River otter

An opponent of extending Vermont’s otter-trapping season is calling for an investigation of the state’s Fish and Wildlife Board, which sets trapping and hunting rules.

However, the department’s commissioner says the agency is simply going through the usual process of deciding whether to change its rules, based on a petition brought forward by a trapper.

Lynn Andrews, who identified herself as a Vermont resident and concerned citizen, complained in a lengthy May 29 letter to state officials that a proposed otter-trapping season “revolves around trapper convenience and money” instead of a commitment to manage the otter and beaver population and maintain the species’ existence.

Andrews had attended a May 24 public meeting of the Fish and Wildlife’s 14-person “fur-bearer” board, held in Waterbury. She suggested that since some of the board’s members are trappers, they have an alliance with the trapper who filed the petition last year to extend the otter trapping season.

Andrews said the hunting and trapping of bobcats, turkey, deer — and even the seldom-seen Vermont catamount — has had deleterious effects on those populations, some of which have never come back. She said the decline of bumblebee populations, and the rise of white-nose syndrome in bats, and moose getting ravaged by ticks, shows Vermont wildlife is affected by more than humans.

In an equally lengthy email response, Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter disagreed with concerns that hunting or trapping threatens wildlife.

“I would just remind you that regulated and legal hunting and trapping has never in modern times led to the elimination of a species in North America. In fact, the opposite is true,” Porter wrote.

Porter said hunters, anglers and trappers provide funding and support, the “backbone” of his department’s efforts to “protect habitat, regulate and prosecute fish and wildlife violations, list and protect endangered and threatened species, reintroduce and restore species,” and more.

“It is because of those activities, not in spite of them, that we have restored all of the game species in Vermont (most or all of which were completely or virtually eliminated at one time) and that we are making excellent progress on many non-game species,” Porter wrote.

As for the idea that the board is automatically aligned with trappers, Porter said the board rejected some elements of the petition, but thought that, on the whole, it merited the proposal of an extended otter season.

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