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Bozeman Needs to Establish Trap-Free Zones

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.


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In my view, trapping should be abolished ! It is brutally cruel and those who partake are often lesser people.


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