Weldon Bosworth: NH’s fur-bearing animals are being mismanaged
- Apr 8, 2021 Updated Apr 8, 2021
THE New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and the Fish and Game Commission are stewards of our public trust wildlife and are responsible by law for managing them such that all species have healthy, stable populations. For the most part, Fish and Game has done a commendable job. Populations of most major game species, including whitetail deer, bear and turkey, are stable or increasing and over the years have provided a sustainable opportunity for hunters to “harvest” wild game.
However, Fish and Game and the commission have done a poor job in managing furbearers. The populations of the Granite State’s native furbearing animals, which include red and gray fox, fisher, raccoon, otter, mink, beaver and muskrat, have seen significant decreases in harvests over the last three decades. Far from achieving healthy, stable populations, Fish and Game’s management, or more correctly mismanagement, has resulted in significantly declining populations of these species.
While harvests are not a direct measure of population size, when numbers of trapping licenses remain constant or increase, as they have, it is an indicator of population changes from year to year. In fact, changes in harvest from year to year is precisely the metric Fish and Game uses to set seasons and bag limits for whitetail deer and bear.
The total furbearer harvest by trapping over the last three decades has declined dramatically. Compared to statewide average annual harvest of about 9,400 total animals for the 15-year period from 1990-2004, the average annual harvest over the last three years is about 2,500 animals, a decline of 73%. However, this total includes the far more numerous furbearing species, including beaver, muskrat and coyote, and so understates the impact on several of New Hampshire’s iconic furbearing predators.
The harvest of fisher, red fox and gray fox has declined significantly. Fisher had an average annual harvest of 682 for the 15-year period from 1990-2004 and an average of only 41 annually for 2018-2020 (a 94% decline); the red fox harvest fell from an annual average of 363 to 122 for the last three years (a 66% decline) and the gray fox from an annual average of 109 to 34 for the last three years (a 69% decline). And these estimates of impact to these populations are undoubtedly understated since, inexplicably, Fish and Game only monitors those furbearers that are trapped, not those shot, including those shot in the several wildlife killing “contests” held annually.
Why is this important now? Because Fish and Game is in the process of its biennial rulemaking. These rules affect seasons and bag limits for all wildlife that are hunted or trapped in the state. One would expect, given the significant decline in the harvest of fishers and foxes, that Fish and Game would be closing the season on fisher and, at a minimum, setting much lower bag limits and shortening the season on trapping and shooting foxes. This would help to ensure a healthy, sustainable population of these species in the future as required by New Hampshire law.
However, the draft rules proposal presented to the Fish and Game Commission by state biologists did not include any reduction in the killing pressure on these species. Why not, you ask? In my opinion, because the management of fisher, fox and other furbearing species, unlike other game species, is based upon influence and not science.
Who calls the shots on managing New Hampshire’s furbearers? The 500 or so trappers in the state who apparently want to continue their trapping hobby unabated and regardless of how many of these furbearers remain. The individuals who use fox for target practice during the seven-month hunting season regardless of the fact they very few, if any, are used for food or for their fur. In essence, these animals are used as a living target.
Please call or write your Fish and Game commissioners and tell them you want them to make their decisions based upon sound science and pass rules that recognize the value of fishers and foxes to New Hampshire’s ecosystem and the value to those citizens who appreciate wildlife for reasons other than killing them.
- You can also submit testimony on the rulemaking process by following the directions found here: wildlife.state.nh.us/hunting/season-setting.html.
- For more information and the analysis that supports this opinion write NHWildlifeCoalition@gmail.com.
Thursday January 31, 2019
Coyotes Need Protection
Posted at 8:13 AM Updated at 8:13 AM
To the Editor:
New Hampshire House Bill 442 prohibits coyote hunting from April through August to coincide with coyote pup rearing.
This bill is needed because we learn over time through experience and research, and many of us have learned we’ve misrepresented coyotes as “vermin” and our current strategies are actually counterproductive — making our own lives more difficult than they need to be! We need to reset wildlife management policies. We’ve learned the following:
The great majority of coyotes don’t prey on livestock and pose little risk to people.
Coyotes are an integral part of the ecosystem and beneficial to us as they help control small mammal populations, scavenge carrion to keep our communities clean, and eat animals who harbor Lyme disease.
Coyotes cull sick animals. They may even help us contain chronic wasting disease which is contagious and now spreading through deer populations.
An array of effective coexistence strategies are available to keep pets safe.
Year-round hunting does not reduce coyote numbers.
Protection during pup-raising allows parents to train pups on what and how to hunt and to stay away from humans, guidance that lessens the likelihood young coyotes might come into conflict with us.
Pups depend on both parents for food and care and it is unnecessary and cruel to kill the parents and leave orphaned pups to starve or become nuisances to us.
Our natural resources are for all of us — not just for hunters; and nonhunters deserve time to enjoy the woods without having to worry about hunting/safety concerns.
It is wanton waste when coyote are killed during the warmer months when their thinner coat has no commercial value.
We need HB 442 because every other hunted animal has the protection of a closed season while raising young—and coyotes deserve the same.
William Trently, New Hampshire Animal Rights League
Weldon Bosworth: Where have all the fishers gone?
December 01, 2018, Concord Monitor
To the Editor,
The season for trapping fishers begins today and continues until Dec. 31.. Hunters can shoot fishers from today through the end of January.
Fishers have never had it easy in New Hampshire. The value of their fur has driven them to such scarcity in New Hampshire that on several occasions their season has been closed.
Over the last two decades there has again been a steady decline in the number of fishers trapped. In fact, the number of fishers trapped has declined from about 1,200 fishers in 1997 to only 44 fishers in 2017, a decrease of 96 percent.
