and all dogs and children who use the town lands,” resident Nancy Kahn wrote on the petition to the selectboard. “This is not a safe or humane way to treat any animal domestic or otherwise.”
Town staff worked with the volunteer conservation commission and a consulting attorney to draft a policy to present to the board. An outright ban on trapping, or a ban of certain types of traps, would not be legal under state law, the town’s attorney advised. But the town is authorized to create rules and conditions for trapping on land it owns — like its many country parks and conservation areas. State law requires trappers to receive landowner permission to trap furbearing animals — such as beavers, otters, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and bobcats.
Under the new policy, town administrators will allow only “essential” trapping, defined as necessary to managing a threat to public safety, property or infrastructure. It also creates a case-by-case allowance for wildlife research and/or monitoring. The town will deny all other trapping requests, the policy states.
Williston Public Works Director Bruce Hoar worked with the conservation commission in drafting the policy, lobbying to retain the town’s ability to trap nuisance animals. The policy directs the department to contract only with licensed and insured trappers and to be advised of the location of traps set by contractors. Contracted trappers are required to use “the most safe, effective, selective, practical and humane methods and techniques for capturing furbearer species,” the policy states. It also requires contractors to notify the town when a non-target animal is captured.
Signs will be posted alerting the public to stay on trails when trapping is taking place. There is an exemption from the signing requirement in areas where town infrastructure is located but where there are no town trails.
Hoar “expressed concerns that … signs notifying people of trapping occurring on a property will lead to traps being stolen,” Town Planner Simon Myles wrote in a memo about the policy to the selectboard.
“We had a lot of back and forth with the Department of Public Works,” Myles said.
People who disregard the policy and trap on town-owned land without permission will be subject to trespassing charges, the policy states. That includes people who use town land to access a stream to set a trap.
Meanwhile, state wildlife officials are currently taking public comment on possible new statewide regulations on trapping and hunting with dog packs, which wildlife advocates, led by a group called Protect Our Wildlife, have long lobbied state lawmakers to ban. The Legislature directed the Department of Fish and Wildlife to create new rules for both practices with the passage of Act 159 and Act 165 in 2022.
Public hearings are planned for June 20 in Rutland, June 21 in Montpelier and online via Microsoft Teams on June 22. To participate in the meetings, visit Tinyurl.com. Public comment is also being accepted by email through the end of June at firstname.lastname@example.org. Write “trapping and coyote regulations” in the subject line of your email.
Brenna Galdenzi of Protect Our Wildlife said any new rules that fall short of a statewide ban of trapping and dog pack hunting will be “toothless, unenforceable recommendations that will result in no meaningful changes to lessen the suffering that animals endure as a result of these cruel activities.”