Living with Wild Neighbors

Walk down the “pest” control aisle of the average home and garden store, and you may get the impression that we are at war with every other living creature (except, of course, our pets). This anthropocentric perspective — the idea that humans are at the center of the world — can be so ingrained that many don’t think to question it.

The New Hampshire Animal Rights League encourages a different perspective, one where humans are part of not apart from the rest of the living world, and where the goal is peaceful co-existence.

Humane Mouse Control

In New Hampshire, mice getting into the home is a common problem, especially in the fall when these animals are looking for a warm place to spend the winter. Unfortunately, most home and garden stores are in the business of selling inhumane, temporary solutions for dealing with mice.

Of the many lethal traps and poisons for sale, glue traps may well be the cruelest. Glue traps kill indiscriminately, and animals stuck to them die slowly of hunger, dehydration, and exhaustion.

Poison is also inhumane, as well as irresponsible. Poison bait blocks are formulated to contain only a low dose of poison, so that if a child or pet accidentally ingests the product, it will not be fatal. But for the mouse, the low dose means a slow death, often spanning days. In their sluggish state, poisoned mice are easy targets for predators, including foxes, eagles, and other protected birds, who often become sick and die from consuming poisoned mice.

Compassionate and responsible approaches for dealing with mice include exclusion, natural odor repellents, and ultrasonic devices. If uninvited guests still manage to get in, you can use a live mouse trap to catch and relocate them outside in a brushy or wooded area.

The Smart Mouse Trap

Video of Smart Mouse Trap in action posted on YouTube. (The video does not demonstrate the time-delay release feature.)

Get Your Free Live Mouse Trap

Our favorite live mouse trap is the Smart Mouse Trap, because of its effective and thoughtful design. We like it so much that we are offering free samples while supplies last. One trap per household, please.

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About The smart Mouse Trap

A special feature of the Smart Mouse Trap is its time-delay release mechanism, which involves inserting a cracker into a slot. When the inner door is removed, the cracker becomes a second door that the mouse will chew through to exit the trap. The delay while the mouse chews protects you from contact with the mouse, and also allows the mouse to escape without panic.

“I have Smart-Trapped 53 mice and released them, humanely...”

Smart Mouse Trap Customer

“Your Smart Mouse Trap is a beautiful expression of humaneness. Once caught, the mice can be released in the woods, to be free and in peace.”

Smart Mouse Trap Customer
Helane Shields

HELANE SHIELDS WILDLIFE FUND

Helane Shields was a longtime member of the New Hampshire Animal Rights League and a passionate animal advocate.

Her legacy included a generous gift to NHARL, which we used to establish the Helane Shields Wildlife Fund in her honor.

The fund will be used to further our efforts to protect the wild animals of New Hampshire that Helane so loved, including beavers.

According to her husband, Charles, there’s a beaver pond not far from their home, and in winter Helane enjoyed seeing the steam from the beavers’ breath rising from their lodge.

Posting Your Property

Posting your land against hunting creates safe haven for people, pets, and wildlife. We will send you as many free “No Hunting” signs as you need, to make it easy for you to post your property.
Along with your signs, we’ll send you a copy of the NH Landowner’s Guide to Protecting Your Property, which explains how and when to post, along with other useful information.

About protecting your property

People are often surprised to learn that by default privately owned land in New Hampshire is open to hunting. This means that if you do not put up “No Hunting” signs, anyone with a hunting license can come on your property and hunt. It is even legal for hunters to set up tree stands, ladders, blinds, and cameras on your property in the absence of “No Hunting” signs. (Written permission is required to bait or trap animals on your property, however.)

Other states have what’s called “reverse posting,” which means privately owned land is off limits by default.

Allowing public use of private land is a tradition that dates back to New Hampshire’s first settlers.

Back then, when wild land was abundant and people depended on animal meat and fur for survival, the idea of public access to private land for the “public good” made sense.

But today, the New Hampshire landscape is completely changed. There is far less undeveloped land left for wildlife, and only a small percentage of people hunt.

Expecting today’s landowners to forego their property rights and leave their land open to hunting is an outdated notion.

