A Public Service Announcement from Footloose Montana
Fall is here. Hunters, hikers, skiers, and all who enjoy public lands, be aware that trapping season is upon us!
The general trapping season is nine months long, September through May. As of September 1, semi-aquatic animals such as beavers, muskrat and mink can be trapped in Eastern Montana. In Western Montana, the furbearer trapping season begins November 1. Wolf trapping season is December 15 through February 28. For a $19 license, five wolves can be killed by traps and/or guns. This means thousands more large traps will blanket public lands already seeded with tens of thousands of traps.
Every year, traps kill at least 50,000 of Montana’s wild animals for their fur and for sport. As conflicts between public land users and trappers increase, a growing number of companion dogs have been maimed and killed. Concealed and baited body-crushing traps, foothold traps and snares catch any animal unfortunate enough to be lured into them.
Trapping for predators, including foxes and coyotes, has no regulations. Traps can be set at any time of the year, anywhere, on hiking trails and public roads. Traps for “furbearing” animals can be set 50 feet away from hiking trails and 30 feet from the centerline of public roads (the length of two pickup trucks). Foothold traps and body-catching snares can be set 300 feet away from trailheads. Spine-crushing conibear traps and neck snares can be set 1,000 feet away from trailheads. Traps and snares can be set 1,000 feet away from campgrounds that are accessible by a highway vehicle. Increased trap-setback regulations apply in certain areas in Trapping Districts 1 and 3 (mostly around Whitefish, Eureka and Bozeman, Montana).
Please check the trap map at www.footloosemontana.org before you go on an outdoors adventure. Footloose Montana posts trap locations reported by the public. If you have any questions, or if you see a trap, or have the unfortunate experience of encountering one, please immediately report the instance with photos if possible to Footloose Montana at 406-274-1069, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. It is illegal to remove traps.
Many people think the trapping days of Jim Bridger—almost two hundred years ago—passed into history, but in Montana the 2014 furbearer trapping season begins on September 1. This means tens of thousands of baited snares, steel leghold and conibear traps are set and hidden, on our public lands. Today trappers do not suffer the elements as Bridger and his fellow mountain men did. After setting their traps, they head home, checking their traps whenever convenient.
However, hikers, skiers, hunters and wildlife watchers need to be aware that traps can be anywhere, and must take great caution because of the possible serious injury and death that traps pose to people and their children and pets. Every year in Montana, pets are injured and killed in non-selective traps—anyone can step into a trap.
The general trapping season begins September 1 and ends May 31. Trapping for beaver began in Central and Eastern Montana on September 1. Trapping of swift foxes in North East Montana and for otter, muskrat and mink begins November 1.
Devices used to trap these semi-aquatic animals include conibear traps and may be submerged along creek and river shorelines; dogs, including bird hunting dogs can easily run across one and be killed or seriously injured. Trapped animals can suffer for days in panic, suffering hypothermia, hunger and thirst. Some chew off their feet or wring off entire limbs to escape the pain.
Trapping for bobcat, fisher, pine marten and wolverine begins December 1, through February 15. Not only beavers, coyotes, martens, otters and bobcats are killed in traps and snares, but also rare and endangered species, including fisher, wolverine and lynx, and recently reintroduced species such as the tiny swift foxes.
Trapping seasons mean more traps on the landscape, but trapping for predators has no regulations at all. Coyote traps, for instance, can be set anywhere year round. No license is required. Setback regulations along trails and near campgrounds don’t apply. There is no season completely safe from traps on public lands.
If your companion animal is caught in a trap, the animal may panic in fear and pain, so it’s best to put your jacket over his head while you release the leg from the trap. Even if you see no blood, nerve damage and blood loss to the foot can be severe so take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible. If you can’t open the trap take the trap and your pet to emergency help. This is a very stressful situation, but it is important to take photos, if possible, and note the exact location of the trap, and any markings on the trap and report to Footloose Montana as well as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.