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by Michael Stoerger, Bozeman Director, Bold Visions Conservation

Before the first quarter of any MSU Bobcat football game, the team trots out behind waves of cheerleading tarts, rodeo queens, and marching band misfits in a rowdy display of manufactured collegiate enthusiasm. The emblem signifying all this university pride is the bobcat. Meanwhile, a mere gunshot away in the watersheds that surround Gallatin Valley, bobcats by the hundreds are being legally trapped and killed. In 2021, 1500 bobcats were “harvested”, as the trappers like to call it, keeping them at a safe sanitary distance from what it actually is—murder. Semantics matter. Crops are harvested. Animals are killed. By the end of the fourth quarter, there are undoubtedly several cats suffering in traps, waiting for certain death. A variety of final agonies await: bludgeoning, strangling, drowning. As the football team is caught up in victory, the animals that serve as the pride of their mascot are caught in a foothold trap. No quarter for them.

 

Trapping, a Montana tradition woven into our cultural heritage, is nothing more than a shameful stain on our society. There is no fair chase ethic in trapping. It is simply a lazy pursuit for people who take pleasure in killing animals for recreation. FWP actually classifies trapping as a “recreational pursuit”. It also violates two tenants of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation: the elimination of markets for game and that wildlife should only be killed for a legitimate purpose. Despite what trappers will delude themselves with, it is not a tool of wildlife management. It is what psychologists who study early behavior of serial killers would identify as sociopathic tendencies.

Trapping had its place in the 18th century when beaver pelts and buckskins were used as trading currency. Survival on the frontier was at stake. But it’s disgraceful to keep this tradition alive so a few heathens can live out their faux mountain man fantasies. It’s time to close this dark chapter in the book of American history. Some traditions must be preserved and some must die. We don’t burn witches at the stake anymore. We don’t sacrifice animals to appease the Gods. We abolished slavery. Trapping needs to go extinct, not the animals. Times change. If we want to call ourselves civilized, we must evolve.

 

Why are the pursuits of a tiny minority of consumptive users taking priority over the vast majority of the community that simply want to recreate without fear of consequence? Less than 1% of Montanans are trappers and yet they hold our public lands hostage by laying landmines that injure or kill thousands of non-target animals, including our pets. The risk to public safety cannot be ignored. Our beloved dogs, who routinely run off-leash on trails, can easily get caught in a trap. There is no such thing as targeted trapping for a specific species. This is a myth, as the very nature of trapping is indiscriminate. Upland game bird hunters know this all too well as there have been many cases of bird dogs getting snared in sets “intended” for coyotes.

Besides wolves, there is no mandatory trap check so animals are often languishing in a trap for multiple days and nights, in winter. With the exception of Montana, North Dakota, and Alaska, every other state that allows trapping requires trappers to check their trap within 24 hours. Some animals die of hypothermia, exposure, or hunger & thirst. Others die of blood loss after hours of chewing off their own limb to escape. Some are victims of other predators as they become easy prey. Some suffer tooth fractures trying to chew away at the trap. All of them suffer psychological trauma.

 

With a long-term view to end trapping on all public lands, Bold Visions Conservation is working to ban trapping at the wildland/urban interface. We are spearheading a local campaign to make the Bozeman Creek trail in Sourdough Canyon off-limits to trapping and snaring. This watershed is part of the crucial wildlife migration corridor in the Gallatin range that is home to several protected species, including lynx habitat. Unlike Missoula, which has 3 trap-free zones, Bozeman has none. The City of Bozeman owns several sections of land up the Sourdough drainage. Please contact the mayor of Bozeman and each city commissioner. Ask them to ban all trapping and snaring on city-owned land up in Sourdough.

 

Michael Stoerger is the Bozeman director for Bold Visions Conservation.


One question frequently posed to us is, “How can we move forward and make real progress on protecting wolves and other predators?” We know specific facts, and the Game and Fish commissions of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are in no mood to change. The Republican-controlled legislatures and Governors remain stuck in the 1880s, beholden to livestock interests, trappers, and rural rage.

 

In such an atmosphere, we continue to move forward with an ambitious plan to protect 1.6 million acres of Forest Service lands in Idaho and Montana by creating a new National Monument for wildlife.

