Trapping Laws in Maine: What You Need To Know

Trapping is an ancient practice that remains important and commercially viable today. However, the laws on trapping can and do vary drastically from one state to another.

flag of maine

Considering that violating trapping laws is a great way to get yourself slapped with serious fines or maybe even criminal charges, you’ll need to do your homework and always stay within the confines of the law.

Today I’ll be telling you all about Maine’s trapping laws. They are generally sensible and straightforward, and outside of some requirements for permitting it isn’t anything that the average person won’t be able to adhere to.

Keep reading, and I’ll tell you what you need to know…

Is a Trapping Permit Required in Maine?

Yes. With exceptions only for certain landowners, small children, and state employees engaged in relevant official duties, everybody that is going to set a trap for any wild animal in Maine, or assist with such, must have a trapping license.

It should also be noted that children older than 10 years but younger than 16 must obtain a junior trapping license, and there are special requirements for junior trapping supervisors who accompany them into the field.

Landowners that are protecting their property or livestock from pest animals may place traps on their property without a license if their residents is also on the property.

These licenses can be obtained via mail or in person from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. See Title 12 Section 12201.

What Traps are Legal in Maine?

The State of Maine permits all common types of traps, including lethal conibear or body hold traps, foothold traps, cages, boxes and snares.

Note that there are significant restrictions on the placement and setback for each type of trap, and also further regulations concerning features and other equipment.

Notably, foothold traps require three separate and specified points of articulation to prevent tangling and also a clear area around the trap site to prevent entanglement.

Foothold traps also may not be equipped with teeth as designed or added to them.

Many of these restrictions are quite lengthy, and beyond the confines of this article, but this link will tell you everything that you need to know.

Are there Trapping Seasons in Maine?

Yes. There are trapping seasons for different areas and regions throughout the states with clearly demarcated dates that are issued by the Maine DIFW.

Also, foxes, coyotes, and muskrats have early seasons to accompany the general season, though these are subject to differing regulations.

You can check out the DIFW website here for current dates.

What Animals Can Be Legally Trapped in Maine?

Maine allows many animals to be trapped. In the general trapping season, bobcats, coyotes, fishers, minks, skunks, muskrats, foxes, possums, otters, raccoons, red squirrels, and weasels are all fair game.

Bears and beavers have their own distinct seasons, and there are also early seasons for the trapping of muskrats, foxes and coyotes.

Can You Take Nuisance Animals in Maine without a Permit?

Yes, but only in specific circumstances.

Anyone who legally owns or has access to land which also hosts a person’s domicile and is used for agricultural purposes, either crops or livestock, can it take nuisance animals that are threatening either without a license as detailed above.

Make sure you check out Title 12 Section 12202 of the Maine Revised Statutes for complete details, included below for your convenience:

12202. Trapping by landowner

Notwithstanding section 12201, subsection 1 and subject to all other applicable laws and rules, a resident and a member of the resident’s immediate family, as long as the trapper’s license to trap is not under suspension or revocation, may trap for wild animals without a trapping license issued under section 12201 on land: [PL 2015, c. 301, §29 (AMD).]

1. Possession. To which they are legally entitled to possession;

2. Domiciled. On which they are actually domiciled; and

3. Agricultural purposes. That is used exclusively for agricultural purposes.

Is it Legal to Perform Advanced Site Prep in Maine?

No, except scouting. According to the Maine DIFW, no one is allowed to stake, hook, emplace or otherwise fasten or position any trap at any trap site in the fields, woods or waters of the state prior to opening day.

Additionally, there will be no installation of any trapping implement, associated materials or the preparation of any site in water or on ice including the associated flowage and surrounds prior to the beginning of the season for beaver and muskrat.

Pretty strict, so basically all you are allowed to do is scout ahead of the opening of the season.

Can You Legally Carry a Firearm While Trapping in Maine?

Yes. Any licensed trapper in Maine is permitted to carry a firearm at any time while tending to their traps, at any time of day or night and on any day of the week, strictly for the purpose of dispatching any trapped animal.

