US Lawsuit aims to end commercial fur trapping in California

03:45  14 september  2017
03:45  14 september  2017 Source:   Tribune News Service

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Legislation Responds to Sharp Increase in Trapping for International Fur Trade. The bill, A.B. 1213, responds to an increase in the commercial trapping of bobcats in California driven by a rise in demand from China for bobcat pelts.

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A bobcat is seen walking through the snow near the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, Calif., on December 30, 2015.© Laura A. Oda/Oakland Tribune/TNS A bobcat is seen walking through the snow near the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, Calif., on December 30, 2015.

LOS ANGELES - Conservation groups, aiming to end California's dwindling fur trade, filed a lawsuit Wednesday that would force state wildlife authorities to raise license fees to levels required by law to cover the full costs of regulating the trapping, killing and skinning of wild animals.

That would drive the fees so high it would effectively kill off the trade introduced centuries ago by California's first explorers and settlers, said Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, one of the plaintiffs.

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If the illegal subsidy of trapping licenses is eliminated, trapping license fees would have to be set at a level that few if any trappers would likely be willing to pay, resulting in a de facto end to commercial fur trapping in California .

Your letter will be sent to the California Fish and Game Commission. Not only can you speak up against commercial fur trapping , but the commission will also consider the Center's petition to ban night hunting in the range of endangered gray wolves, as well as trappers ' request to overturn the

"We hope the filing of this lawsuit will be remembered as the moment California said goodbye to the handful of people who still kill mammals so that their pelts can be auctioned off in foreign markets and then made into slippers and fur-trimmed coats," she said.

The lawsuit, filed against the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Fish and Game Commission, alleges that revenue generated from the 200 commercial trapping licenses purchased in 2016 for about $117 covered only a fraction of the state trapping program's total costs.

Consequently, taxpayers are illegally subsidizing the state wardens, biologists and administrators who oversee and enforce trapping regulations, according to the lawsuit. It was filed in Alameda County Superior Court by the Center for Biological Diversity and Project Coyote.

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State wildlife authorities declined to comment.

Trappers say their days are already numbered.

"As far as I'm concerned, trapping is dead in California," said Reid Aiton, a woodsman in North Coast redwood country and executive director of the National Trappers Association's California chapter. "A way of life has died with it."

Thirty-five years ago, 3,540 trappers were still at work in California's wildlands.

But volatile international markets, the success of fur farms and the growing ranks of the animal rights movement have combined to make it difficult for them to turn a profit.

Of the 200 people who purchased commercial fur trapping licenses in 2016, 50 killed nearly 2,000 mammals for their pelts, according to a department report. The market value of trapped species was low: a coyote pelt fetched about $30, a muskrat's only about $3.

The most commonly trapped species permitted by the state fish and game code are foxes, coyotes, badgers, skunks, muskrats, weasels, raccoons, opossums and beavers.

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The Fish and Game Commission has banned the trapping of river otters, desert kit foxes and red foxes, among other species. Most recently, the commission voted to ban all commercial bobcat trapping in 2015.

The commission said the estimated 100 commercial bobcat trappers still working in the state could not afford to pay the costs of regulating their activities, as required by a mandate enacted in 2013.

Those costs ranged from $212,000 to more than $600,000 for bobcat trappers alone in 2015, the commission said.

The plaintiffs say state officials should force all trappers to pay the full cost of regulating them or expand the bobcat trapping ban to all species.

"State wildlife authorities are willfully violating California laws they are entrusted to enforce," said Brenden Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. "If they are unwilling to follow their own rules, they ought to find another line of work."

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