 

We now enjoy the support of many of the Tribes of Idaho and Montana. We just hired their lead lobbyist in Washington, Tom Rodgers, to educate lawmakers in D.C. and have crucial meetings with Secretary Deb Haaland and the Monument gatekeeper, John Podesta, former Chief of Staff in the Clinton Administration. The Tribes have asked for co-management of these lands, and their support will be crucial to the success of this Monument proposal. Several wilderness areas we worked to protect in New Mexico enjoy co-management with Tribes.


Remember, Monuments are created by the President using the Antiquities Act; our goal is to present this concept of a Monument for wildlife to protect wolves, grizzlies, and other predator species and protect the one area around Yellowstone that lacks crucial protection. Such protection would be an enormous victory and start the actual process of a change in the thinking of those dedicated to killing wildlife for trophy or trapping to enjoy their sadistic urges. In the Monument, hunting deer and elk would continue. Still, we aim to create a safe space for predators and other wildlife needing room to roam and the safety it would allow.  Sportsmen will be influential in this designation. But as you can bet, it will not be easy.

 

Our job is to present this to diverse audiences in both states, answer the many questions people may have, and garner the most positive press we can. If you know a group or a community you can suggest, please call or email me.

 

Yellowstone is iconic for most Americans, and visiting it is a rite of passage for most young families. But wildlife needs far more land than the park currently can protect. Efforts to protect parts of the Gallatin range as wilderness have failed, though we support such efforts. The creation of a Monument would open the door for more wilderness.


Many Monuments are created for Antiquities or to protect lands, and wildlife is generally put on the back burner, except for Ocean Monuments. This area remains a critical wildlife corridor, so its protection is vital for species to make their way north and south. It is also an essential space for bison and other endangered species.

 

But the opposition is beginning; the local paper in Island Park, Idaho, recently railed against this proposal and made clear their feelings would be telegraphed to Boise. So, your voice will be important in letters to the editor and op-eds that speak to the need to protect this magnificent landscape and to make clear this is a Monument for Wildlife!

 

The other important aspect of this Monument is the opportunity to restore lands where old logging roads exist and where erosion has impacted streams. This will create jobs and rewild areas, creating far better wildlife habitats.

 

We have all witnessed the deranged thinking of our Game and Fish Departments and how our Governors cater to livestock interests heavily subsidized by the federal government. But we must do something paramount for wildlife and, in its own way, stop the bleeding and create a space for victory. Otherwise, we will continue to bear too much heartache. We need to smile again!

 

Bold Visions will continue fighting to end trapping and fight for wolves and grizzlies. Still, it is time to move forward to give wildlife something meaningful. That is the goal of this 1.6-million-acre Monument. They have space to thrive!

 

This is hard work and expensive, but we can succeed with luck and strong support from people like you. Please consider donating today, and if you can volunteer, please call me. We are early in the game, but working with a strong team. Let’s work to protect a landscape where the howl of the wolf continues to be magic, with the understanding that they would finally be safe beyond the boundaries of Yellowstone.



By Stephen Capra, Bold Visions Conservation



Suppose you have wondered why I have been relatively quiet the last few weeks. In that case, it is because what occurred with Cody Roberts left even my hardened self feeling broken in my years of conservation work. Like many of you, my love of wolves has been unquestioned; it has also been a key component of my career in conservation.

 

The image of that yearling wolf still haunts me; looking into the face of that monster leaves me filled with rage. That wolf paid an unimaginable price, the torture, the fear, the level to which this subhuman took it; I felt her pain and suffering to my core. How, as a society, have we sunk to a level that allows people the right to torture wildlife? Why is rural western America so enraged with wolves? Perhaps some of the answers can be seen in a conversation I had over 40 years ago. I was speaking about the Arctic Refuge in the eighties in Arkansas, and the Sierra Club member I stayed with said to me, "Steve, try not to let your New York accent show; people here hate Yankees. I said the Civil War ended many years ago, he responded, not here".

