Debate Over Trapping Grows in Montana

State officials in Montana are reviewing a proposed ballot initiative that would bring the issue of trapping on public lands in the state to voters.

According to Footloose Montana, thousands of leghold traps, body-crushing Conibear traps and snares are legally set on public lands and along waterways that kill an estimated 50,000 animals every season – and those are only the ones that are reported.

The actual number of animals that fall prey to traps is believed to be much higher because there is no reporting requirement for commonly trapped species, including beaver, coyote, red fox, raccoon and skunk. Most regulations in the state also only apply to animals that are considered furbearers and quotas exist for only a few species. There is otherwise no limit on how many animals can be trapped and killed.

The proposal to ban traps, submitted by Footloose Montana, would make it illegal to trap or attempt to trap animals and game birds on public lands, including public lands leased to private parties, reports the Missoulian. If the proposal is approved, trapping opponents will need to get 24,175 signatures to get the issue on the 2014 ballot.

A similar attempt failed in 2010, but the state’s first wolf trapping season brought widespread attention to the issue this past hunting season — of the 225 wolves killed in the state, 97 of them fell victims to traps — while additional concerns about trapping wolverines have also been raised. Montana is also the only state with wolverines that still allows trapping them, despite their low numbers.

Aside from pointing out the inherent cruelty of catching an animal in a trap and leaving it to suffer, opponents also argue that trappers in Montana aren’t required to check their traps within a certain time period or put up signs warning people about trap locations, which causes additional suffering to animals and increases the risks for people and pets.

Unfortunately, wild animals aren’t the only ones stirring debates over trapping and lax regulations. Along with other species, 55 dogs were also caught this year, which also helped bring the issue into the public spotlight.

George Pauley, the Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) wildlife management chief told the Independent Record that about 50 dogs get caught each season and that although there’s been an increase in awareness, this years numbers were nothing new.

In a possible attempt to get ahead of a ballot initiative, the state is considering a separate proposal to ban trapping within 300 feet of some popular trails, while trapping supporters fight to save what they call a “cultural, economic and recreational activity” for some and a management tool for the state. The FWP will be accepting public comments on trap setbacks until July 22.

Trapping opponents don’t believe increasing setbacks goes far enough and that trapping on public land at all continues to pose a potentially cruel and unnecessary threat to wildlife, people and pets.


Photo credit: Thinkstock

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Carrie-Anne Brown

signed, thanks for sharing :)

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright2 years ago

Stop ALL trapping......this is so barbaric. And I agree with Natasha.....what's there to debate? A green star coming your way for your post. I could not have phrased it better myself.

Waheeda S.
Waheeda S.2 years ago

Trapping and hunting is barbaric!

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener2 years ago

Debate is good, it means movement...hopefully in the right direction.

David V.
David V.2 years ago

trapping & hunting needs to be banned.

Jane D.
Jane Davidson2 years ago

Why are human beings still so primitive in today's modern society? Guess we aren't so advanced since the days of Marquet and Joliet..

Frances Bell
Frances Bell2 years ago

Shameful that traps had to affect people's pets before Joe Public thought about how cruel the whole thing is. Where's the compassion? - it shouldn't just extend to pets.

Lynne B.
Lynne Buckley2 years ago

Trapping is a coward's way of capturing animals.

Regine D.
Regine Debus2 years ago

Natasha, I agree. This cruelty has to be stopped.

Mary K.
Molly D.2 years ago

No debate, it just WRONG to do any trapping !