Bill to allow remote trapping regulations

A bill passed by the Virginia General Assembly this week will allow the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to set regulations regarding remote trapping.

Remote trapping is basically a system that can alert a trapper, through web or mobile data, that an animal has been caught, according to Mike Fies, furbearer biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Fies said that systems such as this “are mostly used in the nuisance wildlife control industry. It’s not something that would be affordable for the average fur trapper.”

The bill passed through both the Virginia House and Senate with unanimous votes.

“I think everybody agreed that there were two positives and no negatives here,” said Rep. David Bulova (D), who co-authored the bill along with Del. Christopher Head (R) and Del. Tony Wilt (R).

The primary positive, according to Bulova, is providing a boost in the area of trap-checks for smaller pest management companies.

According to Bulova, the current law essentially means that “if you are a pest management company … you have to check traps once every 24 hours, regardless of whether there is something in there.”

Fies explained that remote trapping would allow companies to cut down on costs by removing that need to check traps on a daily basis.

Use of this technology, Bulova said, would allow pest companies to “go out there only when the trap has been sprung.”

In addition, Fies noted that this would cut down on the costs that residents might have to pay for the daily visits, on top of the monthly subscription fees for such pest services.

According to the website for Trap Alert, an Atlanta-based suppler of wireless traps, a simple device package for one trap — charger included — costs $400.

A 12-month data and web subscription with the related monitoring company called New Frequency costs $46.50 per month.

Although the costs can vary and be expensive, Fies said that companies can make it cost-effective “in the long run” to have traps set up for nuisance animals such as squirrels.

Bulova and Fies both mentioned that remote traps also cut down on the time animals spend stuck in the trap.

In contrast to traditional trapping systems, Fies said, “you can be notified immediately when there is an animal in the trap and you can get it out quicker.”

Fies said that the department has discussed the possibility of allowing remote trapping systems before, but that they “did not feel comfortable with the technology.”

However, Fies said that the technology has “come a long way” in the last four or five years and that some systems, such as Trap Alert, “are virtually fail-safe.”

Bulova noted that the General Assembly worked with the department as well as the National Pest Management Association on the bill’s language.

“It was very important to me to make sure [the department] was very comfortable with the direction we were moving in,” Bulova said.

Fies expressed similar notions, stating, “The department spoke with the legislators and we had no objections to the language.”

The department will begin looking at ways to implement the bill and regulate remote traps, provided Gov. Terry McAuliffe signs it into law.

Bulova said that he does not anticipate any questions from the McAuliffe administration regarding the amendment.

“It certainly helps when you have members of state agencies involved in crafting [legislation],” Bulova said, adding, “We would have gotten an early alert if there were any concerns from the administration.”

Fies said, “Presuming that it will be signed … I have already been working on some draft regulations.”

According to the bill, the department is permitted to “adopt regulations” that would also allow this usage under “specified conditions.”

“The goal would be to make sure that we only allow systems that are basically fail-safe and extremely reliable,” Fies said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com