More by-catch in Montana wolf trapping season

Already 6 dogs caught and one grizzly bear-

There is probably even more by catch than reported below in Montana’s second wolf trapping season, which just began. In addition to last year’s by catch, wolf traps took a tremendous toll on Yellowstone Park wolves that wandered across the Park’s straight line border.  Not reported, it is likely even more Yellowstone Park wildlife than wolves was caught. Some think that this is an insult to the entire nation.

It appears that everyone’s dog that is taken onto the public lands, some private lands and even a city parks in Montana this winter are now at risk of a trap or strangulation in a snare.

Footloose Montana is an organization devoted to bringing indiscriminate trapping under control and teaching people how to safely free their pets and other animals inadvertently (non-target animals) trapped or snared.

They have a news release giving the details of the latest dog incidents and info on freeing your dog(s). We reported earlier about the big grizzly that was accidentally a few days ago.

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News Release
Footloose Montana

Three Dogs Trapped in the Ninemile Valley, One Dead, Two injured

In early December, two dogs belonging to the Sousa family in the Nine Mile Valley were caught in traps on public land adjacent to the Sousa Ranch. The trapper released them after 24 hours in sub-zero temperatures but did not contact the owners or take the injured dogs home, even though they had phone and address on their tags, according to Jan Sousa.

Lily, an English Mastiff puppy, made her way a mile home in four hours with a frozen paw, starving and exhausted.  She will lose part of her foot. The ten-year-old French Brittany, Lucy, was not so lucky.  Three days later, she arrived home, with a frozen paw, septic and dehydrated.  Her leg could not be saved, and she was too arthritic to be able to maneuver on three legs, so after a week in the hospital, had to be put down.

On December 15, on a Christmas tree outing about one mile past the Nine Mile Ranger Station, an 80-pound black lab named Sunny was caught in a baited trap near a pullout on a road with an air traffic control shed and a sign marked 18200.

“Before we could get our boots on, my dog Sunny was screaming in pain a short distance away,” wrote Nicole Marshall in an email to Footloose Montana’s Facebook page.  “My fiancé ran to her while I held the other dog back and when he reached her (in no time at all) she was caught in a leg hold trap and bleeding from the mouth from biting at the trap.”

The dog’s damaged lower canine teeth may have to be pulled.  Traps are indiscriminate, they catch anything, including endangered species, birds, and companion animals.  The unlucky creature that steps in one suffers psychological and physiological trauma.  Panic, thirst and hunger drive animals to chew off their feet or even twist off entire limbs to escape the extreme pain.  Underwater traps for beaver and muskrat cause a slow, terrifying death by drowning and snares slowly strangle the creature, who can last for weeks as so-called jellyheads, until they are clubbed to death by the trapper.

In a Billings city park yesterday, December 19, three dogs were reported caught in two snares and one leg hold trap.  This was the Phipps/Diamond X Park.

Footloose Montana also received notice on December 16 that “traps are set along the Gibbons Pass Road, starting about 200-yards from the trailhead at Lost Trail Pass.  The traps are a body-grip style, sent about four feet high on the tree, with a cone and bait above that,” states the report.

Please check the map at for updates on trap locations reported to Footloose Montana.  Please write or call 406-274-7878 with any trap sightings information.  Footloose Montana is a nonprofit, grassroots organization that promotes trap-free public lands for people, pets and wildlife

For instructions on how to release your dog from a trap, please see


Your friends at Footloose Montana




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  1. Ken Cole Avatar

    So, at this point, there have been 7 wolves reportedly trapped and 7 non-target animals, one an endangered species. What a barbaric practice.

    1. Louise Kane Avatar
      Louise Kane

      “what a barbaric practice”
      barbaric, disgusting, inhumane, archaic, out to be banned, indefensible, horrifying
      Footloose does indeed deserve donations and its going to take money and dedication to get rid of these obscene devices.
      The outrage directed at pets being caught in traps and snares needs to be just as directed at wildlife dying like this. No animal wild or domestic should ever die in any trap. Its 2013 not 1800.

  2. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    Better practice with conibears. Doesn’t matter how many times you may watch a video. I know we spoke about this last year, a out the same time.

    Cable cutters for snares are with me at all times when once venture into the woods with my dog. But if conibears are allowed anywhere around you (pick up a DNR hunting trapping manual) you better know how to disarm one. I was practicing with a 110 and got my thumb caught in it. Hurts like hell. Unless you have two hands, or a good rope with a loop in the end, plus the knowledge to disarm it, your dog is going to die.

