JH News & Guide Editorial

Cache Trapping is a Bad Idea

December 31, 2019

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JH News & Guide Article

Trapper forewarns public about line up Cache Creek

December 23, 2019

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JH News & Guide Article

Emeritus wolfer: Be vigilant for traps

November 27, 2019

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Wyo4News Interview Radio

Wyo4News Insights: Wyoming Untrapped

November 13, 2017

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JH News & Guide Article

 Young or Old, the Bills Add Up

September 13, 2017

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JH News & Guide Article

Stearns Pleads Not Guilty to Animal Cruelty
August 31, 2017

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The Washington Post Article

This Bobcat Brings in $308,000 a Year
July 13, 2017

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Planet Jackson Hole Article

Wildlife Accounting
July 12, 2017

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JH News & Guide Article

Bobcat’s Worth?  Study Says More Alive Than Dead
July 12, 2017

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JH News & Guide Article

Goldendoodle Escapes Trap Set for Muskrats
July 4, 2017

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JH News & Guide Article

Griz With Trap on Foot Still Hasn’t Been Found
June 21 2017

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JH News & Guide Article

Coyote-killing M-44s Targeted as Dangerous
June 14, 2017

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JH News & Guide Article

Grizzly on Togwotee is Seen Carrying a Trap
June 7, 2017

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JH News & Guide Article

Coyote-killing M-44s still OK in Wyoming
April 12, 2017

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KHOL 89.1 Interview Radio

Wyoming Untrapped – Coyote Killings
February 22, 2017

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JH News & Guide Article

Missing Fishers to be Considered for Protected List
February 1, 2017

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JH News & Guide Article

Trapping reform bill is dropped by House
January 25, 2017

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JH News & Guide Article

Keep Your Pets Safe From Traps
September 21, 2016

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JH News & Guide Article

Nonprofit Pursues Trapping Reg Tweaks
September 14, 2016

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KHOL 89.1 Interview

Could You Release Your Dog From A Trap?
September 13, 2016

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JH News & Guide Article

Bill Sets Trap For Lions
January 23, 2016

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JH News & Guide Article

State Says Trapping OK On Edge Of Town, Cache
July 15, 2015

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JH News & Guide Article

State’s Trapping Plan Lambasted By Citizens
June 3, 2015

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JH News & Guide Article

Proposal Would Stop Cache Creek Trapping
May 13, 2015

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Letters to the Editor

Wyoming Untrapped (September 9, 2020)

September 9, 2020 – Jackson Hole News & Guide

Trap reform being realized
The face of trapping in Wyoming is shifting. Wyoming Untrapped, joined by other advocates, filed a petition to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission last January to address trapping reform this year. The commission responded by initiating a process to learn more about trapping. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department initiated a statewide survey, which revealed the need for change by a wide range of stakeholders. On Oct. 1, furbearer trapping season will open and tens of thousands of traps will be set on our landscapes, in addition to the thousands that are there year-round. Thousands of animals will be injured or killed in these traps or snares.
All corners of our state are now aware of the critical need to address the lack of safety on our public landscapes for our people, pets and wildlife.
Game and Fish scheduled five collaborative public meetings statewide to discuss trapping reform before presenting its recommendation to the commission. Two more are left: virtual meetings today in Laramie and Thursday in Lander.
Wyoming Untrapped has asserted in the past and continues to assert that the following trapping regulation changes are necessary: trap-free areas, a ban of all trigger-loaded power snares and Senneker snares, mandatory signage, trap setbacks off trails (300 feet), mandatory reporting of nontarget species and pets, mandatory reporting of all species trapped, mandatory trapper education, mandatory conservation stamp purchase, live traps used wherever possible, 24-hour trap checks, removal of all traps at end of season, a statewide trapping reform stakeholder task force and a review of furbearer trapping regulations every two years.
Our Wyoming voices matter more than ever.
L. Robertson Jackson
Wyoming Untrapped

Patty and Frank Ewing (August 31, 2020)

August 31, 2020 – Jackson Hole News & Guide

Set trap-fee areas
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, which meets in Jackson today, Sept. 2, has made progress in following up with public meetings after initiating an evaluation of trapping issues.
This letter focuses on the need to designate trap-free areas in the Cache Creek and Game Creek drainages. Beavers — which were once numerous along Cache Creek, even creating ponds within town limits (until stopped by Cache Creek being diverted underground through much of Jackson) — are gone where we live at the mouth of the canyon. The large, beautiful beaver ponds a short distance upstream have essentially dried up. These large beaver ponds with multiple beaver lodges on private property contiguous to our property are gone.
The ponds were large and deep, and in addition to creating wonderful protected wildlife habitat, the ponds were used by firefighting helicopters to scoop out huge buckets of water during the recent Horse Thief wildfire which threatened Jackson. Obviously, wetlands created by beavers also create an important green wet zone that is extremely beneficial in containing wildfires. A dry, hot summer such as we are currently experiencing has greatly increased the danger of wildfires. Because of the ease of access to the canyon, it is most certain that beavers have been trapped out. There is no other explanation for the dearth of beavers.
Because of their proximity to Jackson, the Cache Creek and Game Creek drainages in the Bridger-Teton National Forest are the most heavily used trails in Teton County. We have lived at the mouth of Cache Creek canyon for almost 60 years and have observed the transformation of the canyon rich with wildlife. The system of trails once used only by horseback riders, hunters and a few hikers has become heavily used by hundreds of daily mountain bikers, walkers and hikers, most with pets and a few brave horseback riders. Winter use by skiers, walkers, fat tire bikes and snowmobiles, often at night, is rising sharply.
We support reform efforts that Wyoming Untrapped is proposing, including: ban the use of power snares and Senneker snares and instead require live traps; require traps to be checked every 24 hours; have trap-free trail areas; require 300-foot trap setbacks; require reporting of species trapped to determine whether trapping is an effective wildlife management measure; require all traps to be removed at the end of the season; increase the cost of trapping licenses; require certification through a trappers education course; and require purchase of a conservation stamp, the same as anglers and hunters.
While only the Wyoming Legislature can make some of the needed changes, the Game and Fish Commission should take the lead.
Patty and Frank Ewing
Jackson Hole News&Guide


Peter Moyer (April 25, 2018)

April 25, 2018 – Jackson Hole News & Guide

Trapping is a True Blunderbuss Approach to Game Management

Bruce Thompson wrote an excellent letter to you on trapping, for your public input. Here are just a few points, from my own perspective (for what that is worth!):

. Trapping is a true blunderbuss approach to game management, in terms of non-target wildlife species including protected species, and domestic animals. By contrast, like most people I do not object to hunting with a bullet or arrow, or fishing where both target and non-target species can be released.

. I see almost no economic benefit to Wyoming from trapping in modern times, unlike hunting and fishing and wildlife viewing. And, there is a bit economic downside from torturing and killing wildlife by trapping in Wyoming–more so all the time, with social media and other media avenues.

. With down, pile and other insulation, and faux furs for decoration, there is no modern day need for trapped animal skins. And, much of the remaining trade is just with communist China and communist Russia.

. Much stricter control on trapping in Wyoming could be promoted in a very positive manner. Right now the trapping p.r. is almost all bad for Wyoming, and it will get worse. Barbaric, bottom line.

Sure, Jeremiah Johnson is still one of my all-time favorite movies, and Bridger/Colter/Glass are heroes to me from distant times. But that was long ago, and their genuine need for trapping is long gone. I hope that I am not insulting anyone still wearing beaver skin hats to fancy gatherings in New York or London.”

Peter Moyer: Wyoming attorney

Jackson, WY

Bruce S. Thompson (April 18, 2018)

April 18, 2018 – Jackson Hole News & Guide

Speak Out Against Trapping

Our Wyoming Game and Fish Department has embarked on a major research study to develop a new agencywide strategic plan. As part of this planning and development process this agency has created a wildlife forum for citizens to help “Forge the Future of Wyoming’s Wildlife.” I encourage all citizens to avail themselves of this rare opportunity for input.

I see Game and Fish as being in a somewhat schizophrenic position: inherently responsible to oversee the health, sustainability and appreciation of the state’s wildlife, which belongs to all stakeholders, while at the same time inherently beholden to the significant and vocal minority — hunters and anglers — that provides the bulk of the very income necessary for it to operate. This hazards an occasional rift between decisions based on sound management and those compelled by service to those “paying the bills.”

