Carolyn Mehl and Jonathan Haufler: Unregulated Coyote Trapping on Public Lands in Montana | Columnists
CAROLYN MEHL and JONATHAN HAUFLER
A little over a year ago, while bird hunting in Montana, two of our bird dogs were caught in coyote snares. We saw the first dog get trapped and worked to free him, not realizing that our second dog had also been trapped as he tried to come back to us and died before we could. can reach it. We were hunting legally on public land and there was no way of knowing these death traps were in the area.
In our research on how such distressing events could be avoided in the future, we uncovered two disturbing facts. First, the deadliest trap for dogs reenacting with their people on public land is a coyote trap. They are unmarked, baited and, as we have discovered, can also be of a type known as an electric trap which requires special aircraft cable cutters to be carried at all times to quickly release a dog.
Second, we discovered that coyote trappers are not regulated in Montana, the only requirement being that they attach a name tag to the trap or snare. Indeed, coyotes are considered a “predatory animal” in Montana and as such fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Animal Husbandry; not the FWP and the Fish and Wildlife Commission, as most Montana people believe.
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Those who trap and stick coyotes on public land are not required to have a permit, do not have to report incidental captures (non-target species), and have no regulations regarding when, where, how or what type trap or snare is used. The lack of regulation is apparently designed to allow considerable leeway in controlling livestock predation, but the lack of regulation, when applied broadly on public lands, poses an unacceptable threat to other users. recreation of these lands.
For example, trappers with an FWP license are required to follow setback restrictions along certain types of public roads and trails, which coyote trappers may currently ignore. Licensed trappers have designated permitted seasons for fur-bearing animal species, while coyote trappers can trap or trap at any time.
What can be done to reduce the potential for harm to legal users of public lands from the consequences of coyote trapping? To fully address this issue, changes to existing state laws are required, requiring that all trapping activities be governed by the laws and regulations administered by the FWP.
To date, the Montana legislature has failed to respond to these longstanding concerns and instead, based on our experience, responds strongly to the interests of trappers and the ranching industry. This isn’t just a problem for Montana, as other western states with considerable public land also fail to adequately regulate coyote trapping.
As outdoor recreation increases, it’s time for public land agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, to recognize the inadequacy of the land response. ‘State and respond to the concerns of affected user groups. They should also be concerned about any type of trapping that is not overseen by wildlife management professionals for impacts on other species and resources.
Wildlife management agencies and organizations, such as the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Wildlife Society, voice support for regulated trapping. Consistent with this, public land agencies should require that all trapping activities on public lands be regulated by a national wildlife management agency and restricted to licensed trappers.
While these recommendations do not address all of the potential tragic consequences associated with this problem, they would at least provide some common sense advice on how trapping on public lands should be carried out, as well as allow for public participation in a very controversial issue in Montana.
Carolyn Mehl and Jonathan Haufler are Certified Wildlife Biologists. Jonathan Haufler is also Past President of the Wildlife Society, the international organization for wildlife management professionals.