The Carnage of Wolf Trapping in Idaho. New Public Records Request Shows High Non-Target Capture and Mortality.

47% of Animals Caught by Idaho Wolf Trappers Are Non-Target Species.

A new public records request to Idaho Department of Fish and Game reveals that Idaho wolf trappers are capturing nearly as many non-target species as they are capturing wolves. 47% of the species captured between the 2012/2013 to 2018/2019 trapping seasons, including rare fishers, wolverine, eagle, and lynx were non-target species. Of the non-target species captured, 57% of those were killed. During the period covered by the public records response, wolf trappers killed 813 wolves, caught 620 non-target species of which 269 were released alive and 351 were killed. It is likely that a percentage of those animals that were released alive eventually died from injuries sustained from the traps that either killed them outright or made it difficult for them to find food.

The request was for “data showing capture or mortality of non-target species such as deer, elk, mountain lions, fishers, wolverines, eagles, pets, bobcat, etc. caught by wolf trappers in Idaho between the dates January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2019.”

A previous public records request in 2013 revealed similar problems with wolf and fur trappers in Idaho. That request revealed that 58% of the species captured by trappers who also had a wolf trapping permit, were non-target species.

Some of the species caught by trappers indicates that not all of the species were captured while trying to trap wolves. For example, the data reveals that two fish were killed which is probably more indicative of beaver or muskrat trapping as the cause. The public records response did not explain much about the records received.

The non-target species included bobcat (29), deer (206), dog (15), duck (21), eagle (1), elk (9), fish (2), fisher (56), goose (3), house cat (14), lion (89), lynx (1), magpie (32), marten (2), moose (10), otter (5), porcupine (8), rabbit (42), raccoon (6), raven (5), red fox (8), snowshoe hare (9), squirrel (39), Stellars jay (2), wolf (4), and wolverine (2).


The rare species caught included an eagle, 56 fishers, a lynx, and two wolverines. There is no open season for fisher, kit fox, lynx, or wolverine in Idaho. Lynx are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Additionally, fisher and wolverine have active petitions to list them under the Endangered Species Act and eagles are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Here is the breakdown of the data:

Species Captured Released Alive Killed Percent Killed
Bobcat 29 27 2 7%
Deer 206 86 120 58%
Dog 15 15 0 0%
Duck 21 15 6 29%
Eagle* 1 1 0 0%
Elk 9 0 9 100%
Fish 2 0 2 100%
Fisher* 56 36 20 36%
Goose 3 1 2 67%
House Cat 14 5 9 64%
Lion 89 56 33 37%
Lynx* 1 1 0 0%
Magpie 32 0 32 100%
Marten 2 1 1 50%
Moose 10 6 4 40%
Otter 5 3 2 40%
Porcupine 8 0 8 100%
Rabbit 42 1 41 98%
Raccoon 6 3 3 50%
Raven 5 1 4 80%
Red Fox 8 4 4 50%
Snowshoe Hare 9 0 9 100%
Squirrel 39 2 37 95%
Stellars Jay 2 0 2 100%
Wolf 4 4 0 0%
Wolverine* 2 1 1 50%
Total 620 269 351 57%

* Species with no trapping seasons or with other protections.

License Year Wolves Captured Non-target Captured Non-target Released Alive Non-target Killed Percent Non-target Percent of Non-target Killed
2012-2013 120 147 61 86 55% 59%
2013-2014 103 114 48 66 53% 58%
2014-2015 119 80 29 51 40% 64%
2015-2016 126 31 15 16 20% 52%
2016-2017 84 82 23 59 49% 72%
2017-2018 135 50 29 21 27% 42%
2018-2019 126 116 64 52 48% 45%
Total 813 620 269 351 43% 57%






  1. Jo Thompson Avatar
    Jo Thompson

    Superb post and documentation. Well supported in science. Thank you for your efforts.