Don’t misunderstand. Many, many fine, dedicated individuals work for the agency, and much of the work is performed honestly, thoughtfully and with measurable benefit. But I sincerely believe that this trust is, at times, broken when it comes to two questionable and arguably archaic practices: lethal trapping and hunting purely for trophy. The following comments are in regard to trapping.

I suggest it is time for a full cost-benefit analysis of the practice in ways that includes all impacts: biology, ecology, aesthetics, safety, ethics, economy and, overall, the mores of a civilized and compassionate 21st-century society.

Further, I call for the creation of a statewide trapping advisory committee to lend a fully and proportionally representative citizen perspective to review all elements of science and management related to trapping.

  • There is a virtual absence of sportsmanship, fair chase and compassion in lethal trapping.
  • The overall presumption of trapping as “wildlife management” is rarely cost effective.
  • Lethal trapping as it exists today demonstrates little or no benefit to the functional value of a healthy ecosystem.
  • We don’t have reliable population counts of many of our state’s furbearers, but we allow unlimited quotas. Where’s the science?
  • Innumerable and unacceptable deaths and severe injuries occur to nontarget species, and even animals released alive often die from their injuries.
  • Our wildlife is a public treasure owned by all citizens and taxpayers. Trapping rarely serves any citizen other than the one setting the trap.
  • Our public lands should remain safe havens for all. All people, pets and wildlife should be assured safety, which means vast trap-free areas for all.
  • Trapping for fun, trophy, fur and feeding one’s ego is no longer deemed acceptable by our general population.
  • The pure cruelty of trapping causes injuries, exposure, dehydration and immense suffering. It is culturally and compassionately unworthy of us.
  • The general public is woefully uninformed about the brutal, archaic and poorly managed trapping taking place in our state.

Wyoming wildlife, large and small, need our voice. If you would like to comment on the future of our a wild Wyoming, and for trapping reform, I encourage all to comment at WildlifeForum.org/wildlife.

Bruce S. Thompson



Wyoming Untrapped (February 7, 2018)

February 7, 2018 – Jackson Hole News & Guide

Wanted: Wildlife Watchers

No one needs to tell us that nongame species have long suffered as low priority in Wyoming’s wildlife management. However, our Wyoming Game and Fish Department is now providing an unprecedented opportunity to contribute public input to drive the future of Wyoming’s wildlife. This opportunity follows a Game and Fish programmatic evaluation by the Wildlife Management Institute as requested by the state of Wyoming to review 12 selected programs within Game and Fish. The result of this directive will be substantial new research to understand attitudes toward agency priorities and management issues of concern by the public, including all Wyoming residents. This process will guide Game and Fish in developing a new agency wide strategic plan.

Are we concerned? Of course.
Do we feel skeptical? Maybe.
Do we believe in the power of numbers? Better still.

Rarely does this invitation to speak out come along. Now it is up to the unheard and underrepresented public — you — to speak your mind, loud and strong, on behalf of the furbearing speechless. Only by triggering that notorious power of numbers will we succeed.

The actions outlined here comprise what might well be the most substantive path we can take to mobilize on behalf of Wyoming citizens. Game and Fish has launched its feedback initiative, “Forging the Future of Wyoming Wildlife,” for you to provide input in three ways: an online “Wildlife Forum,” “Stay Up to Date” email updates and 10 statewide public meetings.

Game and Fish manages both hunting and trapping, but it is the latter that has become most susceptible to the shifting tide of 21st-century wildlife management philosophy and public intolerance. Focus the energy of your words on trapping reform and wildlife watching, for the critical need to value and protect wildlife as vital contributors to the health of our public landscapes and for the intrinsic character and worth of all furbearing animals.

The Jackson public meeting is 4-7 p.m. Saturday in the Cook Auditorium at the National Museum of Wildlife Art.

Please comment. Show up. Stay informed.
The future of Wyoming wildlife is up to you!

L. Robertson
Wyoming Untrapped
Jackson, WY

Wyoming Untrapped (May 24, 2017)

May 2017 – Jackson Hole News & Guide

Manage Wolves for All

With wolves listed as a predatory species for a majority of the year during the spring, summer and autumn months just south and west of town, there will be many more dogs caught by traps as people get outside to engage in recreational activities.

We are encouraging citizens to keep their pets on a leash or very close by when recreating on public lands south and west of town. Wolf traps are larger than traps set for other species and will easily catch and injure or kill pets. The archaic trapping regulations in Wyoming allow trappers to place an unlimited number of traps of any size on public lands. Traps do not have to be set off of trails. Snares do not have to be checked for up to 13 days. The laws and regulations favor the very few individual trappers and give no protections to the hundreds of thousands of pet owners in this state. If your dog is caught or injured, the trapper holds no legal responsibility whatsoever.

Numerous studies have been published that indicate nonlethal measures are more effective at reducing livestock losses from predators than lethal measures. We eradicated wolves from this state once; it can easily happen again. The current management plan does not include any provisions for educating livestock producers on nonlethal techniques or prevention of depredation. It focuses only on how many wolves can be killed and where. Wyoming is once again “managing” our wolves and other predators to minimum numbers. One hundred wolves do not constitute a healthy population.

With tourism the No. 2 industry in the state, why aren’t we managing our wildlife to reflect current nationwide cultural values? Millions of tourists are visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks every year, bringing much-needed income to the state. Will visitors return when the wolves they used to see every year are gone? How will the residents of this state who love wildlife feel when they can no longer catch a glimpse of a wolf on our public lands? A wolf license costs $19 while that same wolf alive can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars that benefits the whole community. All people should have access to shared resources that are held in trust for the public.

There is also a significant volume of mounting evidence that shows predator populations are self-regulating. Wolves do not need to be hunted. Perhaps the most disgusting thing is that wolves will now be afforded no protection in a majority of the state, not even from animal cruelty laws. Are you aware that there are contests to see who can kill the most predators that are held statewide every year? Wolves will be killed as a part of this repulsive and completely unnecessary, outdated practice. They will be shot on sight, run over with snowmobiles (which currently happens to coyotes — just search for it on YouTube), beaten to death, poisoned by M-44 cyanide bombs, left to suffer in traps for up to three days, chased down and shot from aircraft and generally treated lower than dirt. This is unacceptable treatment of any animal, but especially so for an iconic keystone species like the wolf.

We are in the geologic era known as the Anthropocene in which species are going extinct at an alarming rate, much faster than ever before. Large mammals will be the first to go. And we are allowing some of the most vulnerable to purposely be killed? When are we going to move our wildlife management into the modern century? When are we going to listen to science and evidence instead of relying on anachronistic attitudes based on fear and ignorance?

Almost 70 years after Aldo Leopold wrote and taught about the importance of our moral responsibility to the natural world, it’s incredible we are still discussing the wanton killing of predators. The focus of wolf management has to change to co-existence if we are to leave a lasting legacy of complete, diverse ecosystems behind to our children.

Kristin Combs
Program Director
Wyoming Untrapped
Jackson, WY

Wyoming Untrapped (April 7, 2016)

April  2016 – From Pinedale Roundup

Put an End to Senseless Killings

Wyoming Untrapped (WU), a wildlife advocacy group in the state, learned about an annual hunting contest in Sublette County that has been kept mostly under wraps until local citizens wrote letters to the editor and contacted WU. The coyote-killing contest consists of killing as many coyotes as possible for fun and prize money, and was partially funded and supported by the Sublette County Predator Management Board.

These senseless predator killing contests, which occur across the state, are often called coyote-calling contests, varmint hunts or predator hunts. We believe these events are not hunting; they are a blood sport.

Our WU mission is dedicated to creating a safe and humane environment for our people, pets and wildlife, and to promote an overall ethic of compassionate conservation for wildlife and other natural resources. Our highest priority is to address our state’s archaic and indiscriminate trapping regulations as well as wildlife management, which allows the cruel and inhumane senseless killing of wildlife in the form of predator-killing contests for money and prizes, such as the “mangiest mutt” award or the “biggest dog” award. These “management tools” are not based on a sound science foundation, and are in urgent need of reform.

WU is fighting for freedom in wildness each and every day. Although there is a deep-rooted resistance to change in Wyoming and our challenges are steep, we have made significant progress. For the first time in our state’s history, WU has brought the reality of our trapping and wildlife management to the forefront of the public eye and ignited the dialog surrounding the need to bring trapping reform and wildlife management into the 21st century. Change is coming to Wyoming.