    And I’m not talking about dogs running amok in the woods. A dog under voice control a few yards away, investigating something you can’t see, and its over.

    1. jon Avatar

      Do you think it’s possible that Idaho or Montana will ever allow conibear traps to be used on wolves?

      1. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue


        Don’t know, but conibear type 220’s and 330’s set in water are usually the trap of choice for beaver. Smaller ones, like the 110’s are usually set in cubby boxes, five gallon buckets, or in trees.

      2. Scott Slocum Avatar

        Immer Treue: you’re absolutely right.

        Jon: wolves aren’t normally caught by body-gripping traps: they’re too wary of them. However, wolves are caught and quickly killed by RAM Power Snares (the narrow-gauge equivalent of body-gripping traps). The most common trapping method for wolves is by a leghold trap concealed under a thin cover of ground near food and/or scent lure in a hole or on a post.

  3. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    Beaver trap breaks Oregon man’s leg.

    No real detail in regard to type of trap, but conibear 220’s and 330’s are used for beaver, and usually have to be at least partially water set.

  4. Gail Avatar

    Anything that cannot be qiickly and easily disarmed by the average adult needs a complete and total ban immediately. How dare they allow such deadly contraptions to be legal? How did trapper influence over common decency and public safety become so powerful?
    This should have been done years ago, before they decided to weave hunting and gun ownership rights into their arguments.

  5. jon Avatar

    That is sad. More and more animals will unfortunately get caught in traps and some killed and some will have to have their legs amputated. This is nonsense. We have to allow a small group of trappers put their traps on public lands that pose a danger to all animals. I hope footloose gets trapping banned completely in Montana, but I suspect it won’t happen anytime soon. The bloodthirsty trappers cannot defend their sport as they know non-target animals and dogs are getting caught and killed by their traps. Maybe not now, but in the future, I expect trapping to be a thing of the past because you will continue to hear more and more stories of dogs and non-target animals being caught and killed by traps. It’s inevitable.

  6. jon Avatar

    “Traps are indiscriminate, they catch anything, including endangered species, birds, and companion animals.”

    This is why trapping is going to eventually be banned.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    I think Footloose deserves your donations. I am very unhappy about this late fall (in Idaho) and early winter takeover of our common space.

    I don’t have a dog, but I hate all the by-catch, and I suppose I am not totally safe from injury myself.

  8. Carter Niemeyer Avatar
    Carter Niemeyer

    I spoke with the chief of Idaho Department of Fish and Game law enforcement earlier this fall about Conibear/body-gripping traps in Idaho because I was doing a public service video with the Idaho Conservation League on how to remove dogs from traps and snares. So there is no misunderstanding – Conibear traps including the 330 (largest one) can be legally set ON LAND in Idaho. I must say that I was astonished when I heard this but it is true. A colleague of mine got his labrador caught in a 330 in Idaho last year and only because he and his grandson knew how they worked were they able to save the dog. Without know some real tricks to removing an animal from a Conibear, 99.9 percent of the public would never be able to save their dog from one. The Conibear that caught his dog had been set by a trapper for bobcats. If you are roaming around Idaho with your dog I would be damn careful. I am almost certain that Montana allows their use on land too with some restrictions.

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue


      I was talking about MN and water set conibears (220 and 330). I don’t have the regs in front of me, but I think the only set on land is the 110 and must be in a bucket or cubby.

      220’s and 330’s on land is irresponsible in a world of multiuse.

      1. Scott Slocum Avatar

        Immer Treue: oh, no, that’s not at all true about the MN regs! Please check out your link to the Star Tribune article, re-examine the MN trapping regulations, and refrain from reassuring anyone about the “safety” of their dogs in MN.

    2. Trap Free Montana Public Lands Avatar

      In Montana, on land only 220 conibears, ie 7 x 7 inches or bigger must be recessed 7 inches in a cubby with an opening of 52 sq inches or less. Even a large breed dog could get his snout, if not his head, caught reaching in for the bait. In water, anything goes, including the 330 conibears, as long as 1/3 or more are submerged in water. In Montana, dogs that have been caught in conibears, were, by and large, caught along or in the waterways. Owners reportedly struggled frantically trying to disarm these confusing contraptions. One gal simply laid down next to her dying dog. Designed to be a quick kill, gasping their final breaths for minutes at most, must seem like a lifetime nightmare. Our ballot initiative only allows conibears on public land in water, for health or public safety, only as a last resort after non-lethal methods have been proved ineffective at abating an animal problem,only for 30 days in a calendar year and requires warning signs for the public and public disclosure.