You don’t have to be an animal rights activist not to want people killing animals on your property. Even hunters themselves often post their property because of bad experiences with other hunters.

Following are five good reasons to post your property:

1. Post to protect your privacy

Many people are understandably uncomfortable with the idea of strangers on their property. Hunters can legally come within 300 feet of your home. They are also allowed to place hunting cameras on your property. Hunting cameras work using motion detectors. When an animal or person comes near the camera, motion sensors detect movement and take a photo or video. Hunters have been trying to pass a law in New Hampshire that would allow them to have these images sent to their smartphones in real time, so they can surveil the woods from the comfort of home.

2. Post to keep your family and pets safe

Posting protects children, pets, horses, and other large animals from stray bullets and arrows left by bowhunters, as well as from unwelcome encounters with strangers.

3. Post to avoid lawsuits

If your land is open to the public, it is your duty to guard or warn against any dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity. If a hunter gets injured on your property, you could be liable (per RSA 212:34 Duty of Care).

4. Post to prevent property damage

Hunters may leave behind litter, cause damage to trees and crops, or rip up trails with their ATVs.

5. Post to protect wildlife from cruel hunting practices

Lazy, unethical hunting methods — Fair-chase hunting is becoming a thing of the past. New Hampshire is one of only seven states that allows bear hunting with trained dogs, for example.

This low-effort approach, called “hounding,” involves using packs of dogs with radio collars to pursue bears until the exhausted animals seek refuge in a tree, where they are easily shot down by the hunter.

Even more leisurely, New Hampshire allows hunters to shoot bears over piles of bait. During the 2021 hunting season, 60% of the bears hunted in New Hampshire were killed over bait.

Immense suffering — Hunted animals often don’t die quickly. Many must be shot multiple times, and those who escape may endure prolonged, painful deaths.

Hunters are required to track wounded deer, but ending the animal’s suffering is not the goal. Bowhunters, for example, deliberately wait at least 30 minutes and up to 6‑12 hours (if the hit was poor), to give the animal time to die. Half these deer are never recovered.

Orphaned wildlife — When mother animals are killed, orphaned young may starve or fall victim to predators.

Vanishing animals — Despite declining populations of fishers, foxes, and other so-called “furbearers,” New Hampshire caves to the pressure of the hunting minority, allowing all but fishers to be killed in unlimited numbers for the cost of a hunting license — $34.50 in 2022.

How to post your property

Under state law RSA 635:4, the legal manner of posting calls for durable signs describing the physical activity prohibited, such as “No Hunting or Trespassing” placed at least every 300 feet (100 yards) on all sides of the property and at entrances.

Example: In the example below, the property would need 10 signs, one every 300 feet, and another where an old hiking trail crosses the boundary.

Put up “No Hunting” signs no matter how small your property is.

Write your name and address with permanent black marker. (Even without this information, your property will still be legally posted.)

Note: RSA 635:4 has not been updated since 1977 and causes confusion because it states that the words describing the prohibited activity (such as “No Hunting”) must be no less than 2 inches high. As illustrated in the photo above of a typical no trespassing sign, the words do not need to be that large.

Be Safe — Wear Orange!

When you head out to post your property, make yourself visible to hunters by wearing a blaze orange vest, hat, or jacket. The more orange, the better. And don’t forget a vest for your dog!

When to Post

Each year the NH Fish and Game Department decides on a start and end date for hunting each type of animal. General season dates are pictured below, with specific dates varying by location. Normally, longer hunting periods are allowed in areas with more wildlife, but often hunting is allowed even when animal populations are perilously low in order to satisfy hunters.

(Hunted animals not represented in the calendar above include woodcocks, grouses, quails, chukars, partridges, otters, ducks, mergansers, coots, sea ducks, Canada geese, snow geese, brants, and snipes.)

Warning! Coyote hunting is allowed 365 days a year, including at night from January to March. Be especially careful during night hunting months. A dog on a walk with her guardian was killed by coyote hunters in New Hampshire one February.

