Trapping ban vote likely moving to 2016 ballot

Polling leads to shift in plan for TrapFree Oregon

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

A potential trapping ban in Oregon will likely wait until the 2016 ballot rather than go before voters next fall, says the leader of the Bend-based group leading the initiative effort.

TrapFree Oregon hired a private firm to poll Oregonians this fall about trapping, said Lucinda Baker, the group’s executive director. The results of the poll could lead TrapFree Oregon to hold off on its proposed ban and make adjustments to its proposal.

“We don’t want to lose,” she said.

The current initiative on file with the Oregon Secretary of State would make it illegal to trap animals for commerce or recreation, trading the fur or body parts of trapped animals, using body-gripping traps and poisoning mammals except moles and rodents.

Phone polling of 600 people around the state showed the following results, according to TrapFree Oregon:

• Just over one-third, or 36 percent, of Oregonians polled knew trapping is legal in the state.

• Support exists for reducing the amount of trapping. In the Portland area more than 50 percent of voters approved of the group’s goal.

• The people polled were apprehensive about restricting the rights of private property owners.

The last finding is the reason TrapFree Oregon will likely hold off on putting a trapping ban before voters next fall, Baker said. As currently written, the ban would restrict the use of traps for pest control on private property. Baker said changing the proposed ban’s language could be in order.

“We have to pull ourselves together and regroup,” Baker said.

Leaders of the Oregon Trappers Association, which represents trappers and opposes the proposed ban, welcomed word that the vote would likely wait a couple of years.

But they said it wouldn’t stop them from preparing for the pending fight for public opinion.

“Well, I guess that gives both sides a little more time to prepare (for) the battle,” said Jim Soares, vice president of the Oregon Trappers Association.

A trapping ban has gone before Oregon voters before, in 1980 and 2000. Both times the ballot measures failed.

The campaigns against the ballot measures took time and money from those who support trapping. They’re prepared to do it again even though it could cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, said Doug Nichol, president of the Oregon Trappers Association.

“We have been down this road before and know what it involves,” Nichol said.

As part of regrouping, TrapFree Oregon is looking at involving national animal rights groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States, Baker said.

It is too early to say how the Washington, D.C.-based group would be involved in the Oregon campaign, but it does support TrapFree Oregon, said Scott Beckstead, Oregon director for the Humane Society of the United States.

“We certainly stand with them in their desire to see Oregon free of cruel traps and snares,” he said.

Taking its name from an informational website, TrapFree Oregon started in 2012 after a coyote was found in a trap near a Tumalo neighborhood. A half dozen dogs caught in traps that winter in Central Oregon added momentum to the movement.

While the opposition often vilifies trappers, Nichol argued that trappers provide useful services and are not just out for fur. In particular, he said trappers provide pest control, from protecting sheep from coyotes in their pastures to removing skunks from under houses.

“There are a lot of necessary things that trappers are doing that would be lost if this (ban) did go through,” Nichol said.

—Reporter: 541-617-7812; ddarling@bendbulletin.com.