  9. Carter Niemeyer Avatar
    Carter Niemeyer

    I demonstrated a 330 Conibear trap for a sizable audience in Washington state a couple of months ago using a stuffed dog. If you have ever watched a 330 slam shut with lightning speed you will never, ever forget it. Several people told me it left a lasting impression on them but, nonetheless, these body-gripping traps are ON land at ground level in Idaho.

    1. jon Avatar

      I am certain of that especially if you seen one slam down while your dog is in it. It must be a truly horrible experience to witness a person’s dog go through that.

      1. IDhiker Avatar

        I had a small lab caught in a conibear many years ago near Stevensville, Montana. It was placed right next to the trail (legal then). Because in those days I was into weight training and was very strong, I was able to free the dog, even though I had never seen such a contraption before.

        But, I will say that I was lucky as the dog almost suffocated. I agree that a person without knowledge of these traps would generally never be able to free their pet. Needless to say, that conibear went out of circulation.

        I had nightmares about that experience for several years – it kept coming back into my mind and I relived it constantly.

        1. Scott Slocum Avatar

          Most of us don’t have the skills or the strength to release a live, fighting dog even from a smaller #160 body-gripping trap. This is a personal account from my own experience.

    2. Scott Slocum Avatar

      Carter Niemeyer: thanks for your honest and helpful series of trap-release videos for the Idaho Conservation League:
      Traps and Pet Safety, parts 1-5.

      A couple of minor improvements could be made on the body-gripping trap demonstration (part 5):

      1) for a #160 or smaller trap, it’s easier to thread the trap-spring loops with the “handle end” of the leash and make the loop for your foot with the “latch end” of the leash.

      2) the “twice through” method of threading and pulling the leash looks like it would be easier on the dog (as shown in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game video How to release a dog from a body grip trap.

  10. Jon Way Avatar

    When something like that is allowed (Conibears on land) you know the agencies are really beyond being reformed. I find Carter’s testimony truly eye-opening. I look fwd to the day when trapper opportunity is put in the back burners and common sense, decency, and humaneness are prioritized. This will only happen when the current ppl in wildlife management get some accountability and forced to change their barbaric practices. I don’t know if I could look in the mirror if i worked for one of those agencies and say that this is sound wildlife mgmt in the 21st century. But the spineless politicians will do nothing about this, I feel it right now, all to preserve a minority of ppl’s interest…

    1. IDhiker Avatar

      I fear that most of us will never live long enough to see this culture change in wildlife management. But, it will change someday.

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        I fear that the only way it will change is when there is no wildlife left to ‘manage’.

        1. Donald J. Jackson Avatar
          Donald J. Jackson


          They were saying that at the end of the 1800’s and we now have much more numbers than ever before, in the early 1900’s whitetail deer would have qualified for ESA protection and were almost extinct. Now they are one the most numerous species around.

          1. Ida Lupine Avatar
            Ida Lupine

            I don’t know Donald, maybe we’ll still have whitetails, but I don’t know. It’s only from benign neglect anyway, because hunting isn’t as big in a lot of areas as it once was. The wolves and other predators sure are heading back to the 1800s!

            Jon, I sure hope so because the state of affairs now, what the illegal delisting has set in motion, is an absolute nightmare.

            1. Donald J. Jackson Avatar
              Donald J. Jackson

              I don’t either Ida,

              Perhaps it is time for the idea of individual states to leave us and we just have one entity, get rid of the states, then one central government could make all of the rules. What do you think?

              1. Ida Lupine Avatar
                Ida Lupine

                I think we both can agree that that would not work.

                But, I don’t think people should be killing off predators because they don’t like them or they are inconvenient, or because of the lingering effects of folk tales, or because they don’t like the tree and bunny huggers, and we’ll show ’em, or blame some ‘other’ for our mismanagement of habitat and decline of elk and moose. I don’t think as humans we can do everything and anything we want. We need to show some restraint. Nature, or God, or however you see a higher power put them here, and we don’t know better than that and cannot improve upon it, IMHO.