Deer hunting starts late summer and continues into the fall, but some animals can be killed year round. In New Hampshire, it is always hunting season. NH Fish & Game encourages young hunters to kill crows and gray squirrels for practice. If you don’t post your property, you could have hunters on your land at any time, including spring and summer when you and your family are more likely to be outside.

Learn More

What if my property is in Current Use?

Current Use is a property tax law designed to encourage the preservation of open space by making it affordable for people who own large tracts of land (10 acres or more, with some exceptions for wetlands and agricultural land) to keep it undeveloped. 

Current Use landowners pay property tax based not on the land’s full market value (what a developer might pay), but rather on its income-producing capability in its “current use” as farm, forest, wetland, and so on.

It is a common misconception that to be eligible for Current Use property must be open to the public. Opening your land to the public is not required to qualify for Current Use status.

Although towns may offer a 20% “Recreational Discount” on the assessed value of Current Use property if owners allow public access, to qualify for the discount land must be open year-round for all of the following activities, at no fee:

  • skiing
  • snowshoeing
  • fishing
  • hunting
  • hiking
  • nature observation

(Towns may allow exclusion of certain activities with special permission.)

For many landowners, the 20% “Recreational Discount” yields only modest savings 

Example: A 50-acre farm in the Current Use program is assessed at $10,000.
At an average town tax rate of $25 per $1,000, the resulting property tax bill would be $250 ($25 × 10).

With the 20% Recreational Discount, the property would be assessed at $8,000, with a resulting tax bill of $200 ($25 × 8).

This amounts to a modest savings of $50/yr. in exchange for leaving your property wide open for hunting and other recreational uses.

Setting aside land for wildlife

Landowners wanting to ensure that their land is never developed can sell or donate property or a conservation easement to a land trust, municipality, or a state or federal conservation agency.

One caveat of such arrangements could be giving up control over how the land is used. It might be the policy of the land trust to allow hunting on all the lands it manages, for example. This is true in the case of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, where without exception all donated land is open to hunting.

If you are in a position to donate land, be sure to choose a conservation group that will allow you to attach restrictions, including no hunting.

Wildlife as property owners?

Forward-thinking legal scholars are considering ways in which wildlife could own property.

It may sound far-fetched, but if you consider that the law already allows us to give property to animals — a typical example being a trust fund set up for a pet — giving land to wildlife is not such a crazy idea. (To learn more about this burgeoning area of law, we recommend reading Wildlife as Property Owners by Martha Nussbaum.)

In fact, the concept of wildlife having property rights existed in pre-colonial times. Some indigenous governments recognized an animal’s right to property as equivalent to a human’s. And why shouldn’t it be?

Reporting wildlife crimes

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Law Enforcement Division is responsible for the enforcement of all laws, rules, and regulations pertaining to hunting.

If you have problems with hunters

Contact your local Conservation Officer. Call NH Fish and Game’s Dispatch Office at (603) 271-3361 (8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday – closed from noon until 12:30 p.m.). The Dispatcher can relay a message to your Conservation Officer.

To report poaching

Poaching is illegal hunting, trespassing, littering, theft, or destruction of property. To report poaching, call Operation Game Thief at (800) 344-4262 or fill out the confidential online form at nhfishgame.com/ogt-form.

Fur and Trapping

The New Hampshire Animal Rights League believes that wild animals have a right to an environment in which to live, breed, and raise their young, free from harassment by humans.

Fur and Trapping

Perhaps hundreds of years ago, killing an animal for its fur could be justified if the alternative were freezing to death. Yet even in the days of the North American frontiersmen, the fur trade was not driven solely by necessity. Animals such as the beaver were trapped to near extinction in meeting demand for fashionable fur items. Today we have many options for keeping our bodies warm that don’t require taking the lives of animals.

Fur

Whether it comes from animals trapped in the wild or raised on a fur farm, every fur coat, fur accessory, or piece of fur trim causes tremendous suffering and needlessly takes lives.

At Discover WILD NH Day, an annual  “family-friendly” event hosted by the NH Fish and Game Department, New Hampshire trappers display furs from animals that they killed.