To voice your opinion to end these predator-killing contests, contact your county commissioners or the local predator control board.

To report trapping incidents or predator killing contests, please call Wyoming Untrapped at 307-201-2422 or email info@wyominguntrapped.org.

L. Robertson
Wyoming Untrapped


Dr. Mark Elbroch (February 10, 2016)

February 2016


Wyoming’s lions escape trapping plan

n January a bill was introduced in the Wyoming Legislature that, if it had passed, would have allowed any person with a valid hunting license to kill a mountain lion using a trap or snare. As a Wyoming resident and biologist, I’m thrilled to tell you that our Legislature voted yesterday in favor of science and to protect the balance of nature on which our state so deeply depends.

HB12 failed to pass the House on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, at 2:23 p.m. This bill was not based on valid research, and the potential negative consequences for mountain lions, other wildlife, Wyoming citizens and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department would have been far-reaching.

Ostensibly, this bill was introduced to provide “additional tools” to reverse recent mule deer population declines, a valuable game species for Wyoming residents. In reality, the connection between mountain lions and mule deer population declines is tenuous at best. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has said that mule deer declines are largely the result of other factors, including habitat loss and disruption to migration corridors. It is also well accepted among wildlife biologists that deer dynamics are driven primarily by weather patterns and resulting forage availability, not predators. In fact, a recent intensive, long-term study from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game emphasized that removing mountain lions and coyotes did not provide any long-term benefit to deer populations. The researchers reported: “In conclusion, benefits of predator removal appear to be marginal and short term in southeastern Idaho and likely will not appreciably change long-term dynamics of mule deer populations in the intermountain west.”

Like mule deer, mountain lions are also experiencing signifi cant population declines in some areas. Research conducted by Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project in Teton County, Wyoming, shows that lion numbers north of Jackson have declined by half in eight years. Mountain lions in Wyoming are hunted with all legal firearms, archery equipment and trailing hounds, and these methods have proven effective in reducing mountain lion populations across the West. Introducing trapping — an imprecise method of hunting — could have crippled mountain lion populations further, as well as rapidly and unexpectedly influenced other wildlife populations.

The nature of trapping is indiscriminate. Trapping consists of snares and leghold traps, including steel jaws, which often cause serious injury to animals — breaking legs, ripping skin or completely severing limbs, via the trap or through self-mutilation. Traps deliver painful, slow deaths to wildlife and domestic animals unlucky enough to be caught. In Wyoming it is currently illegal to kill a female mountain lion with kittens or the kittens themselves. However, a trapper cannot dictate what animal is caught, resulting in the potential maiming or killing of female mountain lions, their kittens or federally listed wolves, wolverines, Canada lynx or grizzly bears. Traps may also injure people should they stumble into one. Importantly, voting down HB12 maintained protection for the reproductive capital of our mountain lion populations: female mountain lions with kittens and the kittens themselves. Trapping is not only imprecise in its implementation, it is also nearly impossible to track and monitor. This bill would have completely undermined mountain lion management currently conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, introducing chaos to a tracking system that may not be ideal but works. When Wyoming’s House and Senate representatives introduce legislation that threatens their own Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s ability to protect our state’s immense and singular biodiversity, something is clearly wrong.

But Rep. Sam Krone eloquently opposed the bill for sportsmen against indiscriminate trapping, followed by Rep. Charles Pelkey, who emphasized the potential consequences of increased trapping on domestic animals and people. In the end the bill did not gain the required two-thirds majority to move forward.

Every year visitors flock to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, investing millions of dollars in Wyoming communities in the hope of glimpsing charismatic apex predators like the mountain lion. In voting down HB12, Wyoming voted for sustainable, scientific decision-making for our state and every creature with which we share this precarious and wonderful balance that we call home. In voting against mountain lion trapping, Wyoming chose evidence-based science over old mythology perpetuating fear and persecution of this amazing animal. It made me proud to live in Wyoming.

Yet the possibility remains that this bill will be reintroduced to the Senate this week. To ensure Wyoming’s mountain lion trapping legislation stops in its tracks, continue to contact members of the Wyoming legislature this week.

If the bill is halted, New Mexico and Texas will be the only states in our country to allow the trapping of mountain lions. Dr. Mark Elbroch is lead scientist of Panthera’s Puma Program.


Dr. Mark Elbroch


Wyoming Untrapped (August 12, 2015)

August 12, 2015


Dear Editor,

The recent ad for the Old Bill’s Fun Run, showing two cute little fox kits, is one of the most powerful we have seen.  We are reminded how proud we are to live in a community that gives with such tremendous passion and generosity for its people and its extraordinary wildlife.

We adore our foxes!  Unfortunately, many people in Teton County and throughout the state do not know that these little red foxes are designated “predatory animals” in Wyoming.  This means that every single day of the year, in unlimited numbers, they can be shot-on-sight or trapped in legholds for 72 hours, or up to 13 days in snares and conibears, with no concern for the suffering or pain, fear, thirst and hunger, but only for their fur or for fun.  Yes, this is how Wyoming treats our wildlife due to antiquated trapping regulations that need reform.

Wyoming Untrapped, dedicated to create a safe and humane environment for people, pets and wildlife, is working to change these archaic rules through education and trapping regulation reform.  Public awareness is already making a difference, one person at a time.

My family is grateful for the opportunity to support Old Bill’s Fun Run, our community non-profits, and the wildlife that live in our remaining wild areas.  Please help support Wyoming Untrapped and other wildlife-oriented non-profits through Old Bill’s, ensuring that you will have a direct positive impact on wildlife conservation.

Run wild, free and UNtrapped at Old Bill’s Fun Run everyone!

Peter Moyer (August 5, 2015)

From  Jackson Hole News and Guide, August 5, 2015

Cecil the Lion

Well-deserved global outrage has resulted from the recent killing of “Cecil the Lion” in Zimbabwe by a Minnesota dentist, for his $50,000 fee.  The lion was lured outside the safety of a national park, using bait.  He was then wounded by the dentist with an arrow (at night, spot lighted), tracked, shot and killed by the dentist 40 hours later.  The lion was skinned for the trophy room, with the carcass discarded.

All for money and ego, not need.

There are definite parallels to the modern day wild animal fur trade.  There is no real “need” nowadays:  fleece, Gore-Tex and other modern day materials are warmer, lighter, cheaper and abundant.  Pine martens, bobcats, foxes, otters, beavers, etc. are not esteemed as table fare. Faux fur is decorative enough.  There is no significant benefit to our economy–unlike hunting and fishing–and many of our wild animal furs are shipped to Russia and Communist China.

And trapping is brutal, whether for recreation or for profit.  How many of us humans would like to suffocate in a snare, or try to chew off a trapped limb?!

The Cecil the Lion incident revealed the great depth of compassion for wildlife felt by many of us humans, on a global scale. When the public is aware, people care.

Trapping results in the brutal treatment of our treasured and diminishing wildlife resources. In the American West trapping often occurs on forested and riparian lands owned by the people of the United States.  We are responsible, and we can do better.

Peter F. Moyer

Wyoming Untrapped (July 15, 2015)

From  Jackson Hole News and Guide, July 15, 2015


The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission on Friday rejected the efforts to address the adverse effects of trapping on the safety of people, pets and wildlife in Teton County by such means as trail setbacks, signage and the closure of a single heavily traveled trail on the outskirts of Jackson, Cache Creek.

The changes to Chapter 4 Trapping Regulations proposed by WGFD were supported by Wyoming Untrapped (WU), the Teton County Commission, Bridger Teton National Forest, and many Jackson residents for whom Representative Ruth Ann Petroff spoke.  An additional 5700 positive public comments were submitted, including 600 from Wyoming residents.  They were overwhelmingly in favor of the new regulations for Teton County.

Commissioner Little, when making the motion to remove the closure of Cache Creek from the draft commented that she believed agreeing to WU’s proposal was the beginning of the slippery slope intended to disenfranchise the rights and heritage of Wyoming’s trappers. Efforts by conservation and advocacy organizations do not pre-empt the slippery slope. Sustainable funding is the main threat to game agencies and hunters today.  Even Governor Mead has acknowledged that a solution to long-term funding must be found. The slippery slope is the reduction occurring among the hunting and trapping community due to cultural change. Finding a way to accommodate ALL users whether hunting or non-hunting will be the answer to collaborative management and sustainability.

