Polk hears alternative to trapping furbearers

Published 12:06 am Monday, March 11, 2013

Bill passed first reading in Senate

As House Bill 33/S80 is moving up the N.C. Legislation ladder to repeal a law prohibiting steel trapping of furbearers, some Polk County residents continue to research other ways to rid the county of nuisance animals.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met March 4 and heard from Deborah ODonell, who told commissioners about the Beaver Management Assistance Program (BMAP), which is run by the USDA Wildlife Services.

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Meanwhile on March 4, House Bill 33/S80, which would make it legal to possess steel traps in Polk, Rutherford and Cleveland Counties, passed its first reading in the N.C. Senate. Polk commissioners approved a resolution in January asking the state to allow trapping in Polk with House Bill 33 being filed on Jan. 31. The House of Representatives passed the first reading on Feb. 4 and its second and third readings on Feb. 28. The bill was then recommended to the Senate. As of last week, the bill was referred to the committee on agriculture/environment/natural resources.

ODonell said she has reservations about re-enacting trapping to Polk County and said it is scientifically proven to be untrue that coyotes kill our pets, kill livestock, attack children and have rabies.

“In 2011, N.C. rabies statistics showed that coyotes had the least amount of rabies of any species of animal,” ODonell said. “There were two cases; that was less than cows and horses.”

She also said she’s spoken with Justin McVay, N.C. wildlife biologist, who did his masters on coyotes involving 300 scat samples using DNA that showed their diet primarily consisted of small rodents and rabbits with a small amount containing feral hog, chicken and white tail deer, but no cats or dogs.

ODonnell suggested if people feel threatened by coyotes coming close to their property a counter conditioning method using hazing techniques is recommended, such as making loud noises with pots and pans, spraying with a hose or motion detector lights. Other practices to keep coyote away, ODonnell said is to have guardian animals like donkeys and dogs, keeping feed locked away and chickens up at night.

On beavers, ODonnell said Colleen Olfenbuttel, biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission told her about the BMAP program, which is not designed to eradicate beaver population but rather assist the N.C. Department of Transportation, local government and private landholders.

The program cost the participating county $4,000 annually, ODonell said with more than 45 counties currently participating.

When someone has a conflict with a beaver, a federal employee will visit the area to assess the problem and offer solutions, including a flow device, tree management or trapping some of the beaver, ODonnell said. She said the program is used to supplement existing solutions in the county and not designed to put trappers out of business.

“In 2006 a survey found that trapping as a solution to beaver problems had a 79 percent failure rate within two years due to re-settlement by new beavers,” ODonnell told commissioners. “Conditions that attract beaver will always attract beaver.”

She added that flow devices are relatively cost-effective, low maintenance solutions that regulate the water level of dams and keep culverts open. An example of a flow device is a beaver deceiver, ODonnell said, which is a cage-like device that is installed into the dam and keeps the dam open.

“I hope that you will consider the many constituents that love our wildlife and don’t want to see just anyone trap and kill an animal ‘just because they can,” ODonnell said. “Our eco-system is a finely tuned system that God created and each living creature depends on the other one for its existence. I would hate to jeopardize that and I hope you will give this subject your utmost attention.”

Commissioners asked ODonnell for copies of her information. Commissioners have heard strong opinions on both sides of the issue including from residents who have experienced property damage from beavers and that other methods have not been effective.

Many have also asked commissioners to ask the state to hold off on the bill and to create a committee to come up with other solutions to the problems that are more humane.