Q: Is this initiative a total ban of trapping?
A: This initiative prohibits commercial and recreational trapping only on one-third of the state, Montana’s public lands, while trapping on private land, two-thirds of the state, can continue. Also this initiative allows trapping on public lands for research, health and safety, and falconry, and to protect livestock and property.
Q: Is this an animal rights front that will go after hunting next?
A: Absolutely not. The ballot initiative committee includes hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers. They recognize that traps on our public lands are dangerous and unsporting. Supporters of our mission come from all walks of life and comprise outdoor sports enthusiasts, pet owners, and conservationists. We are a grassroots group of full-time residents of Montana. Hunting and fishing are rights protected by Montana’s constitution. This initiative will benefit hunting and fishing by taking away the traps that main and kill hunters’ quarry and by allowing beaver to create ponds and habitat that nurture fish and wildlife.
Q: How do people protect themselves from traps?
A: There is no protection. Traps effectively lock the public out of our public lands. “The most terrifying thing in my life was when I walked into a trap as a child.” –Jeremiah Zweiger, Lynnwood, WA.
Q: Trapping occurs only in the winter, right?
A: Wrong! The official “furbearer” trapping season occurs in the winter (primarily Nov.-April), but trapping for predators and nongame wildlife happens state-wide, year-round.
Q: How often must trappers check their traps? What’s required?
A: No trap check requirements exist in Montana. They would be impossible to enforce anyway. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) recommends (but does not require) 48-hour trap check intervals. Trappers also don’t have to post signs in areas where they trap.
Q: Isn’t trapping strictly regulated by Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP)?
A: Only a handful of furbearer species have limits on how many can be trapped (otter, swift fox, fisher, bobcat, wolverine).. However, nongame wildlife (e.g., raccoon, red fox) and predators (e.g., weasel, coyote) are completely unregulated—no license required—and can be trapped anywhere, anytime on our public lands.
Q: Trapping is just another outdoor sport like hunting, right?
A: Wrong! Hunters follow strict regulations and seasons and are strongly encouraged to employ fair chase ethics. Hunters strive for a quick, clean kill that does not result in the suffering of the animal. Trapping, on the other hand, contradicts all hunting ethics. Traps are hidden and baited; the trapper isn’t there. Animals can suffer for days on end before dying at the trapper’s convenience. Tens of thousands of traps are secreted on our landscape; regulations are unenforceable. “Know your target” is a maxim of hunting, but traps are indiscriminate. Trappers say they never know what they’ll find: eagles, osprey, mountain lion, deer, even elk are caught in traps. Finally, trappers pay a mere $29 for a trapping license to trap unlimited numbers of animals—wildlife owned by the people of Montana. Trapping is also a leading factor causing a step decline in populations of lynx, wolverine, fisher, marten and otter.
Q: Is trapping an important part of the economy?
A: The answer is no, in fact trappers are lucky, they say, to break even. Trapping today is done by trucks and snowmachines. For the state of Montana, trapping brings in $96,000. Hunting brings in $311 million, fishing brings in $226 million, and wildlife watching brings in a huge $401 million.. If anything, trapping hurts the economy by destroying the rare and reclusive animals people want to see.
Q: What about predator control? And wolves.
A: Traps are the least efficient way to control predators because they can’t target an animal. A bullet has a much better chance of eliminating the offending animal. Coyote population numbers are self-regulating—they can produce between one and 19 kits a year. It would take killing 70 percent of them to dent their population, and that has never been achieved (information provided by Dr. Jack Laufer, wildlife biologist). Wolf traps are simply another layer of baited, lethal traps killing any creature that steps into them, not just wolves. Guns are far more accurate and cause no collateral damage. According to the Montana Livestock Loss Board, .005% of livestock were killed by wolves in 2011—a statistically insignificant number. There are 60% MORE elk in MT than when wolves were reintroduced in 1995. On top of that, this initiative provides exceptions to protect livestock and property on public lands, if there is evidence of harm or destruction.
Q: Does trapping contribute to wildlife management or disease control?
A: No on both counts. Traps are indiscriminate and any creature can stumble into a trap. It is documented that for every target animal caught, two have been discarded. Many animals killed in traps have offspring that starve to death. Except for wolves, trappers are not required to report their take or their discards (including endangered species); information they provide is anecdotal and unreliable. If anything, trapping mismanages wildlife. Regarding disease, it’s the healthy animals, not sick ones, that get lured into baited traps. Brian Giddings, fur-bearer coordinator for FWP, wrote, “FWP regulates furbearer trapping seasons for recreational harvest opportunities. Montana’s harvest seasons are not based on reducing or controlling disease.”
Q: Trapping is recreation, is it not?
A: Recreation? It’s difficult to understand why a hobby continues on Montana’s public lands that causes such brutal suffering, such collateral damage, such danger to people and their pets and maims and kills endangered species. Animals can live for days in pain and terror before a predator gets them, or a trapper comes along with a club to beat them to death or stomp on their chests until their lungs collapse. One in four trapped animals chews its foot off to escape the pain. Underwater traps, used for mink, otter and beaver, slowly drown the panicking animal. Trapping is torture. Charles Darwin said trapping is “so fearful an amount of cruelty.”
Q: Trapping is a Montana tradition…
A: With great respect for Jim Bridger and his fur-trading brethren, we believe they would agree that today wildlife is not only Montana’s heritage, it is Montana’s future. As renowned wildlife biologist and former trapper Chuck Jonkel said: “The days of trapping are over. It’s now time to preserve Montana’s wildlife.” The Montanans for Trap-Free Public Lands Act needs 25,000 qualified signatures statewide to get on the ballot so the voters of Montana can decide to make our public lands trap-free. Please spread the word and get involved!
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Montanans for Trap-Free Public Lands
Bill Leaphart, Treasurer
P.O. Box 8884