A string of animal-welfare and conservation groups want tighter wildlife trapping restrictions, particularly on public land near trails, to protect pets and other animals from getting captured and killed.
The groups Friday petitioned the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to stiffen what they see as lax trapping laws after a number of dogs were injured or killed in traps this winter in Central Oregon.
The groups want trappers to stay farther than 100 feet from trails on public land and post clearly visible warning signs next to their traps.
They also want trappers to check traps and snares every 24 hours, and to require trappers to affix their names and telephone numbers to every trap. The petition exempts trappers of gophers, moles, mountain beavers, rats and mice on property owned by the person setting the traps.
The groups believe Oregon's roughly 1,200 licensed trappers unduly put all other Oregonians, as well as pets and other nontarget animals, at an unreasonable risk.
Current rules have check times that vary from 48 hours for furbearer traps set on public land to 30 days for lethal traps set for predators on private property. Traps have identification numbers so they can be traced by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon State Police, but not the general public.
There currently are no blanket trapping location bans on public land and no signage requirements for warning people of traps set in Oregon. Also, there are very few trapping opportunities for furbearers within city limits.
"These are very modest, common-sense rules," said Scott Beckstead, Oregon director for the Humane Society of the United States. "We're not putting trappers out of business.
"Oregon has some strong anti-cruelty codes, but in the realm of wildlife trapping policy, we are woefully behind," Beckstead said.
Along with the Humane Society, the petition was co-signed by Predator Defense, the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society of Portland and Cascadia Wildlands. It was hand-delivered Friday to the commission, said Michelle Dennehy, ODFW's Wildlife Division spokeswoman.
Under state rules, anyone can petition a commission or agency and request a rule change. In this case, the commission has 90 days to reject or accept it and start looking into changing its rules.
The commission had already scheduled a biennial review of trapping rules, season dates and limits during its June meeting, Dennehy said.
Trappers last year reported catching more than 23,000 animals from 16 different species covered under Oregon's furbearer seasons, said Tim Hiller, an ODFW furbearer biologist. Trappers are not required to report the captures of pets or non-furbearer animals, except for animals protected as threatened or endangered under Oregon wildlife rules, Hiller said.
Predator Defense Executive Director Brooks Fahy said ODFW has been "absolutely unresponsive" to public concerns about trapping and that he and others are planning a statewide initiative targeting trapping should the commission fall short of the groups' wants.
The petition came after a half-dozen dogs were caught in traps set near trails in Central Oregon. Also, traps set by federal Wildlife Services agents to catch coyotes at Oregon State University's sheep farm were reported by neighbors to have caught a deer fawn, raccoons and house pets.
Had the new trapping rules been in effect, most of these animals could have been released or the non-target trapping averted, Beckstead said.
ODFW has received no reports of dogs caught in traps set for furbearers such as beavers and bobcats in the Rogue District, which includes Jackson and Josephine counties, said Rosemary Stussy, an ODFW biologist in Central Point.
Lethal traps were banned at ODFW's Denman Wildlife Area in White City and trappers were moved away from main hiking areas in 2005 after a dog was caught and killed in a trap set near a hiking trail there.