Trapping Quotas & Annual Reports

Of the multiple dozens of species legal to trap in Montana, classified as furbearers, nongame, and predators, only a handful have a quota for the number who can be killed. Montana classifies 10 species as furbearers: bobcat, fisher, otter, swift fox, muskrat, mink, marten, beaver, wolverine, and lynx. A kill quota, or limit, is set for 4 species, i.e. bobcat, fisher, otter, and swift fox. Marten are limited in District 1 only to the number/trapper and of recent, marten must be tagged and reported. The furbearer trapping season is closed for wolverine and lynx.

Wolves are classified as a “species in need of management” and have a quota per trapper, per hunter, and per trapping district.

All the other species referred to as furbearers, nongame, and predators can be trapped and killed in unlimited and unreported numbers. Although Montana has a lengthy furbearer and wolf trapping season, unregulated trapping is legal year-round in Montana for “nongame” and predators. The latter fall under the bailiwick of the Department of Livestock.

It is not uncommon for trappers to go over quota or kill “incidentally” “accidentally” protected species or outside the animal’s trapping season. Although they are required to be reported, these overages do not count or come off the next season’s quotas. Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks routinely increases trapping quotas as a result of trappers exceeding the quota, at the trappers’ request, to entice trappers, and in 2021 through legislative mandates against wolves. On rare occasions, quotas have been reduced, seasons or districts closed, too, as the concern for populations becomes increasingly evident, to avoid potential ESA listing, from significant pressure from wildlife advocates, i.e. Yellowstone wolves, and from fear of lawsuits.

Furbearers close within 48-hours of reaching or approaching quota. For wolves, when the quota is reached it closes upon a 24-hr notice.

Montana Trapping Quotas & Current Kills Reported

River Otter
Swift Fox
Wolf Dashboard

Annual Reports

Since the overwhelming majority of trapped wildlife do not have a quota or need to be reported, the estimated numbers of wildlife killed by trappers are predominantly based on a trapper’s annual voluntary survey. The survey is only sent to trappers who purchase a trapping license which is not required to trap species referred to as non-game or predators in our state. Less than 1/3 of the licensed trappers reportedly return the voluntary survey.

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