Strolling through the woods or along a creek on a beautiful fall day with our hunting dogs bounding happily nearby is, to many of us, the perfect Montana day. Unfortunately, what seems like the perfect outing for us can be deadly for our dogs.
Over the past 15 years, our German Wirehaired Pointers have been caught in five different traps hidden in the woods baited with meat. Luckily, they survived. The noose traps up the Ninemile nearly strangled them. The leg-hold traps in the Garnet Range smashed their paws. The dogs survived because they wore electronic collars and were found quickly. If they had been caught in a larger trap, such as a Conibear, survival would have been unlikely, no matter when we found them.
Under current law, trappers have more rights to use public land than bird hunters, or anyone else with a dog. Trappers don’t even have to put up warning signs. If your dog is captured in a trap and you remove or damage the trap, you can be fined up to $1,000 or jailed up to six months (MCA 87-6-601).
The “incidental take” of dogs and other “non-target species” (eagles, lynx, bears, wolverines) is one of the many reasons why hunters like us support Initiative 177, which limits trapping on public land:
• Trapping has no resemblance to “fair chase.”
• Wildlife is for all Montanans, not for the personal profit of a few.