Even though WU was hugely successful in bringing extensive support to the table and also offered to take financial responsibility for trail use data collection, signage and trap-release education, the Commission decided that the ‘need’ for reform had not been established. However, numerical substantiation of damage and injury to non-target animals, including dogs, is impossible to establish because of the very limited requirement to report.

“We understand that change happens slowly in Wyoming.  Trapping reform is a reasonable expectation by the public, especially when traditional practices and social use of trails coincide.  It just makes sense.  WU is the first organization in the state’s history that has addressed trapping reform, and we have raised public awareness at a fast pace.  However, our governing Game and Fish Commission is not ready to address the need to modernize our current archaic trapping regulations.  Continued awareness and collaboration will eventually change that.  Our modern public demands it.  And it’s the time in history for change.”

Please let your Commissioners know that you also support trapping reform.

Wyoming Untrapped

Jake Nichols - Planet JH (May 27, 2015)

From  PlanetJH.com


It’s hard to believe the practice of trapping is making a resurgence in Teton County solely on economic realities.  Fur prices skyrocketed during the recession, though they’ve tailed off recently.  Eye-popping price-per-pelt figures have spurred many a Davy Crocket-wannabe to invest in a half-dozen 330 conibears and head for the hills.

In Wyoming’s more rural counties, where 4H is more popular than junior cotillion classes, trapping could understandably provide a means to put dinner on the table one cape at a time.  But in ritzy Teton County, where any derelict can walk into a restaurant for breakfast and be the sous chef by that evening’s dinner, there are easier ways to skin a cat making a buck.

That leads me to the neo-woodsman movement as the primary factor driving the uptick in trapping activity in Teton County.  One scan of Facebook and it’s easy to find several tree-hugging hipsters who’ve suddenly discovered their inner-man(woman) by growing vegetable in the backyard and hunting their own protein.  An extension of the Paleo Peacenik crusade probably involves Silicon Valley warriors who’ve traded in their iPhones for Bowie knives.

Wyoming Untrapped has been working feverishly to get trapping banned in the Cache Creek drainage and other popular recreation areas where rusty jaws are more likely to clamp down on a Golden Retriever than a read fox.  Lisa Robertson launched WU after incidents in Red Top Meadows and elsewhere highlighted the dangers of traps placed too close to dog walking trails.

Running a trap line close to the trail in Cache Creek is just plain lazy.  Real mountain men hump it to get to their traps and they check them responsibly.  Too many trendy trappers are looking for the path of no resistance.  Robertson is right.  No trapping should be allowed anywhere near trails in popular areas like Cache Creek. This is not the 1800s.

And WU and its ilk shouldn’t stop there.  State trapping laws are updated every three years.  This summer marks Game & Fish discussions about possible revisions (July 8-10 in Cody).  One thing that desperately needs to change is how often traps need to be checked.  In Wyoming, an animal can spend three days in a leg-hold trap waiting for a mercy killing.  Other type traps and snares require 13 days between required checks.  That’s simply too long to allow an animal to suffer.

Jake Nichols

Wyoming Untrapped (May 25, 2015)

From Jackson Hole News and Guide, May 25,2015


To the editor:

Wyoming Untrapped (WU) is reaching out to the public with an URGENT request.  As you may be aware, furbearer and predator trapping on public lands have uniquely impacted Teton County.  Five dogs belonging to area residents have been injured in legholds, snares, and conibear traps on US Forest Service lands in recent years.  At present, regulations allow for traps to be set directly on hiking trails.  No reporting of such incidents is required. Neither of those who engage in trapping activities nor the agencies that regulate them are required to report such incidents, so the problem is surely much larger than five dogs — indeed, we recently learned of two more previously unreported incidents.  WU was founded in response to these incidents and we are making strides toward safer public lands for both residents and visitors alike.  Now, we need our community’s help.

WU is not an organization focused on banning trapping.  Instead, we advocate for ways to improve trapping regulations to mitigate the impacts that the practice has on other people, their pets, and their shared public lands.  At present, we are advocating for the WGFD and the WGF Commission to implement trapping regulations that would prohibit furbearer traps from being set in the Cache Creek drainage in the Bridger-Teton National Forest and on Snow King Mountain, and would prohibit furbearer traps from being set within 300 feet of some of our community’s busiest trails.  Interests from elsewhere in the state are pushing back against regulations that would affect Teton County, so it is imperative that the local community voice its support for this small, reasonable change that could mitigate some of the unnecessary risk currently imposed on anyone who ventures out onto our public lands with their pet.

Specifically, we ask that you:

  • Submit written public comment to the WGFD and WGF Commission supporting furbearer-trapping setbacks in Teton County and a closure of the Cache Creek drainage and Snow King Mountain to furbearer trapping.  The public comment period closes May 29 at 5 p.m.  To see the list of trails recommended for setbacks, and to take-action: www.wyominguntrapped.org/take-action/.
  • Please attend WGFD’s public meeting Thursday, May 28, Antler Inn, 6 p.m., to represent our community interests.

    We hope that you will help us in representing Teton County and the public’s reasonable expectation for safety on our public lands, and our vested interest in trapping regulation reform.

Bert Fortner (May 13, 2015)

From Jackson Hole News and Guide, May13,2015

The public lands in Wyoming are fantastic. We have BLM land, school sections and national forest all for the public to use freely for just about any outdoor activity you can imagine. But are they safe?

There is one activity on public lands that jeopardizes the safety of public use for most of us: trapping. I absolutely am not against trapping, and predator control in Wyoming is a necessity. But on public lands there should not be traps that endanger the rest of us who enjoy using them. There are deadly snares and severe steel traps set everywhere and even right along paths and roadways. If you are out hiking, camping or doing whatever activity you enjoy and have your pets and small children with you, beware! There have been many cases of pets maimed or killed by these traps.

There is an alternative for the trappers, so they still have rights on the public lands: live traps. You can be very successful using live traps, and if the wrong animal (like your pet) gets caught it can be turned loose with no harm done.

There are thousands of acres of private land to trap on with snares and steel traps, and landowners will jump at the chance to have someone help with predator control. So let’s make it safe for everyone to use public lands.

After all, they are called “public lands” not “trapper lands.” To look at your rights and voice your opinion, go to the website WyomingUntrapped.org and go to “Take Action.”

Bert Fortner, Gillette

Samantha Rowe (May 11, 2015)

From Cody Enterprise, May 11, 2015

Public lands are for the benefit for everyone: outdoor enthusiasts, horseback riders, hikers, hunters/trappers and fishermen, parents and children taking adventures and anyone else.

However, when one has to avoid public land, because their dog may be caught and killed by a deadly snare, then it infringes on the rightful use of others.

At this time the Wyoming law allows all types of trapping on all public lands. This includes deadly snares and powerful steel traps. There have been several incidences of pets being caught in these devices.

I have taken my dog to the vet after freeing it from a trap. If a pet or small child gets caught in a snare it could kill them.

I am not against trapping; it is the trapper’s right. But on public lands I feel they should have to use live traps. If your pet gets caught in it, it will not be harmed, and there are no dangers to children. They are still getting to trap effectively without a risk to anyone or anything else.

Colorado’s laws specify live traps on public land and it works.

(s) Samantha Lowe


Peter Moyer (January 9, 2015)

There are many locals and visitors who treasure Wyoming’s great wildlife species on our extensive public lands: pine martens, beavers, ermine, badgers, otters, bobcats, mink, red squirrels, etc.

By contrast, there are not many people who need to trap and kill these esteemed wildlife resources outside of carefully defined areas. Nor is there a significant benefit to our economy–trapping produces very little local revenue, visitor income, retail trade, outfitting work, licensing income, table fare, or conservation support. Unlike hunting and fishing activities, which are and should be widely supported throughout Wyoming.

Very broad trapping setbacks from hiking areas, and other area trapping restrictions on our public lands, simply make sense. It is not just concern for dogs and other “non-target species” killed or maimed in traps, where trapping is far more indiscriminate than hunting aimed at specific target species.

Absent broad setbacks and area restrictions, wildlife resources should not be compromised in our magnificent public surroundings just so a very limited group of people can trap and kill. It is nice to have the critters around, and nice to have ecological balance. It is public land, where there should be fair and proper management balance considering the nature and relative importance of different uses.


