By Jack Spaulding
The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) has been very busy of late, giving preliminary adoption to rule changes governing fishing tournament licenses/permits, trapping wild animals, and registering to be an organ donor through the DNR’s license system.
Public comments may be submitted to the NRC Rulemaking Docket online or comments on the proposed changes may also be mailed to: Natural Resources Commission, Indiana Government Center North, 100 North Senate Avenue, Room N103, Indianapolis, IN 46204-2200.
The public hearing and deadline for public comments have not been scheduled yet. Once the public comment period has ended and a public hearing has been conducted, the NRC will vote on final adoption of any rule changes. Please note the proposed changes will not be in effect in 2021.
The proposed changes are summarized as follows:
Fishing tournament licensing (312 IAC 5-3.5-1)
The proposed amendment removes the reference to the Division of Law Enforcement for the administration of licenses for fishing tournaments since the Division of State Parks issues fishing tournament permits/licenses for state park & reservoir properties, and the Division of Fish & Wildlife issues permits for the three public freshwater lakes listed in the rule (Syracuse, Wawasee, and Sylvan). There are no changes to the lakes or requirements for the permits.
Trapping wild animals (312 IAC 9-3-18) & Nuisance wild animal control permit (312 IAC 9-10-11): The change in the rules is to simply remove the requirement where body-gripping traps must be completely covered by water. Only enough water to cover the opening of the trap by 50 percent will be required. The 330 Conibear™ (body-gripping trap) is used primarily for beaver and otter trapping in Indiana. This type of trap is one of the most effective methods for removing beavers from an area, and it is listed as a humane and effective trap in the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Best Management Practices for trapping beavers and otters. Beavers can create a dam in a waterway, causing flooding to adjacent properties, and beavers may need to be removed as quickly and efficiently as possible. Therefore, the method is one of the most common used for both nuisance trapping situations as well as during the beaver trapping season. Because of its size, the administrative rule in 312 IAC 9-3-18(f) currently requires the 330 Conibear™ trap be completely submerged in water. The same requirements are in the nuisance wild animal control permit rule in 312 IAC 9-10-11 for nuisance wildlife control operators. A 330 Conibear™ typically measures 10” x 10”. Due to the size of the trap and how it is typically set, it would be difficult for a dog to be caught in a halfway submerged 330, so moving from fully submerged to halfway submerged should not change pet safety considerations. Allowing the traps to not be completely submerged would allow for more flexibility in dealing with beaver conflicts. The beaver and river otter seasons run concurrently, so the change should also not substantially increase river otter harvest incidental take.
Organ Donation (312 IAC 9-10-28): The new rule is required by law in IC 14-22-11-20 to specify a person may become an organ donor at the time of purchase of a fishing, hunting or trapping license online and have the designation on their license. Senate Enrolled Act 288 passed in 2020, requiring the DNR to provide the option for customers to register as an organ donor when purchasing a license. The rule specifies only residents of Indiana who purchase a license through the online license system (not at a retailer) may register to become an organ donor, and the person must be at least 18 years old. It also provides an option for a person to remove their status as an organ donor in our license system by submission of a signed affidavit.
Proposed DNR Property Rule Changes: The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) has given preliminary adoption to the rule changes listed below governing activities on Indiana DNR properties.
The proposed property rule changes are summarized as follows: Firearms, Hunting and Trapping on DNR Properties (312 IAC 8-2-3): The change allows a tree stand or hunting blind to be left on a DNR property, provided the stand or hunting blind left overnight be marked with the name, address and telephone number of the owner of the stand or the owner’s customer identification number issued by the DNR. It also clarifies existing administrative rules applicable to tree stands or hunting blinds used for deer or migratory birds and waterfowl are applicable to the use of the stands and blinds on DNR properties. The requirement for owners to identify stands and hunting blinds allows DNR property staff and Indiana conservation officers to better regulate properties and address conflicts between hunters or properly handle a blind left after the hunting season.
Additional authorizations proposed in the rule would allow a person to place a trail or game camera on DNR properties designated in the rule if the owner is identified on the camera. Dedicated nature preserves and state parks, for example, will not allow trail or game cameras placed on their properties in order to prevent harm to vegetation where the camera is placed and help keep visitors from going off of trails to set up a camera. The camera’s owner needs to be identified in the event property staff needs to remove a camera due to property work, such as a prescribed burn.
Additional language prohibits any person from placing bait for wild birds or deer on a DNR property except for the exemptions listed in the rule, such as bait or food placed for management by an authorized DNR employee, agricultural operations (such as crops planted and harvested on a DNR property) and bird feeders placed by DNR employees. The provision is intended to prevent hunters from being unknowingly placed in an illegal situation of hunting in an area where bait was placed by another person. It is illegal to hunt deer and wild turkeys with the use of bait pursuant to 312 IAC 9-3-2(u) for deer and 312 IAC 9-4-11(g) for wild turkeys. Furthermore, it is illegal to hunt migratory birds using bait pursuant to federal regulations in 50 CFR 20.21.
Preservation of habitat and natural and cultural resources (312 IAC 8-2-10): One rule change will allow shed deer antlers to be picked up by members of the public without the need for a permit. The change clarifies current practice.
An additional change in the rule will require a license from a DNR representative to use a magnet or magnetized equipment to remove any item from public waters on a DNR property. “Magnet fishing” has become popular in the last few years and involves the use of a magnet to retrieve metal in waterways and lakes; however, some magnets have resulted in the removal of firearms and other dangerous items. The rule limits the items removed to only the ones able to be carried and retrieved by hand without the assistance of motorized equipment. By requiring the license, it also ensures DNR property staff are aware of the activity, which will allow the DNR to require dangerous items to be turned into the property office, and trash to be properly disposed of.
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Spaulding’s books, “The Best of Spaulding Outdoors,” and his latest, “The Coon Hunter And The Kid,” are available from Amazon.com.