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Delaware Furbearer and Trapping Laws and Regulations

Furbearer Trapping Seasons Overview

Season Dates by Species and County

  • Muskrat, Mink, Otter, Raccoon, Opossum, Nutria
    • New Castle County: December 1 - March 10
      • On embanked meadows, the season extended to March 20
    • Kent and Sussex Counties: December 15 - March 15
  • Beaver
    • Statewide: December 1 - March 20
      • Season bag limit: 8 beavers (hunting and trapping combined)
  • Red Fox, Coyote
    • Statewide: December 1 - March 10
  • Groundhog
    • Statewide: July 1 - June 30
      • No trapping license is required for groundhogs

Trapping Guidelines

  • Groundhog
    • No license needed for trapping
    • Can be dispatched with a .22 rimfire pistol
  • General Trapping
    • No daily or possession limit for trapped furbearers, except for beavers
  • Raccoons
    • Box traps permitted during the hunting "kill" season

Furbearer Hunting Seasons and Bag Limits

Season Dates, Bag Limits, and Hunting Methods by Species

Raccoon and Opossum

  • Chase Only Season (No harvest): Sept. 1 - Oct. 29 and Mar. 1 - Mar. 30
    • No hunting during Oct. muzzleloader and antlerless deer seasons
  • Hunting Season: Nov. 1 - Feb. 29
    • No limit
    • Specific hunting hours during certain deer seasons
  • Permitted Equipment:
    • Compound, recurve, longbow
    • Shotgun, .22 caliber rimfire pistol
  • Special Area: Year-round open season, excluding Sundays, in a designated zone.
    • Refer to the Raccoons section for details.

Red Fox

  • Chase Only Season (No harvest): Oct. 1 - Apr. 30
    • Closed during certain deer seasons
  • Hunting: Nov. 1 - Feb. 29
    • No limit
    • Harvest allowed with specific weapons
    • Refer to Deer Hunting for overlapping deer season dates.

Coyote

  • Season: Sept. 1 - Feb. 29
    • No limit
    • Legal weapons include:
      • Compound, recurve, longbow, crossbow
      • Shotgun, muzzleloading rifle
      • Rimfire or centerfire rifle up to .25 caliber
    • Restrictions during deer firearms seasons apply.

Beaver (Private Land Only)

  • Season: Dec. 1 - Mar. 20
    • Bag limit: 8 per season (hunting and trapping combined)
    • Permissible to use shotguns, compound, recurve, or longbows.

Additional Information

  • Night Hunting for Raccoons and Opossums:
    • Allowed with the use of a light.
  • Electronic Calls:
    • Permitted for raccoons, opossums, red foxes, and coyotes.
  • Weapon Restrictions:
    • No usage of handguns or straight-walled pistol-caliber rifles for red fox and coyote.
    • For specific firearm restrictions during firearms deer seasons, see the subsequent page.

For complete guidelines on effective dates, weapon usage, and special regulations during overlapping deer seasons, please refer to the Deer Hunting sections as indicated.

State Wildlife Area Trapping Permits

The Division annually invites sealed bids for trapping privileges in its wildlife areas. Prospective trappers can find bidding details published in early August, with the opening of bids scheduled for early October. To access bid information, interested parties should visit the Office of Management and Budget Bid Solicitation website at http://bids.delaware.gov, or they may contact the Division directly by calling 302-739-9912. It is mandatory to have a permit for trapping on any Division lands, and trapping without one is strictly prohibited.

Delaware Trapping Regulations

In Delaware, it is against the law to:

  • Trap wildlife species other than muskrats, mink, otters, beavers, raccoons, opossums, groundhogs, nutria, red foxes, and coyotes. Landowners, tenants, or their children are allowed to trap rabbits during the open season.

  • Use traps without proper identification. All traps, except those intended for muskrats, must be marked with a metal tag displaying the trapper's license number and year or the trapper's name and address.

  • Set traps on any lands, public or private, without obtaining written permission from the landowner. Trappers aiming to trap on private property can utilize the 'Private Land Trapping Permission Form' found on page 8 of the trapping guide.

