Outdoorsmen in this state are free to use enclosed foothold traps to capture raccoons and possums during trapping season.
The Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court ruled Thursday in favor of the state Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Game Council and Division of Fish and Wildlife, and against environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Animal Welfare Institute.
The DEP is pleased with the ruling, said Bob Considine, the agency’s press director.
The animal welfare organizations challenged the validity of a 2015 regulation that permits the use of enclosed foothold traps to snare possums, raccoons and other fur-bearing animals.
A 1984 law bans the use of “steel-jaw leghold type” traps. The environmental groups argued that enclosed foothold traps conflict with the legislative intent of the 1984 law.
“This decision is galling,” said Sue Russell, wildlife policy director of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey.
“We are pretty disappointed with the decision,” said Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute, a plaintiff in the case. “It completely disregards the scientific evidence that we submitted. … These traps don’t comply with best management practices.”
In 2013, the state Bureau of Wildlife Management released “Enclosed Foothold Traps: A Report to the New Jersey Fish and Game Council on the performance of new trapping systems as an alternative to steel-jaw leghold type traps.”
The report compared steel-jaw leghold traps with enclosed foothold traps and praised the latter type as “highly selective for capturing raccoons and opossums” because “their design reduces the potential to capture domestic dogs and cats.”
The court acknowledged the vigorous opposition received during the public-comment period, but said the reasonableness of the council’s determination is supported by Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies studies cited by the Division of Fish and Wildlife, which consistently differentiate foot-enclosing traps from jaw-type traps.
“The appellants’ disagreement with the Council’s interpretation of scientific data on enclosed foothold traps is insufficient to overcome the presumption of reasonableness afforded to the challenged regulation, particularly in light of the supporting scientific literature contained in the record,” the Appellate Division wrote.