Anti-trapping measure irks Washington timber growers.


Mar 11, 2001
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Anti-trapping measure irks Washington timber growers.

Bob Mottram , Scripps-McClatchy Western Service

TWISP, Wash. - A mountain beaver is not a "rat," the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission said last week, and a mole is not a "mouse."
So it rejected proposals by the Washington Forest Protection Association (WFPA), a timber-growers' industry group, to moderate the impact of Initiative 713, an anti-trapping measure, on foresters. The commission said it lacked authority to modify a law through the rule-making process. That decision came as the commission unanimously adopted permanent regulations governing implementation of I-713, Washington's voter-approved new law that prohibits most use of body-gripping traps.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), an East-Coast-based animal-rights organization, had sponsored I-713, and Washington voters - primarily from urban areas - approved it last year. It prohibits trapping to obtain fur, and limits use of body-gripping traps for most other reasons except under a special permit issued by the state Fish and Wildlife director. That person may authorize their use to control damage by animals to livestock or other property, but only for limited periods and only after the permitee has tried - and failed - to address the problem by various other means, such as fencing and harassment.

The initiative also defined common rat and mouse traps as not body-gripping, allowing their use to continue.

During the initiative campaign, some voters asked whether they would be able to continue to trap moles in their yards with the standard body-gripping traps designed for that purpose if the initiative were adopted. The HSUS said that they would, despite the fact that mole trapping was not specifically exempted from the restrictions established by the measure.

After the election, attorneys for the state said the initiative did prohibit trapping moles with the body-crushing traps designed to be used in their tunnels. They said it also prohibited trapping mountain-beaver with the body-crushing traps that had proven most successful for that purpose.

The HSUS and the WFPA requested the legislature to modify the new law, but bills to do so died in committee in both houses.

So the WFPA, with HSUS approval, went to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in Twisp last week.

The WFPA, which formerly trapped thousands of mountain beavers each year on Washington tree farms, said the initiative does not define "common rat and mouse traps," nor does any other statute, rule or court decision, so it asked the commission to define the body-crushing trap formerly used to kill mountain beaver as a common rat or mouse trap.

Mountain beaver are rodents about the size of large house cats. They live in the forest and eat Douglas fir seedlings. The damage they cause in replanted clear-cuts can prevent reforestation, the WFPA said, forcing foresters into violation of the state's Forest Practices Act, which requires reforestation after harvest.

John Todd, a forester for Weyerhaeuser, said his company had tried several other potential options - leg-hold traps, toxic baits, plastic tubing around seedlings, but the only thing that worked was the body-crushing trap.

The WFPA asked the commission to adopt a rule "clarifying" that trapping done to comply with the Forest Practices Act is exempt from the initiative's trapping prohibitions and the requirements for special trapping permits.

"In my view, we don't have the authority to fix the broad language of the initiative," said commission member Will Roehl, an attorney. "We can't describe mountain beavers as 'rats.'"

(Bob Mottram is a reporter for the Tacoma News Tribune in Washington.)

big tom

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Jul 27, 2001
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I live in Washington and luckily trappers can continue to use body traps on moles, the Fish and Game department is basically looking the other way, but for large companies such as Weyerhaeuser, they have to deal with the beaver issue, its tough for them.  Its such a screwy initiative that these people got approved.
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