However, any person that is prohibited from possessing a firearm under state law may not carry one for this purpose during trapping season unless they have a valid permit to carry a firearm generally.

I’ll also point out that if a person is forbidden from possessing a firearm according to federal law this will supersede Maine law, and you’d still be committing a felony if you were in possession of a firearm even for the sole purpose of trapping.

Do Traps Need to Be ID Tagged in Maine?

Yes, they do. Every single trap that a person sets must be clearly indicated with the trapper’s full name and address, and if two or more people are trapping together only one person’s name must be on the trap.

There is no specification for labeling traps in this way, but generally the best method and the one that the State of Maine recommends is the attachment of an embossed or engraved metal tag to each trap chain containing the owner’s name and address.

Think of it like a dog tag, but for a trap.

Are There Setback Rules for Traps in Maine?

Yes. Legally, any trap must be set at least 5 feet away from another person’s.

However, the DIFW strongly recommends common sense and common courtesy apply when it comes to setback distance.

Any trap that you place should be placed a reasonable distance from another someone else’s.

Can You Bait Traps in Maine?

Yes, except during early canid season, and there are strictures regarding the use of visible baits.

For any foothold or conibear trap, they cannot be set within 50 yards of any bait that is visible from above.

Any bait used for trapping must be completely covered to prevent it from being viewed from above, and also covered in such a way so that it won’t be blown around.

Also note that Maine considers animal matter, including bones, fur, feathers, and the like as bait and/or visible attractant, and so they must be covered so they are not visible from above if there is a foothold or conibear trap within 50 yards.

Can You Use Poison with Traps in Maine?

No. No person in the State of Maine may use any medicinal, poisonous, or stupefying substance for the purpose of killing, catching, or aiding in the killing and catching of any wild animal or bird with a sole exception that a landowner may use woodchuck control gas or rodenticide for the control of mice.

Violating the following statute is a class E crime in Maine:

12252. Unlawful trapping methods

1. Unlawfully rigging traps. A person may not use auxiliary teeth on any leg-hold trap set on land.

2. Use or possession of prohibited implements or aids. A person may not:

A. Set or tend a snare for the purpose of trapping any wild animal or wild bird, except as provided in section 10105, subsection 1 and section 12259;

B. Set or tend a set gun for the purpose of killing, taking, catching, wounding, harming or molesting any wild animal or wild bird;

C. Deposit any medicinal, poisonous or stupefying substance for the purpose of killing, taking, catching, wounding, harming or molesting any wild animal or wild bird, except that a landowner or member of the landowner’s immediate family may use gas cartridges on the landowner’s own land for woodchuck control; or

D. Sell, advertise, give notice of the sale or keep for sale any set gun or poisonous substance for the taking of wild animals or wild birds, except that a person may sell, advertise, give notice of sale of or keep for sale rodenticide for orchard mouse control and gas cartridges for woodchuck control.

3. Use of pole traps. A person may not use or set any steel trap on the top of a pole, constituting a device commonly known as a “pole trap” for the purposes of catching any wild bird.

4. Penalty. A person who violates this section commits a Class E crime.

Is it Okay to Keep Accidental Catch in Maine?

Yes, in some instances. Trappers are allowed to keep any skunk, raccoon, or possum that has been caught in a fox or coyote trap during the early season.

Any other animal must be released alive immediately.

During early muskrat season, raccoons, otters, and minks may be kept if caught incidentally but all other fur bearing animals must be released immediately alive or reported to the game warden if found dead.

During beaver trapping season, minks, muskrats and otters may be kept if incidentally trapped.

What are the Tending Laws in Maine?

Traps and organized towns must be tended daily, except for lethal traps, drowning sets and under-ice sets, which can be tended to once every 3 days.

However, killer traps that are set within organized towns, specifically within one-half mile of the built-up portion of the town, must be checked every 24 hours.

In unorganized towns, all traps must be tended to daily except for lethal traps, drowning sets and under-ice sets, with those three types being tended to every 5 days.

Notably, electronic notification devices may not be used instead of physical checks; physical checks, inspection, and adjustment are mandatory in order to remain legal.

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