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It’s time for Wyoming to reform trapping regulations

It’s time for Wyoming to reform trapping regulations for public safety and for the sake of our wildlife.

Trappers are allowed to place traps, including snares, almost anywhere on public land, including on and near trails and popular recreation areas. Family pets, livestock and “non-target” animals, such as deer and raptors, are caught in these traps.

Instantly lethal trigger-powered snares (also called Senneker snares) are being used. This type of snare recently killed a dog out for a run with his owner in Fremont County.

Trapping is becoming an increasingly popular amateur sport thanks in part to reality television shows that romanticize it such as “FUR LIFE TV” and “Klondike Trappers.” From 2001 to 2019 the number of trapping licenses sold in Wyoming more than doubled, according to Wyoming Game and Fish numbers. This does not count people trapping predators — no license is required for that.

A great horned owl with a snare around its claw. (Kerry Singleton)

The Wyoming public has a right to recreate on public land without fear of their companion animals being killed or maimed by a hidden trap.

Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Nebraska all have trap setback regulations.  Wyoming must also update its trapping regulations to prevent further harm.  Trap-free zones around heavily used recreation areas and trap setbacks around popular trails are just common sense. Mandatory reporting of the non-target animals, including pets, that are caught in traps is needed so we know the true cost of trapping.

Colorado and Idaho require trapper education. With so many new enthusiasts entering the sport, Wyoming should do the same.

Aside from the public safety issue, there is a cruelty issue. There is an abundance of research showing that animals are capable of complex communication and feelings such as pain, distress and suffering. Most hunters have ethics. They wouldn’t let an animal take several days to suffer and die. They don’t harm or kill what they aren’t targeting and they eat what they kill.

Trapping, however, is largely done to collect pelts, rather than harvest meat for eating.

What are trapping ethics? How many non-target animals are caught in traps? How many days are animals left to endure pain and distress before dying? What is the point of the killing? The bulk of furs are sent to Russia and China because American demand is low.

Why would we compromise our ethics, threaten public safety and deplete wildlife on public lands to sell fur pelts abroad that no one at home wants?

Foxes are considered predatory animals in Wyoming and can be harvested without a license in the state. (Timothy Mayo)

Live traps should be required whenever possible with mandatory 24-hour checking of traps when live traps are not an option. Colorado and Nebraska require traps be checked within 24 hours. Colorado requires live traps. Hunters and anglers have to buy conservation stamps. Trappers should be required to do the same.

Wyoming Game and Fish has set up an internal working group on trapping reform. Some regulation changes are under their jurisdiction and some are statute changes that must be made by the Wyoming Legislature.

Trappers are weighing in. Our decision makers need to hear from other public land users too. You can make a difference by contacting Gov. Mark Gordon and your state representatives as well as the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Let them know you want to see trapping regulations that protect the public and our wildlife.

Freedom in wild and open spaces goes hand in hand with personal responsibility, accountability and respect for the backcountry and the animals living there. Wyoming’s trapping regulations should reflect those values.

By Kristine O/Brien, Jackson, WY

About Kristine O’Brien

Kristine O’Brien has lived and raised her children in the US, Switzerland, France, the UK and the United Arab Emirates. She has called Wyoming home since 2006. She is frequently in the backcountry with her dog, skiing, hiking and climbing.

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