Footloose Montana Proposes “Montana Trap-Free Public Lands Initiative”

The ban on traps would apply to public lands only-

Story in the Great Falls Tribune. Group aims to put a stop to trapping on public lands. By Michael Babcock.  Great Falls Tribune Outdoor Editor.

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News Release from Footloose, Montana-

Footloose Montana Proposes
“Montana Trap-Free Public Lands Initiative”

Helena, Mont. – Public lands in Montana will become trap-free, if an initiative filed today with the Secretary of State qualifies for the November 2010 general election and is approved by a majority of voters. Download Initiative

The “Montana Trap-Free Public Lands Initiative” would prohibit trapping on public lands in Montana, except for scientific, public health and safety activities.  Under the initiative, proposed by the Florence-based group, Footloose Montana, trapping on private lands, which comprise 65 percent of the state, will not be affected.
Dr. Tim Provow, a Footloose Montana board member, hunter, and member of the National Rifle Association, said that most trapping on public lands conflicts with hunting ethics.  “The first rule of hunting is to ‘Be Sure of Your Target!,’” Provow said.  “Trapping violates this rule by its indiscriminate killing of many species, including endangered, threatened and sensitive species, such as Canada lynx and American bald eagle,” he said.

Species targeted by trapping, such as marten and otter, are severely depleted, according to the text of the initiative, while wolverine and fisher are at risk of extinction in Montana. Trapping is a leading cause of the steep declines in these species, the initiative states.

“Trapping does not honor the hunters’ ethical code of ‘Fair Chase,’ or the time-honored principles of quick and efficient kill,” Provow continued.  “Tens of thousands of untended, unmonitored traps on public lands lure wild and domestic animals with bait.  For every wild furbearer killed, many more non-targeted wild and domestic animals are killed and discarded, in violation of hunting and outdoors ethics,” Provow said.

Connie Poten, secretary of Footloose Montana and co-owner of a western Montana Vineyard and Winery, said:  “Montana’s public land should be safe for all citizens and their pets.  Under current law, trappers are able to set an unlimited number of traps, warning signs are not required, and trappers are not required to check their traps in any specific period of time.

“Thousands of camouflaged traps directly endanger adults, children, and pets,” Poten said.  “Montanans should not have to compromise peace of mind, welfare of children, and pet safety when using public land.”

Public lands trapping contributes little to Montana’s economy, Poten said.  “In Fiscal Year 2008, trapping brought in a total of $94,000 in revenue to the State of Montana.  In comparison, over the same fiscal year, hunting generated direct revenue to the state of $45 million and fishing generated direct revenue to the state of $20 million.

“Federal studies show that wildlife watching brought $376 million into Montana in 2006,” Poten continued.  “If trapping were limited to private land this financial contribution would likely increase as rare species become more abundant and visible on our public lands.”

Poten said trappers are currently allowed to trap certain species (such as fox, coyote, and badger) year-round without any regulations at all.  Only four species (otter, bobcat, fisher and wolverine), out of the 14 species pursued (beaver, otter, muskrat, mink, marten, fisher, wolverine, weasel, bobcat, fox, coyote, skunk, raccoon and badger) have any quotas.  These quotas are determined in the absence of detailed scientific data concerning species populations and how affected species are distributed across Montana, said Poten.

Anja Heister, the group’s executive director, said Footloose Montana is organizing local chapters across the state to help gather signatures for the initiative.  She said the initiative needs at least 24,400 signatures of registered voters from at least 34 legislative districts, to qualify for the November 2010 general election ballot.

The complete text of the “Montana Trap-Free Public Lands Initiative” is available he



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  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I have been hunting and fishing in Idaho for more than 60 years. I hope to continue for another 60.
    Commercial, recreational, and/or governmental trapping is something I cannot support. The trapped animals I have personally come across, while in the outdoors, were caused incredible suffering by the person that trapped them. Trapping needs to go the way of the covered wagon.

