Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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MI: Furbearer regs would increase opportunities

Lansing – State wildlife officials have proposed new furbearer
regulations that would increase opportunities to harvest opossums,
raccoons, mink, muskrats, and otters.

Resource managers also want to reduce bag limits for fishers and
martens – from three fishers and one marten to a single animal,
combined – based on a new DNR computer model that shows dramatic
declines of both species.

Adam Bump, the DNR’s bear and furbearer specialist, said the
reduction is necessary to stabilize fisher and marten populations
in the Upper Peninsula, but some who trap there disagree.

“The new model is showing about a 70-percent decline in fisher
populations from the late 1990s to 2007,” Bump said, adding that it
also shows marten populations down roughly 30 percent. “What we did
was a new modeling technique called statistical reconstruction to
use existing information to … show population size.”

Bump presented the changes to the Natural Resources Commission this
month and said all but the fisher and marten reduction were in
response to issues raised by trapping groups over the years.

Other changes would allow the harvest of muskrats and mink through
the ice by extending the season through February, and allow
trappers to take a second otter in the northern Lower Peninsula’s
beaver and otter Unit B.

Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association President John
Caretti said trappers asked for the change because “if you’re
trapping beaver, you have to make sets to avoid otter.

“You get incidentals (otters) and they go to waste, and we don’t
want that,” he said.

Fur harvesters also prompted officials to allow the use of calls at
night to hunt raccoons and opossums, and to clarify that trappers
may use a .22 or smaller rimfire rifle, loaded at the trap, to
dispatch animals during firearms season in the shotgun zone.

“We had been asking for some of these things for a long time,”
Caretti said.

Trappers below the bridge are generally in favor of the changes, he
said, but many in the Upper Peninsula are skeptical of the
estimated decline in fisher and marten numbers.

“A lot of trappers aren’t necessarily seeing (the decline) in the
field,” Caretti said.

Michigan reintroduced both species in the Upper Peninsula in the
1950s, about two decades after they were thought to have been
extirpated. State officials launched a regulated trapping season
for fishers in 1989 and martens in 2000, with harvest of both
limited to the Upper Peninsula. Martens also have been reintroduced
in the Lower Peninsula.

Researchers are unsure exactly what may have caused the dramatic
population declines shown by the computer model, Bump said, and the
department doesn’t have harvest or population goals for either
animal.

“We are just looking right now to reduce the harvest,” he said.
“This is a pretty significant change (for fisher and marten bag
limits). It’s not something we have any previous data to compare
with to estimate harvest.”

Veteran Upper Peninsula trapper Dan Harrington sets traplines
across 3,000 acres of backwoods about 50 miles south of Marquette.
He described the fisher and marten limit reduction as “absolutely
ridiculous nonsense” that will ultimately waste a valuable
resource.

“I trap and I know how many of those animals there are. Some years,
I catch 30 accidentally,” he said.

Harrington said he’s asked DNR officials about what to do with the
incidentals, but the response has been unclear.

“That is a waste of a resource,” Harrington said.

The Natural Resources Commission could take action on the
regulation changes at its June 9 meeting at the Diagnostic Center
for Population and Animal Health in Lansing.

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