    1. Devin miller Avatar
      Devin miller

      That is an outrage. It’s time to #BanTrapping. It’s brutal, ugly, inhumane and outdated. These trappers need to stop making a living killing our wildlife and start doing something worthwhile. This is not Management this is cruelty and ignorance…killing wolves for fun is not sport it’s just based on hate and misinformation. Let the wildlife thrive for a change and tell the ranchers and trappers to find a better way to contribute to our society than wanton killing sprees.

  2. Frank Krosnicki Avatar
    Frank Krosnicki

    And the he men trappers (maybe women too?) remain indignant and proud. I will never understand trapping of any animal except wild animals in our backyards that eat food left by ignorant homeowners. In any case, the trap should be mandated to be a non lethal trap.

  3. velma Samuelson Avatar
    velma Samuelson

    Why are wolves being trapped? Why do hunters want to get them so badly? I have been asking myself that question since the early ’70s. I don’t mind hunters shooting animals for meat. I do mind man hurting or killing to make themselves feel bigger, better or just because it is an animal. They mate for life. Trapping is worse than straight-out killing.

  4. Larry Keeney Avatar
    Larry Keeney

    You have reported this outrageous conduct that is condoned by the state before. I understand the (no I don’t understand) Republican led IDFG but what I really don’t understand is why no federal prosecutions on the threatened species. It would be interesting if the data exists to see how many hunters and fisherpeople are prosecuted for take of mistaken species ID. As far as I know in olden year’s gone by a C.O.
    Would always prosecute such happenings as: A moose shot mistaken for an elk or some other animal, bird or fish taken by mistake. Don’t the citizens of Idaho care that a small group of people get a pass on maiming protected animals that belong to all citizens?

  5. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    Incidental take with impunity. Snares are inexpensive, easy to set, and deadly for anything that gets its head inside the loop.

  6. Theresa Flanigan Avatar
    Theresa Flanigan

    Trapping is and will always be a cruel and unnecessary practice. I’m all for depredation on wolves when needed but by Rifle only!
    The senseless and wasteful murder of innocent animals is disgusting and I’d like to see a ban on all trapping.
    Be a man and walk into the woods with your rifle not a coward who sets a trap.

  7. Dale Houston Avatar
    Dale Houston

    What a travesty of common sense and respect for all animals, disheartening and must be corrected.

  8. KC York Avatar

    Thank you for all your work in obtaining this critical proof of what we know occurs in the secreted disturbing world of trapping. To think, the majority of the non-target species are self reported by trappers. How many go unreported? Trappers police themselves. Like the fox managing the hen house. What, too, of all the dependent young who perish as a result freezing, starving, exposed to the elements and predation, whether their parent is released or not? Since we have no required trap check time in Montana other than 48 hours for wolf trap sets and in designated lynx protection zones for bobcat, animals can legally be trapped for days, weeks. The evidence shows the longer the animal is trapped the greater the damage. Experts and findings provide the proof that after 24 hours the chances grow increasingly slim the animal will survive even if they are released. If the physical trapping injuries aren’t apparent the internal ones are real, i.e. capture myopathy. Wildlife rehabbers can attest to animals succumbing to this even weeks later.
    Recently, we at Trap Free Montana Public Lands, finally managed to get reporting requirements changed but there has been little word on it and equally minimal attention to it. If trapping is deemed to be highly regulated, then why wouldn’t reporting be included? It’s telling when trappers don’t want to disclose.

    Be fully aware, Montana trappers idolize Idaho. Where there is trapping there are indiscriminate victims. Traps set for wolves are monstrous and add a whole new larger to these weapons of mass destruction.

    1. KC York Avatar
      KC York

      meant layer not larger.

    2. Liao Avatar

      In many states, regulation states that traps have to be checked every 24 hours, but it is very unlikely however that an animal would actually stay inside the trap for 24 hours as they are mostly active at nighttime.

      But where is the scientific evidence that after 24 hours the animal couldnt survive?

