Non-Target Montana Trappings

The term “non-target” has replaced the former use of the words “incidental” and “accidental” for those “unintended” trapped or snared. The majority of “non-targets” are caught in sets for coyotes which are completely unregulated in Montana. Snares are the leading cause of deaths.

The most commonly reported trapped non-target wildlife in Montana are mountain lions, e.g., averaging ~ 20 per year, with the overwhelming disastrous outcomes of being injured and killed. These mountain lions do not come off the hunting quotas!

The number of dogs reported trapped annually, ~ 35, in Montana often rivals the number of mountain lions. Trapped dogs though are now taking the lead for trapped non-targets. Some dogs die from snaring, conibears, and from trapping in general. Unlike the wildlife, these dogs generally at least have owners and if possible are helped, loved, and cared for.

To try to prevent raptors from getting trapped, Montana regulations require bait greater than 1 pound in weight that is visible from above be set 30 feet from the trap. Clearly, this isn’t working. Raptors, particularly eagles, are attracted to the bait as they scavenge along on the ground. How many trapped wildlife perish, never to be discovered, never reported? Meanwhile, wildlife rehabbers, veterinarians, FWP, you and we, pay for the destruction created by trappers comprising less than 1% of Montanans who purchase a trapping license. Yet, both the targeted and non-targeted pay with their lives. Trap Free Montana pays towards the medical and rehab costs of trapped non-targets.

The reported “condition” of the trapped non-target generally falls upon the trapper to decide. Other than two limited exceptions, we have no required trap check time interval in Montana. Trapped bobcat in designated lynx protection zones and wolves are permitted to suffer for up to 48 hours stuck in a trap, which is twice the recommended time, i.e., max 24 hours, to reduce injury. The others can be left in traps and snares in our state for days upon days, most even weeks.

Trapped animals suffer from dislocations, cuts, abrasions, loss of circulation, broken bones, mouth and teeth injuries, stress, starvation, dehydration, exposure to the elements, frostbite, and predation. Experts tell us after 24 hours in a trap, injury is a given. This is why trapping methodology differs by those that seek to learn and help the animal vs trappers that seek the fur or to destroy them. A trapped animal alive, running off, or flying away after release does not embody uninjured. The compounding evidence shows the future is bleak for those trapped and released.

The legalized snaring of wolves in Montana in 2021, will increase indiscriminate deaths. Even the monstrous foothold/leghold traps set for wolves have resulted in a lethal grip on big game species, such as deer. For the 2021/2022 wolf season, ~14% of the wolf trapping reported victims were not wolves, i.e., 7 mountain lions, 5 deer, 4 dogs, 2 moose, and 1 black bear were reported trapped/snared in sets for wolves. A minimum of 68% of these non-targets were injured or killed.

*2019 changes in the reporting of Montana trapped “non-targets” came about after our persistent complaints to the department and Fish & Wildlife Commission that only trapped “injured” or dead non-target wildlife had to be reported, unless caught in wolf trap sets.

The Montana trapping regulations now require the reporting of non-target trappings defined as “any animal that cannot be lawfully trapped, including domestic animals.”

Trapped Non-target Montana Wildlife Reports

Summary Non-Target Captures Report, 2018-2020

per Dr. Bob Inman, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks, furbearer coordinator

Summary Non-Target Captures Report, 2018-2020

Incidental Captures 2012-2017 Report

per Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks furbearer coordinator, Bob Inman

Incidental Captures 2012-2017 Report

Non-Target Wildlife Captured in Wolf Traps Reported to FWP, 2012-2015

Graph of Non-Target Wildlife Captured in Wolf and non Wolf Traps Reported to FWP 2012-2015


Non-Target Wildlife Captured in Wolf Traps Reported to FWP, 2012-2015

Non-Target Wildlife Captured in Traps (non-Wolf Traps) Reported to FWP, 2012-2015


Non-Target Wildlife Captured in Traps (non-Wolf Traps) Reported to FWP, 2012-2013


Non-Target Wildlife Captured in Traps (non-Wolf Traps) Reported to FWP, 2013-2014


Non-Target Wildlife Captured in Traps (non-Wolf Traps) Reported to FWP, 2014-2015

FINDINGS based on the early reports received directly from Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP):
Non-targets in “non-wolf” trap sets: 63 non-targets reported in 15 months (10/26/13-1/24/15) 30% on private property Only 1 ILLEGAL trap set 71% DEAD

Non-targets included: A grizzly caught in a foothold for a coyote; 3 wolverines killed, including one in a foothold for pine marten and one in a conibear for bobcat; deer, wolverine, raptors, and mountain lion dead in snares; bobcats and fisher also killed in conibear traps for pine marten; otters killed in sets for beaver; lynx; multiple mountain lions dead in foothold traps for bobcat and a mountain lion killed in a conibear set for raccoon!

Non-targets in “wolf trap” sets: 21 non-targets. (12/19/12-1/21/2015) 1/3 on private property 1 illegal trap set

Non-targets included: A dead deer, a golden eagle, elk, a grizzly, lynx, and 16 mountain lions.

Up until ~ the 2019 furbearer regulations, NON-TARGETS were not required to be reported in Montana unless they were determined injured, the exception for lynx and ALL ANIMALS caught in sets for wolves, whether injured or not, were REQUIRED TO BE REPORTED.

Forensic evidence confirmed mountain lion paw remains in a wolf trap set, MB 750 foothold, authentic. Montana April 2015

Severed off Mountain Lion paw found in trap set for wolves in Montana

Read more about the Mountain Law paw.