Our Montana outdoor lifestyle and presence of public lands is a major draw for residents, small businesses and the visitors who come primarily to view wildlife. Our public lands comprise roughly only 1/3 of Montana. Contrarily, and unknown to many, lies the hidden indiscriminate destruction from legal year round trapping resulting in a reported average minimum of 45,000 wild animals are trapped and killed and an average of 50 dogs are trapped annually in Montana.
We should be able to safely enjoy our public lands free from the hidden tens of thousands of traps and snares whose whereabouts are known only to the trapper. We can no longer afford the commercialization of our valuable wildlife, tolerate incidental non-target catches, disregard indiscriminate pain and suffering, forego nonlethal methods, ignore violations of hunting ethics, or accept safety hazards of traps and snares on our public lands.
Trap Free Montana Public Lands (TFMPL) comprise concerned Montanans, grassroots, that formed a ballot issue committee for the November 2014 ballot to promote the democratic process through the citizen driven ballot initiative giving all Montanans a voice in the significant and increasing problematic matter of trapping on our Montana public lands. We are not Footloose Montana. They are not "our parent organization."
There Are Many Reasons to Support Our Initiative
(1) Rights of Private Landowners Will Be Protected: Trapping on private property (approximately 65% of Montana’s land base) is unaffected by this initiative. This initiative pertains to the approximate 35% of land in Montana designated as public land.
(2) Traps Make Public Lands Unsafe: Tens of thousands of baited, concealed traps on public land endanger adults, children, and pets. Over 55 family pets were reported caught in traps in Montana (2012-2013 season) and a woman suffered a heart attack attempting to release her dog. FWP says 50 dogs trapped annually is no more than usual and dismisses the trauma and injuries as a small fraction given the reported 40,800 traps reported set this past season. 2 of the dogs were killed. A leash is not required on public lands and does not act as a shield of armor for pets. Dogs hunting, accompanying cross country skiers, or going for a swim are not leashed and easily fall victims to traps and snares. FWP lacks the jurisdiction over species classified as predators and nongame and therefore cannot enforce setbacks of traps and snares from trails for these species. Montanans should not have to compromise peace of mind and child and pet safety when using public land.
(3) Trapping Violates Hunting Ethics: The first rule of hunting is “Be Sure of Your Target,” but unattended traps indiscriminately catch, maim, and kill unintended victims from pets to protected species, such as eagles and Canada lynx.
(3.1) Trapping Is Not Fair Chase: Trapping does not follow the time-honored principles of “Fair Chase.” Animals are lured with bait. It is illegal to leave a fishing pole unattended in Montana but trappers set and leave an average of 50,000 traps and are not present when their quarry is caught.
(3.2) Trapping Causes the Opposite of a Quick, Efficient Kill: Legally, trappers can allow animals to linger in traps indefinitely, where they can suffer slow, agonizing deaths, break teeth and bones, and suffer dislocations, dehydration, hypothermia, and panic. “Jellyhead” is the term trappers’ use for an animal strangled in a snare so long that thick, bloody lymph fluid swells the head. “Wring-off” is their term for an animal twisting or chewing off a paw or appendage to escape. Trappers kill still-living, trapped animals by bludgeoning, stomping on them, drowning, shooting, strangling, injecting poisonous chemicals or by turning their dogs loose on them.
(3.3) Trapping Causes Wanton Waste: For every furbearer killed, many more non-targeted wild and domestic animals are injured, killed and discarded; this waste is in violation of hunting ethics. Legal year-round trapping also indirectly kills untold numbers of orphaned young.
(3.4) Trapping Commercializes Wildlife: (While the commercialization of wildlife has been outlawed for over a century, it survives in the form of recreational trapping. Hunters and anglers are prohibited from capitalizing on their quarry, but trappers profit from killing publicly owned wild animals and selling their skins.
(4) Traps Are Cruel and Cause Pain and Suffering. Animals caught in traps suffer fear, anxiety, and physical pain. Trapped animals are known to struggle to frantically try to escape, often biting at the trap with recurring intervals for reasons such as time of day, the elements, the pain, if they have young left behind, the sound of humans. Injuries caused by traps range from lacerations to dislocated joints, broken bones and teeth, even amputation of limbs. The most commonly used trap, the steel-jaw leg-hold trap, is condemned as inhumane by national and international veterinary associations.