Peter F. Moyer

Wyoming Untrapped (December 31, 2014)

TRAPPING REFORM – Jackson Hole News and Guide

Imagine you and a friend are out on a bluebird winter day, walking your dog on a Forest Service trail near Jackson. Your well-behaved dog is wandering along the trail, wagging her tail as she follows each scent she finds. You get caught up in your conversation and your attention wavers from your dog for just a few moments. Suddenly, your dog yelps from just a few feet off the trail — she’s been caught in a trap. If you’re lucky, it is a leg-hold trap that your dog will suffer from, but hopefully survive. If you’re unlucky, your dog’s neck has just been snapped by a quick-kill conibear or slowly squeezed by a snare. Either way, the trap was completely legal and the person who set it is not liable in any way.

Gruesome? Yes. Possible? Absolutely. A scenario not unlike the above became reality for one family in Casper only weeks ago. It has happened here, too, and could happen again at any time. Should this be the reality of recreating in Jackson Hole?

As compassionate people we don’t want to imagine a dog being trapped, don’t want to think about trapping and don’t want to see images of trapped pets and wildlife — but as community, we must not look away. Trapping regulations are antiquated, and the trapping status quo endures because it remains off the radar of nonconsumptive public land and wildlife users.

Trapping season is in full swing, and traps of all varieties can be found almost anywhere on public land — even on your favorite hiking trails. Thousands of furbearing animals including bobcats, American martens, weasels and many others are trapped without limit. Nontarget species regularly caught in traps include not only pets but also threatened species like Canada lynx. Dog owners, hikers, wildlife watchers, photographers and the rest of the nontrapping public deserve a reasonable expectation of safety while recreating on public lands and deserve to be considered in wildlife management decisions.

We need to put trapping reform on the radar. Wyoming Untrapped is working on establishing trapping setbacks along trails in Teton County through its “Traps and Trails Campaign.” Setbacks are a step forward, and you can help affect change — visit WyomingUntrapped. org for information on taking action. It is time for this community to take a hard look at trapping reform.

Katy Canetta – Program Director Wyoming Untrapped

Peter Moyer (August 25, 2014)

From Peter Moyer, August 25, 2014

Our wildlife cannot vote or mount campaigns or write checks, so they really need great and dedicated people like you!! The historical perspective is interesting. Furs used to be necessary for warmth in Northern climes. Beaver hides and other furs like ermine were decorative, but few looked at ecology or animal cruelty back in those days. Trappers were iconic and admired, and still are from our distant modern perspective. Even though there is no real need for warmth or decorative pelts from wild animals any more.

The cruelty to trapped animals is barbaric in modern times. Absolutely barbaric. The value of those animals in wild ecosystems is very, very important. Many of our most productive riparian wetlands–for so many critters and many humans as well–have been created by beavers. Predators trapped cruelly for their furs play a very important role as checks and balances in many ecosystems. And the “Collateral Damage” of trapping is very bad, such as wolverines.

Anyway, sorry to be so windy but it is a great cause, more power to you! Some people are mostly concerned with dogs, but it goes way beyond that.

K Brown (July 26, 2014)

Shared by Cdapress.com.

K. BROWN/Guest opinion 

I am a responsible Idaho hound hunter and I have great concerns about trapping in the state of Idaho. I believe that it is time to address the elephant in the room and I feel that we need to make some major adjustments to trapping before it is too late for both trappers and hound hunters.

Here are the facts:

* Trapping and dog hunting do not mix.

I purchase my hound tag every year just like the trapper does, but I cannot hunt year round for fear of having another dog lost to a snare. I, myself, have even been caught in a snare just looking for my dogs. This is how out of control trapping has become.

* No regulated limits to the number of snares, leg hold traps and conibear traps on the ground. Collateral damage to wildlife.

A typical snare runs around $2.25 per snare. Most trappers put out so many snares that they have to put ribbons on bushes to find them again. Every day, a variety of wildlife falls victim to the trapper’s collateral damage list. When I buy a deer tag, I fill that tag only once and I know that it is against the law to bag another deer. The trapper has a free pass to kill or maim unlimited amounts of deer, cougar, bobcats, elk, moose, rabbits, etc. as needed to obtain his target. These are only considered “untargeted incidentals” and remain very legal.

* Domestic dog owners.

Hundreds of people recreate with dogs in the state of Idaho. Most trappers trap where it is easy to get to their traps – along highways, roads or trails. This always puts domestic dogs at risk when one is recreating, walking or just letting the dog out to relieve himself.

Hundreds of dogs are killed every year that belong to domestic dog owners. We are all being held hostage by this loosely regulated sport that has absolutely no oversight or consequences for breaking what few laws they may or may not follow.

* No limits on number of animals caught except otter and beaver

The bobcats have suffered terribly due to a five-month trapping season that makes it legal to trap virtually everything when in fact the bobcat season is only two months long – another pass for the trapper. Now with wolf trapping, bears are being caught in November before they can even go into hibernation. Trapping to this degree is affecting everything.

* New residents and so called “bunny huggers” dominating Idaho

There are 1.6 million people in Idaho with only approximately 2,000 trapping licenses issued. How long do you think it will take for people to realize that they can not safely recreate with dogs because of trapping? How long will they tolerate the inhumane treatment of animals and suffering that all victims of the snare or trap must endure?

This is slowly turning into a state that is leaning toward ethics. Numbers have always taken precedence over history and heritage. I worry that the dog hunting will go out the door along with the trapping if we don’t find some balance for everyone.

* Trap damage

Bone damage, tissue damage, blood vessel damage, skin and nerve damage or in most all cases … death. Even if one of my dogs survived, it would never be able to hunt again.

My recommendations:

* Outlaw conibear traps set on dry land.

These traps kill instantly and have no business being set where humans interact with wildlife and nature. In most states, they can only be used under water. The average person can not even release a pet much less themselves without special hardware for one of these monsters.

* Outlaw snares.

Snares are unforgiving to all animals. They are not only cheap to buy, but are 100 percent effective and can be set over an unfathomable amount of area – catching almost anything that is moving, either in or out of season. Because of the unfair and indiscriminating amount of collateral death caused to wildlife while trying to catch targeted animals, they should never be legal due to this factor alone.

* Limit the amount of traps a person can set.

Change the 72-hour torture check to 24 hours every day. This would make a trapper think twice about laying out 80 to 100 traps and just letting them ride till the weekend (which is what most of them do because they work). Legally, he would have to think about the time involved in checking traps within a 24-hour time frame. Because there is no oversight, most of them get away with this anyway, but at least it would be illegal.

* Limit the number of animals to be caught.

This sport has turned into a killing free-for-all. There are limits on everything else we value with hunting. Why not for the trapper?

* Require trapper liability insurance.

The people who illegally snared and killed my $5,000 young hound didn’t appear to have any remorse. After the incident, it was business as usual with just a slap on the wrist. I was the one who suffered the emotional and financial loss from their negligence, but they were well within most of the trapping laws.

There has to be some accountability to protect the average person who recreates in our woods and wetlands. They should be able to freely use these public lands without fear of losing their dogs. The rules can’t always be overwhelmingly in favor of the trapper or it will come to an end. Trappers would be more mindful of where they trap if they were required to have trappers insurance.

* Raise the license fees to trap.

If Fish and Game can not afford to patrol and control trappers, maybe they should consider raising the fees to put some balance out there for the rest of us when it comes to recreating together. This would cut down unnecessary kills and keep the till full.

* Require only “live” traps.

This would really solve the problem. There could then be some control as to what should or shouldn’t be taken. I know this would be a hard pill for the trapper to swallow, but we need to find a way to level the playing field for the common man. Other states do this with much success and everyone is happy, not to mention this leaves a larger abundance of wildlife for others to pursue such as myself. Needless killing of fur bearers is never a good idea for wildlife populations or for anyone.

In Conclusion:

My thoughts are not new with regard to trapping in Idaho. I have watched what I dearly enjoy doing go down the drain in the St. Joe country. Trappers gobble up what little bit of country is left that supports the lion or bobcat populations. There is no such thing as working side by side with snares and conibear traps when you do what I do. The trapper has had it pretty good doing whatever he has wanted to do on our public lands for decades, but this isn’t going to last – not with the new mindset of the people who are moving into this state. People love their dogs and they are concerned about animal suffering, but there are still solutions that could happen to make everyone happy.

