Thursday, January 14, 2010


Montana's ballot initiative to ban trapping seems entirely appropriate in this day and age.

In fact, it's surprising to find out that people still trap animals using the same metal torture instruments their ancestors used 200 years ago.

I was at home in Springfield, Oregon over Christmas. My Dad was walking his dog and he actually saw a guy down the road skinning a opossum he had trapped in his back yard. So this kind of thing still happens.

But in an environment dominated by hikers, skiers, and other people out recreating, random traps spread across the landscape causes horrible problems:

“Screaming isn’t the right word, and yelping isn’t either,” said Betsy Brandborg, an avid Helena hiker. “It sounded like my dog was under attack, like she was in a real fight. I thought she was tangling with some coyotes or a lion.”

As it turned out, her dog was caught by both front paws in a foothold trap near Vigilante Campground in the Big Belt Mountains. It took her several minutes to locate the animal and free it from the trap’s steel bars.

“She was down on her belly all stretched out,” Brandborg said of her dog. “I was able to use my thumb to release the trap.”

Located near the mouth of Trout Creek Canyon and a series of popular trails, the trap had been there for weeks, if not longer, with a decaying beaver hanging as bait from a wire noose.

The trap was also found by another woman’s dog during a weekend class held in the area. Fish, Wildlife and Parks looked into the trap and its location and determined it was legally set.

But Brandborg’s tangle with the trap isn’t the first time a Montana pet has become caught near a recreation area. In fact, according to Footloose — a group that formed in 2007 to oppose trapping on public lands — at least five pets have become caught in Montana traps this winter.

The first occurred in November when a dog was caught in a foothold trap near the Bitterroot River. The latest incident happened last week when a beagle was snared by the neck while hiking with its owners near Skalkaho Pass.

Voluntary survey results published by FWP suggest trappers harvest around 40,000 animals each year — animals they target for trapping. The numbers don’t include non-targeted animals, or those trapped by accident, according to Footloose.

Montana voters, in a state that still mythologizing living off the land, now are fighting back with a ballot measure to stop this archaic and unnecessary practice that reads:

“I-160 prohibits trapping of all wild mammals and birds by any means on public lands in Montana, subject to limited exceptions. It allows trapping for scientific purposes and for breeding of migratory game birds. It also allows trapping by public employees to protect public health and safety. However, it prohibits commercial use of wild mammals and birds trapped on public lands for any of the allowable purposes. I-160 costs approximately $47,780 of state funds annually, resulting from a loss of trapping license revenue.”

[ ] FOR prohibiting trapping of all wild mammals and birds on public lands in Montana, subject to limited exceptions.

[ ] AGAINST prohibiting trapping of all wild mammals and birds on public lands in Montana, subject to limited exceptions.

It certainly seems like sensible environmental policy to me. I'll be curious to see how Montanans react.

Via Ralph Maugham