Trapping Reform in Wyoming

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Advocacy groups align over education requirements

Mandatory Trapper Education

Advocacy groups align over education requirements after dog death.
By Billy Arnold Feb 21, 2024

Dave Pauli demonstrates how a common snare trap works during a trap release workshop in 2016 at the Old Wilson Schoolhouse Community Center. Members of Wyoming Untrapped and the Wyoming Trappers Association agree that trapper education should be required. The question: Will the Legislature bite?

In the Swift Creek drainage east of Afton, Becky Barber’s walk with her dog, Jester, ended in tragedy.

Jester jumped a snowbank and became ensnared in a trap, a 330 Conibear named for its ability to exert killing pressure on an animal’s neck. Barber was unable to free Jester, and he died.

Barber is now adding her voice to a group of Wyomingites calling for trapping reform.

“Why can’t there be flags on both sides of a trap area? Better yet why are trappers not forced to put their traps way off of roads and paths?” Barber wrote in a Facebook post after the accident. “They should have to snowshoe or machine to their traps, far enough a dog, or God forbid a child doesn’t get into one.”

While it remains to be seen whether the reforms Barber outlined in her Facebook post gain any traction, another issue has gained the support of both trappers and advocacy groups like Wyoming Untrapped.

The question now is whether that agreement sticks and whether state legislators or wildlife managers take action.

Members of both the Wyoming Trappers Association and Wyoming Untrapped think mandatory trapper education should be required.

The trap that killed Jester was set illegally, and Trappers Association Vice President John Eckman said Barber’s dog wouldn’t have died if the person who set it knew better.

“I believe, personally, there should be mandatory trapper education because this wouldn’t have happened,” Eckman said. “I think we may try to push for that.”

Wyoming Untrapped, meanwhile, says it plans to do the same. President and co-founder Lisa Robertson said she’s planning to submit mandatory trapper education as an interim topic to the Wyoming Legislature’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee.

Hunters have to complete a hunting education course in Wyoming.

“Why don’t you do it for trappers?” Robertson said.

Eckman follows that logic and agrees with it.

“That’s one thing I can get along with, and I’ll stand and shake Ms. Robertson’s hand on that,” he said.

Wyoming Untrapped and other anti-trapping groups like Trap Free-Mont County have spent decades tussling with trappers and state officials over the future of the centuries-old practice in the Equality State.

Wyoming Untrapped has called for closing certain areas to trapping, requiring trappers to set their traps certain distances away from trails, and requiring game wardens to seek higher penalties for trapping violations. Trappers and supportive lawmakers, meanwhile, have argued that dog owners should leash their dogs and public lands, and that if trappers have to give up any freedoms, dog owners should too.

Changes have been made in that image, like when wildlife managers agreed to close some drainages near Jackson to beaver trapping while lifting quotas in others. Meanwhile, efforts to close high-use recreation areas like Cache Creek to trappers have consistently failed, even after dust-ups about illegal traps.

Wildlife managers say any changes to trapping regulations should be supported by both trappers and the practice’s opponents, a toxic combination for reforms that have been suggested in the past.

“The best way to be successful in reform or changes to trapping regulation is to have the two sides to work together to find common goals that aren’t overly restrictive for trapping and something the non-trapping public can work with,” said Brad Hovinga, regional wildlife supervisor for Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

If Eckman and Robertson are, in fact, on the same page, they may have an opening in the Legislature, which Hovinga said would likely be the body required to make changes about mandatory trapper education.

Rep. Andrew Byron, R-Hoback, sits on the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee, along with two other Teton County legislators: Rep. Liz Storer and Sen. Mike Gierau, both Jackson Democrats. Byron said he would consider bringing a measure forward for consideration.

“If some of the Trappers Association is willing to talk about education, that’s a good step,” he said. “I would support bring the topic forward to my chairwoman and see what she says.”

Still, any measure considering requiring trapper education will likely face an uphill battle.

In 2020, the Joint Travel and Recreation Committee shot down legislation that would have required young trappers to get educated. Trappers supported the legislation, which Game and Fish had requested, along with a bill that would have allowed the department to close certain high-use areas to trapping.

None of the 17 legislators who sat on the committee at the time agreed to sponsor either measure.

Contact Billy Arnold at 307-732-7063 or

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