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Hunters with Dogs Create Nightmare Nights

Published: 3/1/2011
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Editor's Note: Carole Whelan contributed this column in support of a LD 559, an Act to Protect Owners of Private Property against Trespass, sponsored by Andrew O'Brien of Lincolnville. For more information, CLICK HERE

By Carole Whelan

Imagine it’s 1 am. You are sound asleep when your dogs start barking furiously, trying to get you up to let them out. You can hear the sounds of other dogs outside, men’s voices, an idling vehicle. You pull on some clothes and boots as fast as you can, struggle to keep your dogs in as you run outside.
Baying dogs are running through the pasture where your mare and foal are. Men with guns go through your fence after them. You hear your mare running, her foal pathetically calling to her.

If you are like most horse lovers, you march down and confront the men in the dark without considering how stupid this might be.
PHOTOS: Whelan's horses at her farm in Hope and Whelan driving with her 16 year-old gelding.

But that is what my husband and I did one night at my farm. I learned the men were hunting (raccoons, I think) and they thought we were pretty unreasonable spoilsports to be so upset. They grumbled when told to leave, declaring that they had no control over where their dogs went! I found my shaking mare and her foal and put them in the barn. Fortunately, they were not inured, just frightened.

So that was how I learned that this terrifying intrusion was perfectly legal!
A few years later a similar thing happened. Again, we didn’t stop to consider the sanity of going to confront armed strangers in the dark. It was early enough that we were still up and luckily the dogs were inside.
The men parked across from my house and proceeded to the woods alongside my barn, as if they had been invited to feed the chickens! We went down to speak to them and they rounded up their dogs and put them into the truck and left. As he departed, one man muttered, “Humph! Must be out-of-staters”.

Another night, my husband and I were startled out of a sound sleep at 2am by a gunshot. He went out and found people shooting at a raccoon sitting in one of the shade trees in our yard!

There’s just one more story I have to relate, even at the risk of sounding like I go around wearing a sign that says, “Go ahead, make my day!”

It’s not a scary story, just gross. Really, really gross.
It was my “baiting” education. For  reasons I never did learn, a truckload of rotten chicken carcasses and guts were dumped at the edge of a little-traveled road rather than the usual remote location. There were several houses nearby and you have undoubtedly guessed by now that mine was one of them.
My dog had been behaving oddly, looking around with his nose in the air, scenting. One day he took off, something he NEVER did, being an elderly homebody, and came back with a belly hugely bloated with you-know-what.

I made my poor dog sleep in the garage, because letting him in the house would ensure that he would vomit, or worse, all over the place.
Here’s the gross part: I donned a zip suit, heavy rubber gloves and boots, gathered feedbags, trash bags, a scoop, and a facemask. I mounted my other trusty steed, the green one with a bucket that eats diesel, and proceeded to the dumpsite to clean up every piece. I double wrapped it, went home, stripped off and washed or threw out all the paraphernalia.  

So this has been a long way of saying that I support LD559 and hope you do and will tell your representatives. An Act To Protect Owners of Private Property against Trespass LD 559. For more information, CLICK HERE

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3/3/2011 Christine
I admit to not knowing all the regulations (or lack of them), but I thought posting your land against hunting/tresspassing would give you protection against hunters crossing your property. I also thought dogs off leads were supposed to be under verbal control of the owner but maybe that is a community and not state-wide regulation. Dog menacing livestock is legal? I thought you could shoot the dog (not that I'd want to necessarily) in that instance.
3/3/2011 Vicki is what i know about hunting in the state of maine.... NO HUNTING signs means just hunting does not mean that someone can not walk across you land to got to the otherside,,,sorry all.... if you want it so that they can not even cross your land you need to post NO TRESPASSING signs..... and there is a leash law in the state of maine BUT if your out hunting with dogs it is a different law totally... BUT they still need to abide by the signs that you have up...things change a little for night hunting though....landowners need to remember that people can NOT see signs at night as easily and dogs can NOT read at all.... so if a hunter sees the signs and dogs have gone on to your land he MUST ask permission to go onto you land to get his/her dogs.... that is the way is... IF your having issues with people hunting on your land at night call the state police at once they will come deal with it for you... alot safer then you going out there with people that have guns and AMO in them....
3/3/2011 Trish
I agree totally with Vicki, and remember, you have to post all your property line's, not just road side, hunter's coming onto your property from the back side don't realize it's posted if you only have sign's up on the road side's.
3/4/2011 Carole
Good questions have been raised and I can answer some. The leash law does not apply to hunting dogs. As far as the existing trespass laws, I do not have a complete answer yet, but one thing that has raised the hackles of landowners for years is that the burden is all on them, not on the person trespassing.
3/7/2011 Carole
Christine and others -my Legislator says Maine Statute makes it absolutely illegal to shoot a dog traveling over your land. Who would want to do that anyway? If the dog were killing your livestock, though, probably a judge would not rule against you. As far as posting no trespassing or no hunting, perhaps the landowner does not object to bird hunting: very limited season, only in daytime, with close range shot guns and bird shot, not high powered rifles. Or maybe they don't mind a few people taking some deer, especially in areas where they have overpopulated and become a real nuisance. Night hunting with dogs is a whole different thing. For instance, present rules allow for 24 hours/day, every day of the year for coyotes. This presents a very different level of threat and disruption to the landowner and livestock, to say nothing of the fear and stress it must cause to other wildlife.
9/26/2011 Elisabeth Taliento-Zappala
Carol, We've never met but our husbands are good friends. We hunt with our springer spaniels, on our own posted land. There have been countless times we've come across hunters who claim not to have seen our signs. Liars. Same goes for ATV's. They absolutely ruin our land, cause significant erosion, they leave trash, and tear down our fences. Unfortunately, we live in a State where some folks just don't care about breaking the law. Disrespectful hunters hurt hunters like myself and my husband and cause laws to be passed that affect not only the good hunters but wildlife as well. I'm not for stricter laws in most instances, but we need stricter punishment for tresspassing. We call the warden when this happens...then nothing happens... They want to issue a warning. We want to prosecute. Even if there is an arrest some judges let them off. We spend hundreds of hours blazing our boundaries, carrying ladders, signs, hammers, etc. around miles of property to try to protect ourselves, our dog and our horses to no avail. People need to respect each other is the bottom line but it seems that those days are long gone by and have been replaced by the attitude that "what's yours is mine and if it isn't then I'll take it"......

"A canter is the cure for every evil" - Benjamin Disraeli, The Young Duke