 

So it goes in the rural West, where people seem to never let go of the fact that an animal that many of their grandparents eliminated is once again free to roam. The hate is far greater than I think many of us want to believe. The efforts to work with many of the ranchers across the West have largely failed. Cody Roberts, in a span of 24 hours, inflicted on this wolf the rage that these people feel when something does not stay the same in their sad lives. Never mind, what an animal so beautiful and free could teach them about family, laughter, and working together for a common cause. Yet, in these outposts of the wild, such thinking goes against their desire to exploit not just wildlife but also the wildlands that are critical to the survival of so many species. Hunting relieves the boredom.

 

It is here that we find so many off-road vehicles and snowmobiles. We see people hunt after filling many freezers, and poaching is just part of a lifestyle. It is tiring that people who seem to want to exploit the land have so much power with wildlife agencies, Forest Service lands, and BLM.



It is clear that what happened several weeks ago can never happen again. Cody Roberts, it turns out, has ties to the Wyoming Game and Fish; he trucks under their contract, which they must sever. The bar that allowed the torture made clear we will do whatever we want, meaning wildlife is free to be tortured. Yesterday, Kristi Noem, the Governor of South Dakota, jumped into the fray by writing in her new book how she hated a 14-month-old hunting dog she had; rather than working with a trainer, she shot and killed it, along with a goat she thought was disgusting. Not only did she do it, but she bragged about it, I guess, to show she is tough. Let's be clear: she is very sick.

 

We are witnessing a time where people feel emboldened to destroy that which is wild, to post images online to film their torture of wildlife. Several things are clear from this; sportsmen and many of the groups they support are encouraging slob hunting and allowing the idea of ethics to be dissolved. Wildlife agencies in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are being controlled by Commissioners who live to kill wildlife that hate wolves and most predators. Many are members of the Safari Club and other trophy-hunting groups or ranchers. We need a Governor with courage enough to dissolve this approach and rebuild the agency with wildlife and conservation of all species in mind, not wanton destruction and trapping. Not catering to trophy hunters and trappers.

 

Colleges, for their part, continue to teach students to collaborate with those in industry, wildlife agencies, and ranchers. However, the cost of education, limited job opportunities, and the cost of living are causing a new generation to lose the desire to fight.

 

This beautiful animal cannot die in vain to a monster with a drinking problem. Cody Roberts must be jailed for as long as possible, and the Wyoming Game and Fish must stop trying to protect him. We are promoting a boycott of the state and working to be part of a new lawsuit against Wyoming Game and Fish. Most importantly, we are working to protect a 1.6 million slice of wildlands north and West of Yellowstone that would work to protect wolves and grizzlies and stop the horror of trapping. It will be a Monument for wildlife.



So, while my heart remains broken for that dear yearling, it is clear we must change hearts and minds in rural America. It may not just be with talk or education; it will require actual law enforcement, harsh penalties, and jail time for those who see wildlife as a thrill to harm and begin to get them to realize that killing a wolf costs five bucks, but having a business to view wildlife can give them a sustainable job and the critical ability to live with yourself as a caring person to the very wildlife that needs our voice to survive.

 

We need wolves across the West, and we need them to thrive! Wyoming will look to delay and obfuscate; we will never stop being a voice for that precious wolf. We do not deserve broken hearts; we demand justice!

 

It begins with Cody Roberts in jail for a long time and the loss of life of being able to hunt, trap, or fish in the United States. That is the message that will make others think twice and make clear you will lose. The message must also come from Washington, following the election, that wolves will never be managed by these three states of hate again.

 

They must be relisted the day after the election.



In Memorial

 

Bold Visions Conservation is heartbroken at the news of Lynne Stone's passing. Lynne was, in the words of so many, "the real deal" when it came to fighting for wolves in Idaho. She would go alone with a pack and a shotgun to protect the wolves she loved. She was assaulted by wolf haters and led the fight to protect the Boulder-White Clouds. I spoke with Lynne two years ago and asked her to help me with wolf work in Idaho; she said, "Steve, my health has been affected by my fight for wolves and the broken heart I have felt at times dealing with ignorance." I understood. Lynne was rare; she was a warrior and so loved the wolves that she risked her own life. Rest in Peace, Lynne, you were magnificent! 

 

We will take the fight from here.

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