      2. Jon Way Avatar

        more and more people are getting ideas of how this will change. The great thing about killing contests is it really opens people’s eyes as to how wildlife is really managed. I am convinced that agencies will be reformed sooner than later… The problem is that the major conservation groups don’t have the right focus on how to do that. Smaller ones to and realizing that they are beyond being reformed is important to produce change.

  11. Jon Way Avatar

    should say some “smaller ones do realize how to make this change”

  12. Valerie Bittner Avatar


    Re: neck snares without stops. Are they legal in ID, MT, and WYO??

    Because as many know when a wolf is snared without stops he or she is not strangled within minutes but lives on in agony as the blood keeps pumping into the brain causing internal imploding or “jelly brain” as Wildlife Services calls it.

    1. Scott Slocum Avatar

      The only stops I’m aware of on snares are “deer stops” that prevent the snares from tightening on a small-diameter body part like a deer’s leg but don’t interfere in any way with their action on a larger-diameter body part like a canine neck. Other safety features on “cable restraints,” however, include breakaway links on snares that are set only for smaller animals, relaxing locks on snares that are set where they might otherwise harm or kill non-target animals, and other precautions to prevent entanglement or suspension of the animal by the snare. WI trapping documents and regulations are very thorough on these points; good model for other states.

    2. Scott Slocum Avatar

      Of course the counterpart of a minimum-size “deer stop” is a maximum-size stop that prevents the snare loop from being slid open wider than necessary to snare the target animal. That kind of stop avoids the capture of animals (e.g. deer snared by the neck) larger than the target animal (e.g. fox snared by the neck).

  13. Leslie Avatar

    I will be writing a letter to the enterprise about my experience last week with my dog in a leghold.

    Because I looked online and examined a leghold last year I was educated enough to release my dog quickly and luckily for me this trap was not stiff as that would have required me to stand on the trap rather than use my hands.

    But I’ve watched those videos on Conibear traps and there is just no way I could actually release my 90 pound dog. The guy in the video was manipulating a stuffed dog in the air, turning it all around and he was having trouble as experienced as he is. And he said you really need two experienced people. I call it criminal that these are allowed on our public lands as they put everyone else at risk.

  14. Real Nice Guy Avatar
    Real Nice Guy

    If one is on public lands, or other lands one does not completely control, one should keep the dog leashed, no? I definitely not trying to blame dog owners for indiscriminate trapping, but I am wondering why one would let a dog loose knowing that there is a strong possibility of traps in the area.

    1. Leslie Avatar

      My dog was walking as if on a leash a few steps ahead of me. We were walking on the road side and he stepped to sniff sone planted scent and scat. Leashing does not necessarily help. Besides, even the game warden told me that I shouldn’t have to leash a dog where I was. A well trained dog under voice control should be able to walk off leash on large public lands. We are not talking here about city or suburbs areas, but vast spaces of desert or mountains.

    2. Scott Slocum Avatar

      Real Nice Guy: first, are you trying to give that bad advice to upland game hunters who use dogs? Second, people are often surprised by hidden traps; they don’t know about that “strong possibility”; their dogs are killed in places they reasonably expected to be safe.

      Leslie: you’re absolutely right.

  15. jon Avatar

    This is Scott Rockholm’s fb page. He recently made a post comparing wolf reintroduction to the BP oil spill. Here is what he said on his fb page.

    “The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico took the lives of 4800 animals, 535 of which were turtles. The massive media coverage spanned the globe, and billions of dollars were paid in fines, from this one environmental disaster.

    Wolf introduction in the Rocky Mountain West, caused cataclysmic environmental damage, killing hundreds of thousands of animals, and not so much as a peep from mainstream media. In fact, the disaster continues, with the media advancing the agenda to sterilize our forrest’s. Wolf introduction was the worst environmental disaster known to mankind.”

    Clearly only a sick individual would compare a reintroduction of a native species to a horrific oil spilled that killed many many animals.

    1. Scott Slocum Avatar

      You have to hand it to him, though; he has an effective sound byte there. People like him love that “cataclysmic” and “mainstream media” conspiracy bs. Not so much the facts.

  16. Scott Slocum Avatar

    Dr. Maughan: will you please add a link to the Footloose Montana press release? I don’t see it on their website. Thanks!

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Scott I just added Footloose’s link to the bottom of their news release. Here it is too


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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