TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – What might be good news for trappers across New Jersey could also be bad news for the state’s beaver population.
Legislation under consideration in the state Senate would eliminate the 200-limit cap on beaver trapping licenses. The legislation, though, calls for a limit of five beavers per permit and sets fines for violating the measure starting at $100, with a $200 maximum.
Captured by recreational trappers for their pelts and scent glands, which can be used in perfume-making, beavers are also sometimes pests whose dams have flooded roads and houses and whose tree gnawing has caused falling trunks to damage property as well.
Supporters of the bill say it’s necessary to help the state manage beaver populations. The Control Operators Association estimates New Jersey has around 10 million to 15 million beavers, mostly concentrated in the northwest part of the state.
Frank Spiecker, a commercial trapper who is also president of the state chapter of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association, backs the legislation and says he responded to complaints of flooded houses because of beaver dams in Manalapan three years ago. The beavers had also chewed through a tree that toppled onto a house, causing damage.
Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, opposes the legislation because the 200-permit cap was based on conservation figures calculated by Fish and Wildlife agency scientists. Removing the cap runs contrary to science, he said. Increased trapping could also lead to species extinction in New Jersey, Tittel said.
State law prohibits trappers from relocating the animals to another part of the state, which means the animals are killed, Spiecker said. Depending on the kind of permit trappers get, they may harvest the animals’ pelts and glands or be forced to throw the carcass out or incinerate it, he added.
Spiecker added that, if managed well, beavers can be a renewable resource. Plus, he said, they’re not easy to trap, frequently outsmarting trappers.
“Sometimes they win completely,” he said.
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