Montana residents are working to protect wildlife, people and pets from the cruel and indiscriminate traps that are laid on public lands and hope to get the issue on the ballot next November so voters can have a say.
Trap Free Montana Public Lands (TFMPL) is supporting a ballot initiative, I-169, which will effectively ban trapping on public lands, including lands that are leased to private parties, which will make about one-third of the state a lot safer.
Wildlife advocates argue that the thousands of leghold traps, body-crushing Conibear traps and snares that are legally set on public lands and along waterways are inhumanely killing an average minimum of 45,000 wild animals every year.
Some believe the actual number of animals who fall prey to traps is 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, including swift foxes and otters. There is otherwise no limit on how many animals can be trapped and killed.
Trapping supporters continue to claim that what they do is ethical and humane, but it’s clearly neither, and it should be obvious by now that trapping is not about responsibly managing wildlife, but about commercializing wild animals for the amusement and financial gain of a few who participate.
While trappers are eager to catch and kill, their traps are also posing a serious safety issue for people and pets who want to enjoy public lands without worrying about hidden dangers. During the 2012-2013 season, 55 dogs were caught in traps, which Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks writes off as a small number considering how many traps are laid.
Opponents of the initiative say this will cost the state an estimated $65,000 in lost revenue, but TFMPL counters that wildlife is worth far more to the state alive. The latest available numbers show that wildlife watchers spent an estimated $4 million annually, while only 6,000 people, 0.6 percent of Montanans, purchased the $29 trapping license.
Trapping also comes with additional costs. TFMPL argues that, “trapping depletes rare species, wastes wildlife with unintended captures, costs pet owners and taxpayers for the care of incidental catches, costs taxpayers to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats, depletes our watersheds, and has a negative impact on Montana tourism.”
The proposal has been approved, but in order to bring the issue of trapping to voters, the group needs to gather almost 25,000 signatures from registered Montana voters by June 2014.
Similar efforts to gather enough signatures by Footloose Montana were unsuccessful in 2010, and because the group opposed changes the state made to the language of their most recent initiative it will be revisiting the issue in 2016, but meanwhile supports I-169.
If you’re a Montana resident, you can help support this effort to protect wildlife, people and pets from traps by getting a “Signature Gatherer Petition Packet” from TFMPL to help collect signatures.
Photo credit: Property #1