Another snowshoe hare (rabbit) season is over and rabbits have been plentiful. However, for those of us who enjoy snaring and eating rabbits, one more chore remains. That is, the fight for the right to continue the use of stainless steel snare wire.
Page 2 of the '2007-08 Hunting & Trapping Guide' advises 'the Wildlife Division is reviewing a possible regulation change which will require that only 22 gauge brass, or 6 strand picture cord, be used in all areas open to snaring throughout the Island beginning in 2008.'
This change is proposed to reduce the accidental harvest of martin. It would appear an element in the Wildlife Division has taken a stance in favour of the martin at the expense of rabbit hunters.
To reduce the accidental harvest of martin, Wildlife has already established 4 modified snare zones across the Island including one in Western Newfoundland and are in the process of establishing a Little Grand Lake Provisional Ecological Reserve of some 1,500 square kilometres (arguably one of the better snaring areas on the Island) in which snaring will not be permitted.
To add to this, there are two Wilderness Areas in which activities are tightly controlled. Looking at the demographics, we have a land area on the Island of approximately 83 per cent of the total of the Maritime Provinces but a population of approximately only 28 per cent of their numbers.
Still, we are continually being backed into a corner with new and unnecessary regulations. While no one wishes the demise of the martin, it would appear the population on the Island has been precarious at best.
This is in contrast to the population in Labrador, which has historically been exploited by trapping but continues to flourish. Could it be that at best the martin may only obtain a marginal population on the Island, even if rabbit hunters are relegated to a zone on Brunette Island?
(OOPS! Just realized that Brunette Island has a population of arctic hare. Can't go there. Maybe we can throw in Shellbird Island for West Coasters.)
Stainless steel wire snares have proven to be an excellent tool and the rabbit population has continued to be very strong. While I have never used any number of brass or picture cord snares, older hunters have told me while brass and picture cord would break easier, the snares would often not come loose and the rabbit would be found later dead in the general area.
Becoming lost in this whole scenario is the fact hares/rabbits were introduced into the Island as a food supply for the general population and this continues to be a major factor with the provincial government web site 'www.env.gov.nl.ca/snp/Animals/snowshoe_hare.htm' reporting 1,500,000 rabbits, at between some 2-4 pounds each, consumed annually.
This means from 3,000,000 to 6,000,000 pounds of fresh meat consumed annually, mostly in rural areas. Also, it continues to be a healthy and rewarding activity pursued by young and old, rich and poor alike.
A recent visit to the local hardware store revealed it would cost over 30 cents for enough brass wire for each snare. Assuming one rabbit is caught for every 3-4 snares set (a conservative ratio), it would require some 4,500,000 to 6,000,000 snares to catch 1,500,000 rabbits. This translates to approximately $1,350,000 to $1,800,000 Island wide to replace snares.
Possible cost to an individual hunter would perhaps be some $30 to $60, which would be prohibitive for many. (A hidden tax by any other name.)
If you wish to continue to have the choice to use stainless steel snares, you should register your objection to the proposed ban of this wire by writing the Wildlife Division at Box 2007, Corner Brook, A2H 7S1 and send copies to each of (a) Charlene Johnson, Environmental & Conservation Minister (firstname.lastname@example.org) and (b) your MHA both at Confederation Building, Box 8700, St. John's, A1B 4J6.
We do not need any more regulations to curtail our activities, not to mention the additional work and expense. We again have the few dictating to the many.
If we don't register our objection, we could find ourselves shut out of another economical activity. Act now or risk eventually being relegated to Shellbird Island.
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Another snowshoe hare (rabbit) season is over and rabbits have been plentiful. However, for those of us who enjoy snaring and eating rabbits, one more chore remains.