Trapping Reform in Wyoming

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Regulate trapping

Letter to the editor, Oct. 21, 2020
Regulate trapping

Hunting, fishing and trapping are accepted activities — sports, if you will — in Wyoming. That fact was, is, and will forever be, by constitutional mandate in Wyoming.

That’s not what’s in question. It’s the regulation of certain of these activities that is. I along with others started asking questions when we learned that there is a huge inequity between hunting/fishing regulations, and trapping regulations, which are virtually nonexistent.

Poachers give respectable hunters a bad name. There are programs in place to discourage poaching. Hunters don’t like what poachers do to their reputation.

Well, apparently trappers don’t care about their reputation, because trapping a dog is perfectly acceptable. Trapping an animal they did not intend to, referred to as “non-target” trapping, is perfectly acceptable.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department does not require trappers to report animals they trap, target or non-target, including domestic animals such as livestock or even dogs. And trappers like it that way, flying under the radar, not having to report to anyone. But management is necessary, and this is not management by any definition.
No one knows how many furbearers there are out there to begin with, let alone how many are left at the end of a trapping season. How can an agency manage wildlife without data?

Wildlife belongs to everyone, and with tourism being increasingly important economically for Wyoming our wildlife is, in large part, what people come to experience. It irritates me when trappers get defensive about any suggestions for regulation. Why should they not be regulated like their hunting and fishing brethren? Why should they not be liable when someone’s dog is injured or mortally wounded in a trap, to the tune of hundreds or thousands of dollars? Why should a dog owner be terrified to leave a trail while on a hike, when public lands are the public’s lands?

I keep coming back to dogs, because too many dogs in my community alone have been trapped within spitting distance of a parking lot or hiking trail. These are not isolated incidents. It’s happening all over Wyoming.
Solutions that can work for everyone include setbacks — that is, placing a trap 500 feet or 1,000 feet off a trail so a dog is less likely to be baited into a trap; trap-free areas, as more and more people are exploring outdoor recreation, especially in this time of COVID-19; and reporting of numbers by trappers, to start the process of recording essential data.

Reporting is key to data; data is key to management; and management is key to the future of Wyoming’s wildlife. Management all the way around is lacking in the “sport” of trapping. Isn’t it time the Wyoming Game and Fish Department leveled the playing field?

Suzanne Luhr

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Photo: Dog paw and wolf track, by Todd Cedarholm. Thank you, Todd!

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