Children line up to touch the soft fur of dead foxes, minks, skunks, and all the other animals that trappers, who comprise a tiny sliver of New Hampshire’s population, are allowed to torture and kill, often without limit.  

For many years, NHARL has held demonstrations outside the event to educate the public about the inherent cruelty of trapping.

More recently, we have gone inside the event, becoming exhibitors, and presenting information about helping, rather than harming, wildlife.  

The leg-hold trap is probably the most cruel device ever invented by man and is a direct cause of inexcusable destruction and waste of our wildlife.

Dick Randall, former federal trapper, addressing Congress in 1975

Andrew’s Legacy

In 2012, a dog named Andrew was killed by an illegally set body-crushing conibear trap.

Out for a walk with his guardian on a public trail in Auburn, NH, Andrew caught the scent of the baited trap and went to investigate. Next came a popping sound, followed by a yelp, as the trap slammed shut on Andrew’s neck.

Screaming, his guardian tried desperately to free him, but conibear traps are purposefully designed to be extremely difficult to open. In the end, all she could do was watch helplessly as her beloved companion suffered and died in front of her.

The trapper responsible for Andrew’s death, George Klardie, was charged with three counts of violating NH Fish and Game trapping rules and fined a total of $248.

In 2013, the New Hampshire Animal Rights League worked alongside other animal protection groups to get these body-crushing traps banished from New Hampshire’s landscape. The legislation, known as “Andrew’s Law,” did not pass, but the tragic death of this dog brought public attention to the issue.

While Andrew’s death was witnessed by his human companion and widely mourned, countless wild animals routinely endure the same horrible death in these traps.

NHARL board member Julia Sinclair gives testimony for Andrew’s Bill (HB 1579) in Representative’s Hall

Fur Farming

Fur is no longer primarily obtained by trapping animals in the wild. Today 80% of the fur comes from fur farming operations.

On these farms, rabbits, foxes, mink, and other wild animals spend their entire lives in cramped cages, deprived of the ability to engage in natural behaviors. Confinement drives them to pace relentlessly, tremble, and self-mutilate.

The day that the cage door finally opens is the day they are killed. The finale to a life of utter misery is an excruciating death, accomplished in one of several ways devised not to damage their fur. Preferred methods include gassing, poisoning, and anal/genital electrocution.

At least one fur farm has operated in New Hampshire, Gauthier Fur Farm in Lyndeborough, but reports indicate it has since closed. 

Hope for a Fur-Free Future

It’s been a long time coming — and too late for many animals — but 2019 brought an unprecedented shift in public attitude about fur. As consumers learned about the horrors of the fur industry, luxury brands, fashion houses, and department stores took note and began phasing out fur.

In 2019, Macy’s announced that they would stop the sale of fur and close their fur vaults by the end of 2020. This decision was celebrated by NHARL, who for many years held anti-fur demonstrations outside the Mall of New Hampshire, one of Macy’s locations.

“Nuisance” Animals

Visit the web site of one of New Hampshire’s many “pest” control companies, and you may get the impression that we are at war with every other living creature — except, of course, our pets.

Pest control web sites tend to include fear-provoking descriptions of generally harmless animals accompanied by photos of them baring their teeth or otherwise looking threatening. In truth, these animals are likely petrified. Looking fierce is their best defense against a much larger would-be attacker.

Scary animal images promote the “us vs. them” mentality that helps sell pest control services and products to consumers.

Sometimes people decide that there are “too many” of a particular animal. Perhaps it’s too many deer eating their ornamental plantings or too many Canada geese on the golf course. A decision is made to fix the problem by “culling” the population. Culling is the organized, systematic elimination of unwanted birds or other wildlife.

Fortunately, many people oppose the organized killing of animals when it’s done simply because some people consider them a nuisance. NH Animal Rights League has joined with others in standing up against many attempts to cull geese, deer, and other animals.

See our Living with Wild Neighbors page for tips on how to co-exist with wildlife.

Hunted Animals

When it comes to hunting animals, some methods are more intolerable than others. Most people don’t even know about these shameful practices, because they happen deep in the wilderness, far from public view.