  • Fail to check non-muskrat traps at least once every 24 hours.

  • Set traps before the start or after the end of the trapping season; setting traps the day before the season opens or leaving them out after the season closes is not permitted.

  • Use foothold traps with a jaw spread larger than 6 ½ inches above water or 7 ¾ inches below water. The "waterline" pertains to either below the water surface or the mean high tide line in tidal areas. Jaw spread is the widest inside distance between the jaws, measured perpendicular to the jaw pivot points when traps are set.

  • Set foothold traps above the waterline without offset, laminated, or padded jaws, except coil-spring traps with a jaw spread of 4 inches or less and long-spring traps with a jaw spread of up to 4 ½ inches.

  • Use foothold traps with toothed or serrated jaws.

  • Set cable restraints that don't meet specific criteria: stranded steel cable must be at least 5/64 inches in diameter and include a relaxing-type lock. The cable's length should not surpass 7 feet from anchor to lock, and it must have a swivel device for 360° rotation. The loop's circumference must not exceed 38 inches when open nor be less than 6 ¼ inches when closed, except for cable restraints with a maximum loop circumference of 12 ½ inches which don't need cable stops.

  • Tamper with, damage, take away traps, or attempt to take wildlife from traps without explicit permission.

  • Use killer (conibear) traps with a jaw spread over 5 inches.

  • Employ diving or box traps for muskrats.

  • Set traps (excluding box/cage traps) within 10 feet of exposed meat used as bait (animal fur or feathers without tissue are exempt).

  • Trap within 100 yards of an occupied building unless the trapper is the owner or occupant or has the owner or occupant's permission.

Delaware Trap Tagging Requirements

In Delaware, trappers, whether licensed or exempt from needing a license, must securely attach a trap tag to every trap they deploy for capturing snapping turtles and all furbearers, except muskrats. Although muskrat traps don't require tags, the Division advises tagging them as a cautionary measure because of the potential to inadvertently trap other species, which would necessitate compliance with tagging regulations.

A trap tag is critical for the identification of trap ownership and can be requested by Natural Resource Police Officers or landowners. Tags used must be metallic and display the owner's information. They should include either "Trapping License, Delaware" followed by the trapper’s license or license-exempt number and the year it was issued, or the owner’s full name and address.

The Division offers an initial 25 free tags to trappers, and additional tags can be purchased for $4 per set of 25 from the Division at the R&R Front Desk. The Division-provided tags will be generic, stating “Trapping License Delaware,” with space for trappers to add their details (engraving recommended for durability). Trappers also have the option to craft their tags or buy them from private sellers.

Trapping from Boats in Delaware

Individuals in Delaware are permitted to use boats to check and maintain traps that have been lawfully set for fur-bearing wildlife. This method of tending to traps is acceptable as long as all other trapping regulations and laws are adhered to.

Delaware Raccoon Trapping Regulations

Delaware Furbearer and Trapping Laws and Regulations

Trapping raccoons in Delaware is regulated to ensure humane and effective practices. Statewide, during the appropriate season, individuals may use foothold traps, including foot encapsulating style traps, cable restraints, or box traps designed to contain without injuring the animal. For box/cage traps specifically, the size of the trap opening must not exceed 195 square inches. Trapping activities are allowed any day of the week except Sundays.

In the regions of New Castle and Kent Counties situated east of Route 13, from Federal School Lane near the Ommelanden Range in New Castle County down to the St. Jones River in Kent County, raccoons may be hunted and trapped any day throughout the year with the landowner's consent. At the junction where Route 13 divides from Route 1 in Dover, the boundary extends along Route 1 to the confluence with the St. Jones River. Outside these specified areas, general season dates for raccoon trapping apply as outlined on the previous page.

Delaware Coyote Harvest Reporting and Hunting Regulations

Any individual who successfully shoots or traps a coyote in Delaware is mandated to report their harvest. This report must be made to the Division of Fish and Wildlife by calling 302-735-3600 no later than the end of the business day following the capture or kill. The information collected is essential for Division biologists to monitor the distribution and numbers of coyotes in the state.

