Both sides of the trapping debate contain too many exaggerations and outright misinformation. But there are some clear facts that should be considered as we decide how to vote on Initiative 177.
Trapping is the very definition of a special interest; less than 1 percent of Montana’s population traps 50,000 animals that belong to every citizen of Montana, according to the public trust. We have no idea how many non-target animals are killed directly or by injury caused by trapping, as there is no requirement to report these incidences, unless it is a protected species that is dead or severely injured.
The regulations around trapping are loose at best. These animals suffer, are killed and their pelts sold for personal profit, creating an economic incentive to kill our wildlife. A small percentage of people are causing a disproportionate impact on a resource that we all own. Trappers can continue to trap on two-third of the Montana’s private land under I-177.
Indiscriminate trapping does not control populations or disease. The only populations that are even attempted to be controlled through trapping are wolves and coyotes. Fewer than half of the wolves trapped in 2015 occurred on public land, around 35, while the rest were taken on private land. There is evidence that mass killing of coyotes has only made them more resilient by causing younger animals to reproduce and larger litter sizes. Constant disruption of social structures in wolf and coyote populations might actually increase depredations.
As a hunter, I am offended by the absurd claim that banning trapping on public lands will somehow lead to a movement to ban hunting. What a bunch of fear-mongering nonsense! The two activities are quite different. I hope other hunters will see the clear ethical distinction between hunting and trapping and vote yes on I-177.