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Fremont County public land users discuss furbearing trapping; advocacy group forming

Breakout group discussing shared ideas.

Fremont County residents, along with representatives from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department (WGFD) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), met at the Lander Library earlier this week to begin a conversation around furbearing animal trapping and public land use.

Organizing the meeting was Fremont County resident Karen Zoller, who recently lost her dog Mac in a hidden power snare near Ocean Lake, and WGFD. The goal of the meeting was to bring public land users together and discuss how trappers and non-trappers can work together in that shared space. “We all have rights to public land,” Karen said. “How do we work together and find a solution to make it work for all?”

Meeting attendees ranged from members of the National Trappers Association (NTA) to veterinarians who have cared for several pets after being injured in a trap. After an initial introduction, folks broke out into three discussion groups with a WGFD facilitator. Discussion items included: places they like to recreate, conflicts observed, opportunities, and any other thoughts they wanted to share. Having such a diverse group discussing this topic led to a lot of dialogue and perspectives being shared on both sides.

Furbearing trapping season opening and closing dates vary based on the type of animal. However, the season falls between October 1st and April 30th, according to the WGFD furbearing trapping regulations brochure. Trap styles and their placement are typically only known by the trapper. A few meeting attendees pointed out the reasoning for that is because trap tampering and stealing can be a common issue. Since trap locations are not regulated, game wardens and local law enforcement usually do not know where they are either.

Following the smaller discussion session, everyone reconvened and shared common themes, thoughts, issues, and opportunities brought up in their group. Everyone seemed to agree on one topic, in particular, power snares, like the one that killed Mac, should be made illegal. NTA Director Tom Krause weighed in during the discussion and shared his plan to push for making that particular snare illegal through the NTA.

“It is counterproductive to a trapper’s interest to have that [power snare] on land,” Krause said about the power snare. “It is excessively dangerous, and I do not want anyone else to go through what this lady [Karen] did.” Thankfully it is not widely used, he continued, and it should be eliminated.

Another widely agreed upon theme was providing more education to both trappers and non-trappers alike. WGFD representatives noted their website already has a few educational resources on it.

Several additional topics surfaced from the group discussions and created a pathway for continued conversation. A few of those included: marking or flagging areas where traps are located, creating an app that shows land users where traps are located, there are always risks going into the backcountry and are the humanmade risks (traps and snares) treated differently than natural hazards (bears, snakes, etc.), and several others.

Overall, organizers shared they thought the meeting was a successful first step with folks coming together who are seeking to find common ground in shared lands. “Many people made contacts at the meeting that seem valuable and productive for moving forward and working together,” shared WGFD Lander Region Information and Education Specialist Rene Schell.

h/t Karen Zoller – Mac

The passing of Mac started this conversation, Karen shared. She hopes to raise awareness about traps and snares on public lands, so what happened to Mac doesn’t happen to anyone else. “Hidden traps are a hazard to the community.”

Along with starting the conversation in this meeting, a community advocacy group, Trap FREE-mont County, for trapping reform is in its preliminary phases with help from Wyoming Untrapped, Karen noted. 

Trap FREE-mont County is hosting its first meeting in the Del Monte Room at the Lander Community and Convention Center on Monday, February 17th, beginning at 5:00 pm. 


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