  2. Jon Way Avatar

    “State wildlife managers support trapping and recognize its importance in managing furbearing populations” – Easy to say when they pay your paycheck… Things would be different and this unnecessary quote wouldn’t be in all state fish and game’s automated, entrenched viewpoint if they allowed other users of wildlife to participate in wildlife management…

  3. JimT Avatar

    Time for it to wrong on so many levels, unnecessary and is a danger for non-target animals as well, including domestic dogs. We once encountered a trapper in New Hampshire who was checking his lines..and one of them was within 20 yards of the Appalachian Trail!!!! Needless to say, we disagreed on his placement as well as the need for trapping. Unfortunately, there is no least in Vermont and New Hampshire..that the traps are registered and traceable, and the owners held accountable.

    What the hell is wrong with being accountable this days?

  4. william huard Avatar

    I remember last year in Indiana the dept of Nat resources was trying to stop trappers from selling coyotes to hunting clubs down south for wildlife penning where foxes and coyotes were very often ripped to shreds by packs of dogs. There was the Nat Trappers Assoc and their members trying to prevent emails from coming to light showing the trapping community and their contempt for wildlife- we are talking the very lowest dregs of society here- Iwas shocked and angered by their careless exploitation of natural resources. You know that traps have a way of finding the bottom of lakes and streams very easily.

  5. Simon Gerty Avatar
    Simon Gerty

    I am a life long trapper, made my living for many years SOLELY as a trapper.

    good, professional trappers are the modern day mountain men of this country, no one knows the land and it’s inhabitants like a top trapper does.

    that said, I made more money in one year, six figures, as an outdoor guide to tree huggers and bunny petters then I made in 30+ years of trapping.
    I am retired 5 years now having guided city folk and wanna be hippies and giving them instruction on the outdoor world and lifestyle and I was able to retire after only 6 years of guiding.

    my point being that as a RECREATION trapping is a hard thing to take away from the hobbyists that do it, but as a LIVING there are better ways to stay outdoors and still make tons of money off the very people who call a trapper a bad person.

    also, a summer home owner who posts their land and won’t let you trap the beavers for FREE will not blink when you remove them under Nuisance Permit charging him $150 each for the beaver removal….you don’t try to make a milk shake with lemons, you make lemonade!

    Also, on Public Lands as Massachusetts and Arizona have done along time ago, it is WISE to only use LIVE TRAPS, cage traps are expensive and ahrd to transport, true, however that is the price of the hobby of trapping , and if ALL PUBLIC LANDS were restricted to cage traps and other Live traps only, then where would the non-target catches go?//….they’d be let go, that’s where.
    cage trapping and live traps only on public lands are only good common sense.

  6. Harold Johnson Avatar
    Harold Johnson

    I cannot agree with the antitrapping legislation. It appears that the people who are pushing this have used the example of a few dogs caught in traps near towns which were no doubt set by kids illegially (no trap tags, which is a requirement for all trappers) as ammo to try to put forth a ban on all trapping on public land. Coyotes need control in some areas and trapping is a viable way to do this. Beavers often build dams near roads and flood them. It is alot simpler to call a local trapper to take care of the problem then trying to find somebody out of helena to do it. I fail to see how people out catching muskrats (a big rat, basically) in aquatic environments is bothering anyone. As an example, the neighbors kid trapped 40 muskrats with conibears under the water. He caught no other species of animals except one mink, which are legal to trap. I might add that he also took trapper training classes, required by all new trappers. Those 40 muskrats were sold for just over $6.00 each, which amounted to $240 more for this kids college fund. I have watched the news concerning problems with trapping and found that in every instance the trapping problem was caused by untagged traps, meaning these people were breaking the law in the first place. No ethical trapper traps areas where people are found: along walking trails? where people run their dogs? I have also found that many of the people for this measure are out of state transplants, they care little for the people out controlling animal populations and trying to earn a little extra revenue in doing so.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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