Commissioners voted last week to allow a four-month season on mink and pine marten. Beginning Nov. 1, trappers may trap and kill as many of the animals as they like.
The decision incensed Wendy Keefover-Ring, director of Boulder-based Sinapu's carnivore protection program.
"I think they're trying to throw [trappers] a bone," Keefover-Ring says. "But ... we don't think they should be trapping at all. They've run a steamroller over the state constitution."
In 1996, Coloradans approved a constitutional ban on leghold traps, instant-kill body-gripping traps, poisons and snares. Its intent was to abolish recreational trapping, according to Keefover-Ring, while "box" or live traps remained legal.
Last week's decision came in response to a Colorado Trappers Association request to resume trapping nine fur-bearing species that have been off-limits since 1995. Commissioners received more than 400 letters and e-mails opposing the petition, and also heard a Division of Wildlife recommendation against it. Nonetheless, they decided to allow trapping of mink and marten.
"They felt like these two species could withstand the additional pressure ... and the commission sees this as a way of adding to the opportunity for sportsmen to take advantage of our wildlife resources," says DOW spokesman Tyler Baskfield.
He characterized the decision as "scientifically balanced," citing anecdotal evidence sightings, tracks and scat that mink, at least, are relatively abundant. Yet a recent division analysis of the species acknowledged that the state's mink population has never been studied, and that pine marten haven't been studied intensively in Colorado since the 1950s.
Baskfield can't say why the commission singled out mink and marten.
"It's possible that these are species that are more coveted by trappers," he says. "A mink pelt may be worth more than a ringtail or swift fox."