For most unsuspecting recreationists, last Wednesday’s story (Nov. 21) in the Missoulian about Monte the lab, who was caught in a leghold trap in Florence, signaled the onset of the furbearer trapping season.
Although trapping for many of Montana’s wildlife species is legal year-round, beginning Nov. 1 recreationists should be particularly cognizant of the threat that traps pose to pets, people and wildlife. I urge the public to report any trap locations and trapped pet incidents at www.footloosemontana.org, where that information is provided as a courtesy to concerned citizens.
Monte’s ordeal was not an aberration. Just one day after she was injured, we were informed that snares had been set along the Clark Fork River near the Canyon River Golf Course – a popular area for walking neighborhood dogs.
The trap that Monte encountered was illegally set at a fishing access site (FAC), but unbeknownst to most Montanans, the vast majority of public areas are open to trapping. Traps can be set on any unmarked road or trail and a mere 50 feet from any road or trail that is officially marked. If any trap is submerged at least 1/3 in water, it can be set practically anywhere (except for FACs). In these cases, setbacks do not apply. The same can be said for any trap targeting predators or nongame wildlife, which, moreover, are legal throughout the year.
Five years ago my dog was killed by a beaver trap at a popular recreation area along a blue ribbon fly fishing creek. The location of that trap was legal despite its proximity to the trailhead. Traps, unlike rifles, are baited, and canines, including hunting dogs, have a particular affinity for that bait. I would urge trappers to consider fair chase alternatives to their inhumane pursuit.
Keep in mind that the Florence trapper’s target (a misnomer because a trap cannot be targeted) was mink. Had a mink found that trap before Monte found it, that mink would have drowned.
Please join me in helping end recreational trapping on Montana’s public lands by visiting the Footloose Montana website or Facebook page.
Filip Panusz of Missoula is executive director of Footloose Montana.