Earlier this year, a mother, her 12-year-old son and their large dog were looking for antler sheds near Kellogg. The dog was trapped and died in an unmarked conibear trap that neither of them could open. There was nothing the boy could do but watch his dog die. Turned out this trapper was found when he returned for the trap, but he only received a slap on the wrist for not marking the trap. He went on to use the conibear trap up Cougar Gulch near Cd’A where he also trapped and killed two more domestic dogs. Fish and Game could do absolutely nothing about these incidents because he was well within the law. This is nothing short of insufferable.

How long will it be before a 12-year-old boy loses his foot in one of these monster traps? How many more domestic dogs will be victim to a snare, leaving their grieving owners wondering about what their rights are on public lands? This has to change or the power of the people will bring it to an end – and I am afraid they will take down dog hunting while they are at it.

We have to make laws so everyone can enjoy these lands together. There needs to be compromise on everyone’s part. No one sport should be able to dominate and hold everyone else hostage while they willy nilly do whatever they want without facing consequences. We need some drastic steps and changes made with regard to trapping – and we need it done soon.

K. Brown is a resident of Plummer.

Jean Molde (July 18, 2014)

From the Reno Gazette-Journal

In the July 14 Reno Gazette-Journal, we learn that a young man accused of cruel acts on domestic dogs has been arrested and faces felony charges. We applaud. Yet, on the same front page of the paper, we are told that the Nevada Department of Wildlife commissioners are having difficulty making a decision regarding making a change in the regulation requiring how frequently a trapper must visit his/her traps. Is it somehow less cruel than the aforementioned crime the young man is accused of to cause an animal to languish in a trap for up to four days, in pain, frightened, thirsty and hungry, just because the activity is not in the public eye and the animal is wild?

Jean Molde, Reno

TrailSafe Nevada (July 15, 2014)

A post by TrailSafe Nevada

Mr. Les Smith (“Hunters, trappers key to management” – July 6 Letter to the Editor LVRJ – also July 9 Nevada Appeal) posits “people [who] would love to make wildlife management an environmental issue.” How is wildlife management not an environmental issue? He follows this statement with: “ If it becomes one, hunting and trapping will be gone, and so will the funding that comes with them.” This is the slippery slope mantra aired by sportsmen at Wildlife Commission meetings whenever trapping regulation is discussed. The sportsmen passionately defend trapping. They believe that if trapping is curtailed, even minimally, somehow hunting and then gun ownership will be next. They refer to a “secret agenda” we animal activists ourselves are unaware of. In reaction to this exaggerated fear, we see bills attempting to secure hunting and trapping “rights” for eternity – even attempting constitutional amendments. One activity – hunting – is well regulated in the interest of wildlife management. Hunters take mandatory education; buy tags; observe seasons and a host of regulations. Trapping is something else altogether. There are no bag limits; no limits upon number of traps set; no limits upon the agony a trapped animal suffers. If the people Mr. Smith defines as such a threat have not already brought the hunting and trapping communities to their knees, when and how will they do so? Is he saying a few grassroots animal activists can match the money and influence of the larger hunting groups? Trappers join coalitions with these hunting groups and enjoy great advantages thereby. These coalitions control wildlife policy in our state. Most animal advocates make a clear distinction between hunting and trapping. To object to the excesses of one is not a threat to the other.

Mauricio Handler (November 25, 2015)

November 2015


Stuffed dead wildlife for sale decorate tourist and souvenir stores in downtown Jackson.

After a week at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival trying to figure out, together with 800 delegates from around the world, how we can be a voice for conservation and wildlife proliferation in a time of unprecedented animal extinction, I am revolted at the reality of the local mentality and the message it sends to all Jackson visitors from around the world, including China and other Asian countries.

How can we expect them to conserve, protect and cultivate a culture of wildlife welfare when we give them this front row seat to a horror show? As I said, all animals are for sale. Is this an oxymoron? Let’s wake up. Do not support businesses like these and make your voices heard. We are not above nature; we are part of it.

Taxidermy from the 20th century I understand — it was a different time. But to bring this to the forefront of today’s world and to have all for sale? Something is not right with this picture.

Many species are disappearing from the Wyoming landscape because trapping and furring are legal here.

We are talking dozens of animals in each store.

China is a huge problem for the endangered species of our planet. People there trade, consume and dissect anything and everything. But with Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks attracting waves of Chinese tourists, this issue in Jackson and other prohunting and pro-trapping locations in the U.S. is definitely is not helping the cause.

Make sure you watch “Racing Extinction” airing in 220-plus countries Dec. 2. This is the very best environmental film ever made. It is the beginning of a global movement. Let your voice be heard.

Wyoming Untrapped is single-handedly trying to address this issue in the area. Please join it and lend it your support when possible.

Mauricio Handler, filmmaker Durham, Maine


Leslie Patten (March 12, 2014)

Jackson Hole News and Guide, 3/12/14 Trapped In December

I spent a month exploring Anazasi ruins around Bluff, Utah. One morning I drove along an excellent dirt access road indicated in my guide book toward a popular hiking trail. Recent snows created muddy conditions, so I decided to walk the remaining few miles to the trailhead. I let my dog out, and we both walked on the road itself. My dog was about 15 feet ahead of me when he began yelping in pain. I rushed to his side and saw his foot was caught in a leghold trap meant for coyotes. The trap had been hidden under the dirt directly on the public road, ‘baited’ only with dog scat and scent — in other words, there was no indication to a human that a trap was there. Luckily, I was able to free my dog quickly, and he had no injuries. Although my experience took place in Utah, I live in Wyoming and know many people whose dogs have been caught in traps here. People recreating with children and dogs need to know that trapping is legal everywhere except in national parks. Coyotes can be trapped year round. Wolves can be trapped in 85 percent of Wyoming year round. Other wildlife such as bobcats have a long season in the winter months. It’s only a matter of time, as recreational use increases, before a child is trapped. Releasing a leghold trap is not intuitive. One has to practice before an incident occurs. Snares require a hiker to carry a good pair of wire cutters so your dog won’t choke to death. If you come across a conibear trap, then kiss your dog goodbye because you’ll never release him in time as it takes only seconds for the animal to die. Trapping is not only cruel and antiquated, but trappers are selling our wildlife overseas to China and Russia for coats. As fur prices escalate, more people are trapping, many of them inexperienced and unethical. Last year, trappers placed bobcat sets around the perimeter of Joshua Tree National Park in California, hoping for the $750 that a pelt can bring, robbing the American public visiting that park of the pleasure of seeing our native wildlife. Old, outdated laws and attitudes favor the trapper who pays a miniscule fee for his license. Nonconsumptive users of recreational lands are not only at risk but so is the tranquility of their outdoor experience. Leslie Patten Cody

Kirk Robinson (May 30, 2014)

Kirk Robinson wrote a beautiful essay about wildlife management.  Shared by Trap Free New Mexico.

I work for Western Wildlife Conservancy, a non-profit wildlife conservation organization that I founded several years ago in Salt Lake City. I am motivated by a concern for the future of the West, of our wildlands and wildlife, the health of our watersheds and a place where people (individuals and families, not the species) can flourish and stay in touch with wild nature. I want to know how we can best work together to ensure these things. This is particularly urgent given continued population growth, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and the reality of climate change – not to mention the majority of our Western politicians, who seem oblivious to these important matters.

One of my most cherished memories is working side by side with my grandfather on a ranch one summer when I was 16. We rode horses, rounded up calves, branded them, castrated them, and treated them for pink eye; I learned to drive a tractor and helped out with the irrigation and haying. There were no other kids on the ranch, so in the evenings I was left to myself for a couple of hours between dinner and bedtime. One evening after dinner I went out for a walk with my Winchester semi-automatic .22 rifle, on the lookout for something to shoot. In those days, it was a rite of passage for a boy to get a “varmint” rifle at about age 14.