(5) Trapping Is Costly to Montana: Wildlife watching brought 400 million dollars into Montana in 2011(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Census Bureau), making it one of Montana’s largest industries. While only 6000 people, 0.6% of Montanans, purchase the $29 trapping license, 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.
(6) Trapping is Marginally Regulated and the Regulations Are Not Enforceable: While hunting and fishing are strictly regulated, trapping is not. For $29 a trapper is given a license and allowed to set unlimited numbers of traps without mandatory trap-check intervals or any training (for wolves only, a mandatory 48-hour trap check and attendance at a 6 hr class is required). http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/planahunt/huntingGuides/furbearer/
(7) High Country Beaver Trapping Drains our Water Supply. Replenishing aquifers is crucial to Montana’s agriculture and communities. Trapping beavers in upstream, publicly owned forests and drainages reduces water retention and stream flow critical for irrigation, drinking water, wildlife, and fish habitat. Beaver-created ponds and riparian habitat are critical to the success of healthy watersheds and species ranging from moose to songbirds, as well as the creation of natural firebreaks and overall healthy watersheds. In places where beaver dams are not wanted, effective, non-lethal management alternatives exist.
(8) Wildlife is Montana’s Heritage. Even though our rich wildlife heritage is under increasing pressure, Montana is still a refuge for species disappearing from the lower 48—the grizzly, fisher, wolverine, lynx, and others. Trapping—no longer necessary for survival—has been replaced by wildlife watching as an essential source of state income and employment. As former trapper and noted bear biologist Chuck Jonkel has observed, “The days of trapping are over. Now it’s time to protect the animals.”
(9) Trapping Undermines Wildlife Management: Trapping is market-driven; fur prices dictate participant numbers. Trapping provides no reliable scientific data. According to Fish, Wildlife & Parks, about 35% of trappers return voluntary surveys. This is anecdotal data which is unreliable as hard science. Few records are kept of non-targeted trapped animals, including endangered species (when reported at all). Trapping harvest reports lag by years with some years, such as 2004, containing no record of any data or harvests. A lactating female killed in a trap results in starved offspring whose numbers are unknown and uncounted. Trapping is managed solely for recreation, not for wildlife management or disease control. http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/planahunt/harvestReports.html#furbearer
(10) Protection of Hunting and Fishing: the rights of hunters and fisherman are protected under the Montana’s constitution, voted in by Montanans and are not affected by this initiative.
Key Features of the Initiative:
- Protects the rights of private property and the landowners choice as to whether to allow or partake in trapping on their land.
- Reduces the cruelty and lethality of many traps and snares on our public land.
- Permits the use of nonlethal snares, traps, or nets to take wildlife for purposes of scientific research, migratory bird propagation, falconry, relocation, medical treatment or to protect public health and safety on Montana's public lands.
- Allows the department or, upon state certification, it agents or other unit of government to conduct allowable trapping on public lands.
- Grants the use of a conibear trap in water, padded leghold trap, nonstrangling foot snare, cage trap or net on public land for nuisance and conflict animal problems, for a period not to exceed 30 days per calendar year, if it has not and cannot reasonably be abated through use of nonlethal control tools, or if the nonlethal means cannot be reasonably applied.
- Provides written documentation to the public for the trapping of nuisance and conflict animals.
- Promotes nonlethal methods and good husbandry in mitigating conflicts with wildlife.
- Requires posting trapping warning signs for the public and 24 hour minimum trap check time interval for trapped animals on public land.
- Does not limit the trapping of rodents, except for muskrats and beaver, by anyone.
- Provides use of the trapped animal carcass for beneficial public purposes.
- Maintains the rights to hunt and fish.
- Excludes any lands under the jurisdictions of Indian tribes within the state of Montana.
The Trap Free Montana Public Lands ballot initiative needs 25,000 qualified signatures statewide to get on the November 2014 ballot so the voters of Montana can decide to make our public lands trap-free. We have until June 2014 to gather the signatures of Montana registered voters.