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Wyoming Takes Small Step Forward in Trapping Reform

Wyoming Untrapped approached the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources (TRW) Committee last spring with three requests for the committee to consider in the interim.  The issues dealt with Wyoming §23-2-303, section (g)(i) and (ii) and were as follows:

1. To redefine the language in the current law to make it legal to release a domestic animal from a trap.

2. To require that all trappers report any domestic animal they catch in a trap or snare to the WGFD.

​3. To require the WGFD keep a record of all incidents of domestic animals being caught in a trap and make it available to the public upon request.

Point number one was the only argument that gained any traction.  A motion was made to address reporting of any domestic animal that is caught by a trap or snare, but did not have enough votes to be added to a draft bill.  The committee decided to write a letter to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission (WGFC) and Department (WGFD) to encourage them to change the regulations.  They also made the decision to draft a bill in case the WGFC decided to vote against any changes.  We traveled to Cheyenne, Lander and Kemmerer to make presentations to the legislative committee and discuss the need for legislative action.  Representatives from the Wyoming State Trappers Association were present at the meetings in Lander and Kemmerer.

At a WGFC meeting in Sheridan last November, we presented arguments as to why the regulations should be changed to protect pet and livestock owners statewide.  The WGFC adopted the regulation change on behalf of our request and the urging of the TRW legislative committee.

New G&F regulations define tamper and exclude the release of any pet or livestock from a trap or snare in the definition of tamper:

Section 2.

(j) “Tamper” means to disturb, obstruct, damage, steal or interfere with any legally placed trap or snare except for releasing any pet or livestock from trap or snare.

 Section 11.

(e) Nothing in this Section shall prohibit a person from releasing any pet or livestock from a trap or snare.

The draft bill of the TRW committee was given a number (HB0034) and was referred to the House of Representatives on January 9, 2017.  Wyoming Untrapped contacted the new co-chair of the TRW committee, Wyoming State Representative Jim Allen, to determine when we should be present to discuss the bill once it was referred back to the committee.  On January 10, upon requesting this information, we were informed by Rep. Allen that, “The Game and Fish Commission addressed the issue with a regulation, so the bill has been withdrawn.”  This means the bill will be scrapped and will not be introduced or voted on in the current legislative session.

The following outlines the current law and the language that would have been added to protect pet and livestock owners with animals that are caught by traps or snares.

Current language of the law:

Trapping licenses; tagging; traps and snares; penalty; confiscation; inspection; interference with trapping.

(g)  A violation of this subsection constitutes a low misdemeanor punishable as provided in W.S. 23-6-

202(a)(v).  Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person shall intentionally:

(i)  Tamper with or remove a trap or snare set and maintained in compliance with this act; or

(ii)  Release or remove a furbearer or predator from a trap or snare set and maintained in compliance with this act.

House Bill 0034 would have added this subsection:

(h) Subsection (g) of this section shall not apply to the release or removal of a nonfurbearing or nonpredatory animal from a trap or snare. 

A message received from Brian Nesvik, Chief Game Warden with WGFD, verifies that pet and livestock owners are protected when releasing their animal from a trap or snare.

“Wyoming Statutes authorize the Commission to promulgate regulations to aid in administering laws passed by the legislature.  In this particular case, the Commission chose to define tampering as: “Tamper” means to disturb, obstruct, damage, steal or interfere with any legally placed trap or snare except for releasing any pet or livestock from a trap or snare.”

“This definition very clearly allows a person to release a pet or livestock from a snare or trap without violating regulation or statute.  Game and Fish Wardens are well aware of the changes in Chapter 4 of the Commission regulations.  I am not aware of any person ever being cited for releasing a pet or livestock even before the new regulation was approved.”

While the law is still slightly ambiguous, we still consider this a step in the right direction and are pleased to see the change in regulations.  However, there are two disturbing aspects of this story that are concerning.  First, the action by the TRW committee, and mostly co-chair Rep. Allen, was unexpected as this was an interim committee topic that had been vetted and discussed at length.  The purpose of the action of interim committee studies are to explore topics and iron out all the details before they are introduced to the legislature.  It is extremely disappointing that the committee decided to withdraw the bill with little regard for the time, energy and resources the public put into it.  The state legislators are mandated to represent the interests of the public, not operate separate from it.  While they have a difficult job to do, it is common courtesy to keep in contact with the stakeholders who brought the issue originally and were expecting to see it through to the end.  We only found out about the decision to withdraw the bill upon inquiry of the TRW committee schedule when trying to make travel plans.  A simple email from Rep. Allen would have gone a long way to show that as a representative of the people of the state of Wyoming, he cares about the issue and the people it affects.

Secondly, the fact that we had resistance to the reporting requirements originally proposed shows how much of a battle remains to be fought.  Our neighbors to the west, Idaho, already require trappers to report ALL species that are caught, both target and non-target.  Colorado has banned the use of leghold traps, conibear traps, and snares.  It is past time that Wyoming trapping regulations come into the 21st Century.  Wyoming citizens have a right to know what species are being caught, in what numbers and where.  They especially have the right to know where pets are most often being caught.  Wyoming is comprised of 48% of federal public lands that belong to all citizens, however one user group is being favored over the safety of others.  Requiring reporting is the first step toward responsible wildlife management and accountability for a very small group of users.  If trappers have nothing to hide, why are they so concerned with required reporting?

Even with our concerns, we are happy that for the first time in Wyoming’s history, meaningful trapping reform was accomplished.  None of the aforementioned changes would have happened without action by Wyoming Untrapped and the backing of our supporters.  While we would have preferred a bill that clearly changes the law, we are pleased with the fact that the G&F regulations were changed and Wyoming citizens now have more legal protection.  Thank you to all who support reasonable, fair, logical, and necessary changes for Wyoming pets and wildlife.

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