Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Select Wisconsin state parks and trails were opened to trapping and expanded hunting in 2013.
Now, after one April season and one mid-November season of trapping and expanded hunting in most state parks, the Department of Natural Resources is holding hearings on making the rules, enacted under emergency orders last year, permanent. Locally, a public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, at the DNR Service Center on 3911 Fish Hatchery Rd. in Fitchburg.
One rule bans hunters from shooting on or across a state park trail which is not open to hunting. Another requires dry land set trapping be done with enclosed trigger traps, which have a cylindrical shape designed to be dog-proof. Another rule would eliminate requirements for access permits for certain types of hunting in state parks, such as deer hunting using guns. Dan Schuller, state parks director, says the permits confuse the public over what hunting they are allowed to do in the park.
Schuller says adding trapping and expanded hunting in Wisconsin state parks produced no significant problems, though he did not have separate incident data for the period.
Statewide, there were 27 total reported hunting incidents in 2013 on both public and private land; one of these incidents was fatal. In 2012, four of the 28 total incidents were fatal, according to the DNR's 2012 Hunting Incident Report (PDF).
"Our season was almost incident-free," Schuller says of the state parks' 2013 hunting seasons. He notes one case in which tickets were issued to individuals confused about the open and closed areas in Potawatomi State Park in Door County. "We didn't have any trapping issues at all."
Schuller says many trappers were interested in water trapping, and some in duck hunting or hunting along the shores of bodies of water in the parks. Trapping fur-bearing game was popular, and many trappers were quite successful in capturing muskrat. Schuller adds those populations bounce back every year, keeping trapping from limiting the animal's population.
Melissa Smith, who was elected last April to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, which advises the DNR on wildlife management and sporting matters, says she would testify against making the rules permanent at the Fitchburg hearing.
She says no trap is truly dog-safe and that trapping and hunting intrudes on the peace in state parks.
"There's thousands of acres of public land that's always open to hunting and trapping, and I think our state parks should be a refuge not only for people but also for the animals that live there," Smith says.
She adds that hunting and trapping will drive away people who want to hike and ski in their state parks.
But Schuller says the parks can provide a close-to-home outlet for hunters, especially in southern Wisconsin: "Particularly as Wisconsin continues to become more suburban and urbanized, people want to recreate within half an hour or an hour drive to their home."