Will N.H. fishers soon join other N.H. furbearing predators who have been hunted to extinction (mountain lion and Eastern wolf) or trapped to such scarcity that they no longer have an open season (lynx, marten and bobcat)? Probably. And the red and gray fox, whose populations have decreased over 60 percent in the last two decades, according to Fish and Game trapping records, may soon join those species in their scarcity.
Who is responsible? N.H. trappers, the Fish and Game Commission and the Fish and Game Department are all complicit. The trappers, who insist on carrying on a “tradition” even if the consequences are essentially eliminating a valuable component of N.H.’s ecosystem; the commission, which chooses pleasing its trapper constituency over science and its public trust responsibility; the department, for not insisting upon more science-based management of these wildlife populations. Lastly, N.H. residents who willfully ignore the plunder of their public trust resources, bear responsibility.
What will happen to ecosystem integrity and biodiversity when the vast majority of furbearing predators are removed from the N.H. landscape? Science has long had the answer to this question. Unfortunately, it appears no one in New Hampshire is willing to listen.
Alexander Zerba: Compassion fashion
, NH Union Leader
William Trently: Shorten coyote season
November 18, 2018, Concord Monitor
To the Editor,
The Eastern coyote, essentially a shy dog that is 9 percent wolf and looks like a medium-sized German shepherd, is an integral part of the ecosystem and beneficial to humans. These clever, intelligent omnivores help control small mammal populations and, as scavengers, help keep our communities clean of carrion. They eat animals that harbor Lyme disease. According to New Hampshire Fish and Game, “the great majority of them don’t prey on livestock” and “pose little risk to people.”
But some people need a dog to kick around. For this, they have the coyote, denigrating these canines for various dramatized reasons. And so these “nuisance varmints” are the only furbearers hunted year-round with no limit on how many can be taken. These dogs may be trapped, killed at night and lured with calling devices, and there are killing contests with prizes awarded. These dogs, who generally bond with a mate for years or for life, would be justified asking why we wanted so badly to break them.
But besides diminishing the benefits of having coyotes around, are the man’s strategies actually facilitating more interspecies conflicts? For example, it seems counterproductive to disrupt coyote families during April to October when young pups are taught to avoid humans and their property. If you kill a parent, training falls short and pups may be more inclined to become nuisances.
Fish and Game’s own biologist recommended closing the season from April to July. Can we at least give them a break for these few months?
Elisabeth Marino: Put end to wasteful, cruel “canned” pheasant hunt
Oct 2, 2018, The Conway Daily Sun
To the editor:
From Oct. 1-Dec. 31, hunters and their dogs will go to 64 different locations around New Hampshire that have been stocked with a total of 11,535 adult, farm-raised, non-native red-necked pheasants and “hunt” them.
This is essentially a “canned hunt” as these farm-raised birds have no survival skills. Hunters are told when and where the birds are stocked, and they begin showing up and shooting as soon as the birds are taking their first flights of freedom.
There is no challenge to hunting these birds. Some hunters kick the birds to get them to fly so they can kill them. It caters particularly to unskilled hunters who want an easy kill.
Pheasant hunting license fees pay for the birds each year, but overhead costs are paid for by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. This yearly hunt is quite expensive to orchestrate, as one might imagine. To run the hunt, the additional expenses include salaries for those supervising, trucks, truck drivers, biologists, F&G employees to distribute the birds, to mention just a few. One could surmise that the cost has increased substantially over the years.
There are many problems with this Fish and Game “event”: This is not a fair chase hunt but is basically a “canned hunt.” Salaries to Fish and Game employees and other overhead expenses to run this event are NOT covered by the fees that the hunters pay.
This is animal cruelty in that a number of the birds don’t survive the journey from farm to field. Many have broken wings, broken legs and other serious injuries when they arrive from the farm.
The Fish and Game Department has been struggling with keeping itself relevant and funded. Ending this hunt would save the department thousands of dollars that could be siphoned into essential services like the Search and Rescue Program.
I find it abhorrent that my tax money may be used to subsidize this farce of a hunt. If you agree, please contact the Fish and Game Department.
With enough public pressure perhaps we can put an end to this wasteful, unnecessary and cruel “event.”
Linda Dionne: Protect your lands from bait-and-sit hunting this fall
Aug 9, 2018, The Conway Daily Sun
To the editor:
N.H. Fish and Game has been in the news a lot lately. Because of that, some in the media are supporting hunting and opposing those of us who work for the protection of wild animals. Many N.H. residents are not opposed to fair chase hunting to put food on the table. The problem is that fair chase hunting is a rare experience in today’s hunting.
Hunters are their own worst enemy. They bait and sit in a tree stand, waiting for an animal to be enticed to a pile of junk food and then kill that animal while he or she is peacefully eating. What kind of hunting is that? And while I am at it, what is the deal with the tree stand? Whatever happened to using skills, such as tracking, where the animal has a fair chance of getting away, as the Boone and Crockett Club states is fair chase hunting?
Hunters chase bears with hounds up a tree and then shoot. Sometimes it is a lactating female who is leaving cubs behind. You can watch hunters do this on YouTube, hunters from right here in N.H. They are so proud of themselves they videotape for the world to see. But most of the world is appalled and root for the innocent and helpless bear. Many landowners in N.H. are posting their land after viewing these heartbreaking videos.
N.H. residents, please join the wildlife protection movement in N.H. Google the groups in N.H. working to give N.H.’s wild animals a fair shake and get in touch with them. And if you want to post your land, there is a group I am affiliated with, the N.H. Animal Rights League, that gives out free NO HUNTING signs for your property. There is no time to lose; bear hunting begins Sept. 1.