During deer firearms seasons, hunters must use weapons that are lawful for deer hunting when targeting coyotes, with the exception that coyotes cannot be taken using a straight-walled pistol-caliber rifle or a handgun. Legally harvested coyote pelts are permitted to be sold, enabling hunters and trappers to profit from their efforts, provided they adhere to the reporting and firearms restrictions in place.

Delaware River Otter Pelt Tagging Procedure

Under the compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), anyone who captures a river otter in Delaware is required to have the pelt tagged by an authorized Division of Fish and Wildlife representative. To facilitate this process, trappers should contact the Division at 302-735-3600 to arrange for the tagging of their otter pelt after it has been stretched and dried, and prior to it being sold or transported out of the state. The pelt tagging cannot be delegated to trappers; it must be performed in-person by a Division representative. Trappers are therefore required to bring their otter pelts for the tagging procedure.

Delaware Beaver Management for Landowners

Landowners in Delaware experiencing property damage due to beavers are allowed to remove up to eight beavers per season without a Division-issued permit. This exception is in effect from December 1 through March 20. However, it is crucial that the landowner reports their beaver harvest to the Division by April 1. Beavers are not to be taken outside of this specified timeframe unless authorized by obtaining a permit from the Division for cases requiring the removal of more than eight. Additionally, the sale of hides and meat from legally harvested beavers is permitted, whether the animals are taken within Delaware or elsewhere.

Delaware Red Fox Hunting Regulations

In Delaware, strict regulations apply to the hunting of red foxes:

  • It is illegal to kill a red fox that is actively being chased by dogs. Hunters must ensure that they do not shoot foxes involved in a pursuit by hounds.

  • During deer firearms seasons, red foxes may only be hunted with firearms that are lawful for deer hunting. The use of straight-walled pistol-caliber rifles or handguns to harvest red foxes is strictly prohibited at any time.

  • The hunting of red foxes with the assistance of artificial lighting is forbidden. This rule aims to ensure fair chase and prevent the disorientation of the animal during the hunt.

Delaware Gray Fox Harvest Regulations

In Delaware, specific rules govern the incidental capture or hunting of gray foxes:

  • South of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the accidental take of gray foxes is not considered illegal during the legally established hunting and trapping seasons for red fox.

  • However, no take of gray foxes is permissible north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

  • Any individual who shoots or traps a gray fox, whether accidental or otherwise, is required to report this to the Division of Fish and Wildlife within seven days of the harvest. This can be done by contacting the Division at 302-735-3600. It is imperative that hunters and trappers adhere to this reporting rule to assist in the management and conservation of the gray fox populations within the state.

Delaware Nutria Trapping and Reporting Requirements

Trappers in Delaware who capture nutria are mandated to:

  • Report their harvest to the Division of Fish and Wildlife by calling 302-735-3600 no later than close of business on the day after the harvest. This timely reporting is crucial for the Division’s biologists to monitor nutria populations and distribution within the state.

  • Ensure that captured nutria are not released alive back into the wild. The trapped animals must be euthanized.

  • Be aware that the sale of hides from legally taken nutria is permitted, allowing trappers to extract economic value from their trapping activities, provided they comply with the reporting and handling requirements set by the Division.

Identifying Coyotes in Delaware

Coyotes in Delaware typically have a weight range between 20 to 45 pounds and closely resemble collie dogs in appearance. They are distinguished by their upright, pointed ears, narrow muzzles, and bushy tails. The coloration of coyotes is predominantly brownish-gray, with a belly that is a lighter gray or cream, although color variations can include reddish to black.

The tracks left by coyotes are often confused with those of red foxes or domestic dogs. However, coyote tracks tend to be smaller and more oval-shaped, whereas domestic dog tracks are usually rounder in appearance. Notably, the middle toe pads of coyote tracks are angled inward, unlike domestic dog tracks where this is not typically observed. For individuals seeking additional information on coyotes, including their behavior and management in Delaware, resources are available at Delaware Fish and Wildlife Hunting - Coyotes.

 

 

 

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