While walking a path along the edge of an alfalfa field I saw a large bird with a whitish breast standing in the middle of the field about 100 yards away. A sitting duck, so to speak. Pointing my rifle in the direction of the bird and raising it slightly to allow for distance, I pulled the trigger. Instantly the bird fell over. Excitedly, I climbed over the fence and ran over to it. It was a beautiful barn owl, stone dead, its bright yellow eyes still open. I wondered what to do with it. Taxidermy wasn’t an option, but just leaving it seemed wasteful, so I plucked out a few of its feathers and proceeded to saw off its talons with a dull packet knife. After salvaging these trifles, I put my trophies in my shirt pocket and carried the dead bird over to the edge of the field and threw it into the sagebrush. Then I started walking back to the ranch house in the waning light, guided by the glow from a window a few hundred yards away. As I walked along, feeling some remorse for what I’d done, another owl, just like the one I’d killed, flew toward me and began to fly in circles just a few feet above my head. I thought it might attack me and I was scared, so I stopped. When I did, it lit on the nearest fence post, about six feet away, and stared straight at my face with its big yellow eyes. It was very spooky. I didn’t want to kill it too, so I tried shooting at the post below it instead, hoping to scare it off. But it wouldn’t leave. So I began walking again; and again the owl began circling my head on its silent wings. After a few seconds I stopped again and it stopped too, lighting on the nearest fence post and staring straight at my face. I shot at the post again. It didn’t move. This was repeated about a half dozen times, the owl following me nearly all the way back to the ranch house, each time looking me in the face with its big yellow eyes. I don’t know what became of my trophies, but the memory of that experience has stayed with me for 50 years. It was my Aldo Leopold moment.
The theme of this conference is “Integrating scientific findings into [cougar] management.” This is an interesting theme. It suggests that it isn’t obvious how scientific finds should be integrated into wildlife management. Why is this? When you think about it for just a moment, you see it is because science by itself doesn’t dictate wildlife management. Values play a role too.

Wildlife management programs involve values. There is no escaping it. Sometimes the values are of a purely practical nature, such as ways to simplify data collection or save money, or what not. Other times they involve killing animals and manipulating ecosystems to try to achieve some goal. The value judgments (or assumptions) reflected in the goal, and often in the methods for achieving it, are inexorably moral ones – even when the values at issue are not consciously entertained. They are institutionalized values.

This fact invites the question what values should prevail – what would be the morally best or right action in a given circumstance? Certainly it’s not always easy to know, but in practice the prevailing values tend to be the ones favored by the most politically influential interest groups, which are ranchers and hunters. Wildlife management agencies are largely captives of these interest groups. Consequently, wildlife management agencies are loath to forego the chance to provide hunting opportunities; and in general herbivores are favored over carnivores, with comparatively little concern for the welfare of animals or their roles in ecosystems.

In philosophy there is a grand distinction called the fact/value distinction. And there are fundamentally just two views about it. One view is that facts have nothing at all to do with values. The idea is that facts are objective and value neutral, while values are subjective – matters of arbitrary personal opinion. According to this view, different people have their own values, which might vary, and they project their values onto value neutral reality; whereas reality itself is value free.

Science tends to reinforce this view by teaching us to think of facts as objective, mind-independent states of affairs that make up the world, ideally susceptible of exhaustive description in terms of quantitative measures, such as mass and momentum, which can be represented in mathematical formulas. This idea is reinforced by the dominant economic paradigm which treats everything as a resource having only extrinsic value – a commodity to be used or treated however one chooses. This is reflected, for example, in the names of agencies, such as the “Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.”

The competing view about facts and values is that facts are not always value neutral, but are sometimes bearers of value, and that recognition of such value is important to making good moral choices. The term often used for this value is ‘intrinsic value’. It is value that things are believed to have independently of human valuing – a kind of value just as real as a physical object, but that isn’t captured by science and isn’t commensurable with economic value.

Wildlife management agencies, as public institutions, are largely beholden to political and money interests, so they often have to disregard questions of intrinsic value. Wildlife managers are often required to act as if facts are not bearers of value, even though some managers might take a different personal view, as I know many of them do. In that case, they must live with a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. Conservation activists, such as I and my colleagues, on the other hand, are not forced to ignore intrinsic values and so we tend to emphasize them in order to give them due recognition. And therefore, our views about how wildlife species ought to be managed, particularly predator species, tend to clash with official agency views.

Which view is correct? You are all familiar with Aldo Leopold’s account in Thinking like a Mountain, of an incident in his youth when he worked for the Forest Service. One day he shot an old she-wolf and arrived at her side just in time to see a “fierce green fire dying in her eyes.” 40 years later he formulated his famous “land ethic”: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” This famous passage is frequently quoted but rarely receives the kind of attention it deserves. Notice the words ‘right’, ‘wrong’, and ‘beauty’. These are value terms, whereas ‘integrity’ and ‘stability’ are scientific terms that apply to factual states of affairs. Leopold was certainly aware of this and deliberately meant to imply that facts can be bearers of value – value that he described as being of the “philosophic kind,” more commonly referred to as intrinsic value. He did not shy away from this conviction, which may have been planted in his mind decades earlier by the incident with the wolf.

Not everything is beautiful, but some things are. Not all beauty is merely “in the eye of the beholder.” And beauty can be more than “skin deep.” Wild animals are beautiful. Healthy ecosystems are beautiful. Wilderness is beautiful. People can be beautiful too. Beauty is a kind of intrinsic value and it deserves our respect. This was Leopold’s conviction; and it is my conviction too.

Wyoming Untrapped (Dec 12, 2013)

Jackson Hole News and Guide 12/4/2013 Reform trapping

On Nov. 22, two dogs were caught in snare and foothold traps while walking with their owner and caretaker along Fall Creek Road, a popular recreation area. The traps probably were aimed at fox or coyote, predators for which few trapping regulations apply in Wyoming. All too often, however, traps don’t discrimi­nate and other species often are caught. Sometimes they’re our pets. The Fall Creek incident was the second in little more than a year in that area. It was the fourth known incident in Jackson Hole during the same time period. Others undoubtedly have not been reported. Fortunately, these two dogs on Fall Creek were freed, but only after the owner and caretaker ran back to her vehicle and drove back to her house to retrieve bolt cutters. One dog was freed from the foothold trap after a ride to the veterinarian in Wilson.    In the Buffalo Valley last year a dog walking with its owner was caught in a foothold trap and required about $2,000 of veterinary care. Another dog was caught in a snare but uninjured the same day in the same place. These incidents raise the question of whether more popular recreation areas on public land should be off-limits to trapping. Trapping in Wyoming peaked in the mid-1880s, but persists today. The Wyoming Department of Game and Fish reported that approximately 1,800 permits to trap furbearing animals were issued in 2011. No permits are required to trap predators, such as coyote, fox and wolf. In 85 percent of the state, predator trapping is allowed at all times of the year. Trappers are not required to report trapping of “non-target” animals unless they’re seriously injured or killed, so no records are available to tell us how often it happens. Trappers also have no responsibility for any harm that may come to you or your dog if you happen to step into a trap. Trapping regulations today are at best antiquated. Trap check times are ridiculously long in some instances, resulting in days of suffering for trapped animals. For example, if placed on a Monday, body grip and conibear traps need not be checked for 13 days. What do you suppose would happen to your dog during that time? With the removal of the gray wolf from the federal Endangered Species List, anecdotal evidence suggests that trapping frequency and trap size have increased. And predator trappers are allowed to use any size and number of traps and place them almost anywhere on public lands. With the price of bobcat pelts rising, we can expect more trapping. It is time to take a hard look at the practice of trapping and how it’s regulated on our public lands. Roger Hayden Executive Director Wyoming Untrapped

Linnea Gardner (July 3, 2013)

Jackson Hole News and Guide   5/3/2013 Another Trap Incident

Beware everyone who recreates in the Munger Mountain/Fall Creek area.  On June 30th, in an effort to cool off, a friend, my dog and I went down to the large meadow, about 1.5 miles south of the bus turnaround on Fall Creek Road, to wade in the creek.  As we came out of the creek, about 10 feet from the embankment, we encountered a 6-inch-plus leg-hold trap staked in the ground and virtually invisible as it blended in so well with the dirt and growth. Fortunately for all of us, the trap had been sprung.  Unfortunately for the animal it had caught.  There was a chewed off paw still in the trap.  It looked like the trap had been abandoned and had been there for a while, possibly since last winter.  I could not find an identification tag or the stake. This area is heavily used for recreation in all seasons.  My friend and I were both wearing sandals for wading and could easily have stepped on the trap had it been open.  My dog got his muzzle right up to it before I even saw it.  Less than 20 yards away, two young boys were playing in the creek and running around the embankments.  I see people there daily, fishing and wandering the banks.  These people include families with children and neighbors letting their dogs out for a good run and to play in the creek. This is my public land, too, and my “backyard,” and I go there regularly and have for over a dozen years. My dog was snared a mile from this location in December, and now I’m coming across leg-hold traps 100 yards from the road.  I’m so angry. I don’t know how many other traps there might be out there.  Sprung or not.  I don’t’ want to find out the hard way.  I don’t want there to be a third time and have my dog maimed or killed, or get my foot caught in one of those.  I don’t want it to happen to anyone else. This is a safety issue for everyone.  There are some areas that need to be off-limits for trapping of any kind. Voice your concern:  Wyoming Game and Fish, Jackson 733-2321.  Bridger-Teton National Forest, Jackson District 739-5400. Linnea Gardner Wilson, WY

Ursula Neese (January 4, 2013)

Shared by Footloose Montana, published in the Livingston Enterprise. Editor.

