Oregon anti-trapping group to focus on public lands

A group seeking to ban most commercial and sport trapping in Oregon says it will back off plans for a 2014 ballot initiative and instead write a more "winnable" proposal for the 2016 election.

Leaders of the Bend-based TrapFree Oregon said they will rethink restrictions on private lands and instead focus on curbing trapping and the fur trade on public lands in Oregon.

The group's recent polling showed support in the Portland area for its goals, but Oregonians are strongly against restrictions on private lands.

"That was extraordinarily unpopular," said Christopher Baker, a Bend man who was one of the three chief petitioners on the referendum accepted this fall by the Oregon Secretary of State.

"It polled so poorly that our opposition wouldn't even have to deal with any of the issues like animal cruelty, personal safety and the commercialization of wildlife," Baker said.

Also, the group's poll showed that only 36 percent of those polled knew commercial and private trapping occurred in Oregon, Baker said.

"If nobody even knows it's there, coming up with a vote to stop it seems ludicrous," Baker said. "That was really a big issue."

The Bend-area group plans to work with representatives of the Humane Society of the United States and other groups to craft the next version of the proposed trapping ban, Baker said.

"We'll come up with something much more bulletproof in 2016," he said.

Oregon Trappers Association spokesman Don Nichols did not return calls Tuesday afternoon seeking comment.

The group this fall began collecting signatures on a proposal that sought to ban animal trapping for commerce or recreation, ban the fur trade or sale of parts of animals caught in traps and the trapping or poisoning of rodents or predatory animals by landowners.

The initiative had provisions to allow the trapping or poisoning of rodents, squirrels and predatory animals "infesting" property, but limited the types of traps allowed and set time limitations for checking traps.

The original measure also had exemptions allowing landowners or residents to kill wildlife causing damage or that are a public nuisance or health risk.

Oregon's roughly 1,200 licensed trappers are in the midst of their second season under new restrictions designed to protect pets and other animals from traps meant for animals such as beavers or bobcats.

Trappers now are banned from setting snares within 50 feet of any public trail or within 300 feet of any trailhead, public campground or picnic area. Also, killing traps with jaws spread between 7.5 inches and 9 inches cannot be placed within 50 feet of a permanent or seasonal water source on public land.

Baker said his group decided to pull the plug on the initiative before it hired signature gatherers.

Baker said the effort spent on the scuttled measure was not a waste of time.

"We've learned a lot," Baker said. "We've gotten a lot smarter in the past two years."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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