Buy every now and then some deplorable act makes the news — such as the shooting of Cecil the lion — and the public gets a glimpse at the largely hidden world of hunting.

Trophy Hunting

Since its inception in 2016, NHARL has participated in the Worldwide Rally Against Trophy Hunting (WRATH), holding demonstrations in Concord.

Unfair Hunting Methods

Hunting in New Hampshire is steadily moving away from fair chase as quicker, easier methods — such as bait, lures, and calling devices — grow in popularity.

Bear Baiting

In New Hampshire, it is legal to hunt bears using bait, a practice prohibited in all but a handful of states.

Bear baiting is the use of food or other enticement to lure bears to a site where hunters wait to kill them. Junk food is a popular bait, but commercial “bear attractants” also exist. One New Hampshire hunting store reached out to customers to promote its large inventory of bear bait, which included tubs of cake frosting and 55-gallon drums of caramel sauce.

Most of the bears hunted in New Hampshire are killed over bait. During the 2020 hunting season, 64% of the bears killed by hunters were killed over bait.

An Inconsistent Message — At the same time that the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department permits bear baiting, they regularly issue public notices urging residents and tourists to eliminate bear attractants, by securing garbage, removing bird feeders, and so on.

Bear Hounding

Another repugnant form of hunting that is legal in New Hampshire is bear hounding. Hounding involves hunters using packs of dogs to pursue bears until the exhausted animals either seek refuge in a tree (where they are shot) or turn to fight the hounds. Hounding often results in both bears and dogs being injured or killed.

Although less popular than bear baiting (where all you need is a drum of caramel sauce, apparently), bear hounding is nonetheless on the rise in New Hampshire.

Post Your Propety for “No Hunting”

You might be surprised to learn that by default privately owned land in New Hampshire is open to hunting. Unless you explicitly prohibit hunting by “posting your property,” hunters are free to come on your land and shoot whatever wild animal is in season.

Learn how to post your property and get free “No Hunting” signs

Learn More

Grants for Living with Beavers

As a “keystone species,” beavers provide vital habitat for many plants and animals, including threatened and endangered species. Beavers also offer wonderful wildlife watching opportunities.

The New Hampshire Animal Rights League encourages individuals and organizations — as well as businesses and towns — experiencing problems with beavers to seek solutions for peaceful co-existence, rather than resorting to trapping.

Wildlife control operators hired to trap beavers are likely to assure a property owner that the animal will die instantly and “humanely.” This is disingenuous because there is no guarantee it will happen that way, and even in the best of circumstances death is not instant.

Living with beavers may require more up-front effort and expense than trapping, but a beaver management system is a long-term solution. Trapping only removes the current beavers. If the habitat is attractive, it’s likely another beaver family will move in. Removing adults also risks leaving dependent youngsters behind; young beavers stay with their parents for two years.

Matching Grants

NHARL offers matching grants of up to $750 to individuals, organizations, businesses, and municipalities looking to install non-lethal solutions for managing beavers in New Hampshire. (For those in Massachusetts, the MSPCA offers funding for installing flow devices.)

To date, NHARL has awarded more than $9,000 in grants to individuals and organizations seeking peaceful co-existence with beavers.

Applications can be submitted any time of year.

Recommended Beaver Consultants

NHARL has worked with and recommends the beaver experts listed below. These consultants can also recommend other installers,  whom they have worked with or trained.

  • Skip Lisle of Beaver Deceivers
    Based in Vermont
    (802) 289-2899
    skip@beaverdeceivers.com

  • Mike Callahan of Beaver Solutions
    Based in Massachusetts
    (413) 527-6472
    mike@beaversolutions.com

  • Rick Hesslein
    Based in Maine
    (207) 935-3938 or (207) 875-2005
    rhcastorh3@gmail.com
Skip Lisle of Beaver Deceivers
Rick Hesslein delivering equipment to a job site

Videos

Time-lapse video of Mike Callahan of Beaver Solutions installing a culvert protection cage.

How Beavers Build Dams — Leave It to Beavers (PBS video)

A family of beavers, snug inside their lodge (video by Jeff Hogan)

Learn More