GUEST OPINION: Archaic traps need revamping

By on December 10, 2013

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – On Nov. 22, two dogs were caught in snare and foothold traps while walking with their owner and caretaker along Fall Creek Road, a popular recreation area.

The traps were probably aimed at fox or coyote, predators for which few trapping regulations apply in Wyoming. All too often, however, traps don’t discriminate, and other species often are caught. Sometimes they’re our pets.

The Fall Creek incident was the second in little more than a year in that area. It was the fourth known incident in Jackson Hole during the same time period. Others undoubtedly have not been reported.

Fortunately, these two dogs on Fall Creek were freed, but only after the owner and caretaker ran back to her vehicle and drove back to her house to retrieve bolt cutters. One dog was freed from the foothold trap after a ride to the veterinarian in Wilson.

In the Buffalo Valley last year, a dog walking with its owner was caught in a foothold trap. The dog required about $2,000 of veterinary care. That same day, in the same place, another dog was caught in a snare but was uninjured.

These incidents raise the question of whether more popular recreation areas on public land should be off-limits to trapping. Trapping in Wyoming peaked in the mid-1880s, but persists today.

The Wyoming Department of Game and Fish reported that approximately 1,800 permits to trap furbearing animals were issued in 2011. No permits are required to trap predators, such as coyote, fox and wolf. In 85 percent of the state, predator trapping is allowed at all times of the year.

Trappers are not required to report trapping of “non-target” animals, unless they’re seriously injured or killed, so no records are available to tell us how often it happens. Trappers also have no responsibility for any harm that may come to you or your dog if you happen to step into a trap.

Today’s trapping regulations are, at best, antiquated. Trap check times are ridiculously long in some instances, resulting in days of suffering for trapped animals. For example, if placed on a Monday, body grip and conibear traps need not be checked for 13 days. What do you suppose would happen to your dog during that time?

With the removal of the gray wolf from the federal Endangered Species List, anecdotal evidence suggests that trapping frequency and trap size have increased. And predator trappers are allowed to use any size and number of traps, and place them almost anywhere on public lands. As the price of bobcat pelts rises, we can expect more trapping.

It is time to take a hard look at the practice of trapping and how it’s regulated on our public lands.

– Roger Hayden, Executive Director, Wyoming Untrapped

About Roger Hayden

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