September 23, 2020

State to hold hearing on turtle trapping

PORTLAND – Turtle trappers get a chance at a Monday hearing to speak out on a plan to scrap Maine’s turtle trapping season.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife decided in May against the previous plan to hold a limited season. The new proposal would prohibit trapping.

The decision was made after about 300 people contacted the department to express concern that snapping turtles in Maine could become extinct. Most of those comments came after a turtle enthusiast sought comment on the limited season from others on the Internet, according to Mark Stadler, a DIF&W wildlife manager.

Stadler said the change in plan was not prompted by those comments.

“I’d like to think the wildlife decision isn’t done on who rallies the most in support, either pro or con,” Stadler said. “It’s based on the science, and based on information.”

Stadler said the department has no data on Maine’s turtle population.

Opposition to the new proposal is likely from the dozen holders of commercial turtle trapping permits. Last year, there were 14 commercial turtle trappers.

Former turtle trapper Billy Thompson of Athens said there’s nothing to fear. A logger by trade, Thompson said he sees turtles everywhere. Turtle trapping offers little income and today is done mostly as a recreational activity, Thompson said.

“There is no need for any kind of legislation of this sort. I was talking to my old supplier [in Atlantic City, N.J.] the other day. They are not buying them. There is no market for them,” Thompson said. “They’re not easily trapped. It’s a lot of work.”

Stadler said that unless turtle trappers offer some new information at the hearing, the department is likely to opt for the closed season.

Monday’s hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. at the department headquarters in Augusta.

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