The day was like many in Montana — a cold winter blue sky day. We were walking our dog last week in an area where we have walked for the past 17 years. Our dog was glad to be out in this familiar setting and was out to our side about 30 feet sniffing and looking for rodents, when all of a sudden she was bolting in the air frantically screeching, yelping and biting uncontrollably. We ran to help. It took a second to realize what it was: “My god, it’s two traps that were clamped down on her front leg above the paw and her back leg at her paw.” She was fiercely trying to bite them off. Blood was flowing. We were freaked, and tried to calm her. We tried to restrain her from hurting herself more. She finally went into shock and became docile. We were afraid to try and release the traps for fear of hurting her more. My friend started having severe chest pain and I had to take over restraining Solano. We both had our cell phones, so we called 911, our vet, and the land owner. We then tried to pull the traps from the ground where they were staked. No luck. Such a mixture of archaic tortures and telephones! Our vet arrived and the sheriff was not far behind. Our vet was able to release the traps. Solano was taken to our vet’s office, X-rayed, and found to have no broken bones, though she has several broken teeth from trying to bite off the steel traps. My friend continued to have chest pain. Both were lucky. Other pets or people might not be so lucky. A wild animal would definitely not be so lucky. The thought of how my dog reacted and was injured in this very short amount of time reminds us of the unthinkable process a wild animal might go through in the 24 to 48 hours before her killer arrives. Montana regulations are very much all about the trapper and not about the public or the animals that are being trapped. A trap can be set only 150 feet from a road, and the trap does not need to be marked in any way for a person to see it. In fact, most of the regs are all about the hunt. This treatment of animals is not a hunt at all — it is malicious torture of our wildlife and can lead to injury of people and their pets. I suggest that anyone thinking of joining the trapper group please take two traps into a field, stake them down, and when they are nicely frozen in, walk out and place both hands into the traps so they will snap into place. I’m sure no trapper would do this, but I hope you get the point. We must stop this trapping now, please write, call your legislators. So the second part to this horrific day: When Solano was caught in a wolf trap and DD and I were struggling for Solano’s life, a rush of adrenaline and calcium was heading for DD’s heart. What that means in the medical world is that she was having a heart attack caused by the anxiety of our dog’s life being threatened in an instant. We took her to the ER in Livingston, where her enzyme levels indicated that her heart was sustaining damage. She was taken then to Bozeman by ambulance, and into the cath lab. They determined that she had a Stress Cardiomiopathy a “mild heart attack” that is solely produced in a fight or flight situation. She is going to be fine. She does not have a diseased heart — her attacker was the wolf trap. Ursula Neese South of Livingston

John Ruther (May 21, 2008)

May 24, 2017 – Jackson Hole News and Guide

Manage Wolves for All

With wolves listed as a predatory species for a majority of the year during the spring, summer and autumn months just south and west of town, there will be many more dogs caught by traps as people get outside to engage in recreational activities.

We are encouraging citizens to keep their pets on a leash or very close by when recreating on public lands south and west of town. Wolf traps are larger than traps set for other species and will easily catch and injure or kill pets. The archaic trapping regulations in Wyoming allow trappers to place an unlimited number of traps of any size on public lands. Traps do not have to be set off of trails. Snares do not have to be checked for up to 13 days. The laws and regulations favor the very few individual trappers and give no protections to the hundreds of thousands of pet owners in this state. If your dog is caught or injured, the trapper holds no legal responsibility whatsoever.

Numerous studies have been published that indicate nonlethal measures are more effective at reducing livestock losses from predators than lethal measures. We eradicated wolves from this state once; it can easily happen again. The current management plan does not include any provisions for educating livestock producers on nonlethal techniques or prevention of depredation. It focuses only on how many wolves can be killed and where. Wyoming is once again “managing” our wolves and other predators to minimum numbers. One hundred wolves do not constitute a healthy population.

With tourism the No. 2 industry in the state, why aren’t we managing our wildlife to reflect current nationwide cultural values? Millions of tourists are visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks every year, bringing much-needed income to the state. Will visitors return when the wolves they used to see every year are gone? How will the residents of this state who love wildlife feel when they can no longer catch a glimpse of a wolf on our public lands? A wolf license costs $19 while that same wolf alive can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars that benefits the whole community. All people should have access to shared resources that are held in trust for the public.

There is also a significant volume of mounting evidence that shows predator populations are self-regulating. Wolves do not need to be hunted. Perhaps the most disgusting thing is that wolves will now be afforded no protection in a majority of the state, not even from animal cruelty laws. Are you aware that there are contests to see who can kill the most predators that are held statewide every year? Wolves will be killed as a part of this repulsive and completely unnecessary, outdated practice. They will be shot on sight, run over with snowmobiles (which currently happens to coyotes — just search for it on YouTube), beaten to death, poisoned by M-44 cyanide bombs, left to suffer in traps for up to three days, chased down and shot from aircraft and generally treated lower than dirt. This is unacceptable treatment of any animal, but especially so for an iconic keystone species like the wolf.

We are in the geologic era known as the Anthropocene in which species are going extinct at an alarming rate, much faster than ever before. Large mammals will be the first to go. And we are allowing some of the most vulnerable to purposely be killed? When are we going to move our wildlife management into the modern century? When are we going to listen to science and evidence instead of relying on anachronistic attitudes based on fear and ignorance?

Almost 70 years after Aldo Leopold wrote and taught about the importance of our moral responsibility to the natural world, it’s incredible we are still discussing the wanton killing of predators. The focus of wolf management has to change to co-existence if we are to leave a lasting legacy of complete, diverse ecosystems behind to our children.

Kristin Combs Program Director Wyoming Untrapped
Jackson, WY


Shared by Footloose Montana.

Hello, my name is John Ruther and I would like to deliver a message, using the experience of my dog companion Logans’ death in a snare trap.

The first hint of a snare’s work is your animal will be jumping, acting as if he is getting into mischief off there in the woods. Then, as your attention wanders, the corner of your eye will catch the jumping turning bizzare, almost as if a buck deer, or bear, or mountain lion, or something, is throwing him backwards, violently, over and over. It will be quiet, all the while there will be only the struggle. As you walk cautiously towards that place there will be stillness. When you see your animal it will be alive, fighting with every ounce of life it has left to get air into its’ lungs. Its’ legs will be straight out, perpendicular from the body, the tail will be rigid, the eyes will be wide and bright and pleading, the mouth and tongue will be the wrong color, a precursor to death purple.You may think, as I did, that your animal friend has broken his neck. You might speak to your friend to try to comfort him in what suddenly seems to be his final moments, you will search his body for wounds, you will gently roll him to search his other side and to be prepared to give heart compressions. The realization of his life slipping away will compel you to say his name to him what seems to be a thousand times. In the end you will be staring into his eyes, they will be the eyes of your best friend, they will be shining and filled with terror, and then, as sure as we all will die, the brightness fades slowly, and that unique irreplaceable spirit is no longer there. And then, as you stroke your friends’ still warm body for the last time, you may find it, as I did, the hidden wire around his neck, the snare embedded in his neck and lying in the tall grass and tied to the bush. Then the absurd but necessary for your sanity attempts at mouth to mouth resuscitation and heart compressions, and finally the acknowledgement that it all is very wrong, but absolutely real. This must be trapping at its’ best, the physical killing of a dog and the spiritual killing of a man.