      1. KC York Avatar

        Sorry, just now seeing this, Liao. There have been multiple studies on various traps, the injuries they inflict, and so forth. Researchers and biologists whose goal is to reduce damage to the animal, constantly monitor or commonly do 12 hour trap checks. Unlike recreational trapping and lethal motives, the biologists try to avoid trapping in the harshness of winter and during high and low temperatures because of obvious reasonings, i.e. exposure, frostbite, dehydration. Regardless, capture myopathy is a serious result of being trapped and can take its toll days, even weeks, afterwards for the seemingly uninjured animal to succumb to it and die. Physiological imbalances occur in response to the stress of being trapped and the over exertion to escape. This results in severe muscle damage primarily to the heart. For more: The longer an animal is trapped the greater the risk as this hormonal stress response remains activated. According to the Guidelines from the American Society of Mammalogists, “The number of traps set at a particular time and location should not exceed the ability of the investigator(s) to monitor them at reasonable intervals. Because frequent checking of traps is the most effective means of minimizing mortality or injury to animals in live traps.”

        1. Ida Lupine Avatar
          Ida Lupine

          Thank you for posting this. This really needs to be taken more seriously. Traps and snares are put up, forgotten about (if you want to think optimistically), and with indifference or outright intent to get rid of a species! These are the things I have read about, anyway.

          It really needs more attention, but with poaching I don’t know how it can be. Maybe legal trapping quotas ought to be more limited to account for the illegal take, and especially for the amount of non-target species that end up trapped.

          If wolverines get an ESA listing, I wonder how it will affect trapping. Nicely sidestepped by previous administrations.

          1. KC York Avatar

            And yet, the powers that be in the Montana 2021 legislature and the good ole boys are hell bent on increasing trapping, destroying as many wolves as possible, and everything else in their path. The list of disturbing bills is long and needs amplification. Montana’s newly elected Governor is a trapper and a life long member of the Montana Trappers Association. He has to be just biting at the bit to sign trapping and wolf kill bills. Increase the wolf trapping season by 30% to over 100 days, allow snaring of wolves, remove requirement for land owner written permission, not that it would matter if another one of their bills passes to reclassify wolves as predators in Montana. Then of course there is the resurrection of the bounty bill to pay trappers and wolf killers.

            1. Ida Lupine Avatar
              Ida Lupine

              They also have another attempt provision for trappers to be paid for trapping wolves. Every so often they try to bring back wolf bounties like this, and it always gets voted down. But they keep trying!

              This is not what people were promised when wolves were delisted and their ‘management’ was handed over to the states. Although we did expect it would happen without any oversight, and rampant anti-wolf sentiment.

              1. Kevin Brown Avatar
                Kevin Brown

                Hi, Here in Idaho they do have a bounty on wolves, it is a thousand dollars. It has turned this state into a mass carnage of dead and maimed animals. I have gave up trying to recreate on our public lands in the winter with my dogs after losing several to neck snares and leg-hold traps. This is insane but there seems to be no-one willing to stop it in the state. The game department is all on board with every form of trapping, the crueler the better. That is why the wolf must be put back on the endangered species list. The state will never do nothing and don’t care. But its not just the wolf traps that are killing everything. The neck snares and steel leg-hold traps set for bobcat and coyotes are just as destructive. Trapping needs to be out-lawed period. Unless using live-traps where an unwanted animal could be released totally unharmed. What has been been allowed to happen with the trapping now is despickable. These traps are now everywhere and anywhere and many are forgotten and left. These are still able to kill anything that gets into them and no one is checking them. The only answer to trapping is to ban it, there is no way to make a trap safe. The people who engage in this are physchos who have no problem watching animals suffer.

                1. Ida Lupine Avatar
                  Ida Lupine

                  Yes, just like the commentary on another thread about jobs that are no longer relevant to the modern world, I think trapping must fall into that category.

                  If predator control is needed so badly, (it isn’t) – there are other ways than indiscriminate traps and snares all over the wild public lands.

                  The sad thing is that it was all predictable, but I think people want to cling to a view of ourselves that isn’t so bloody.

    3. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      The system does seem to be abused – there’s a photo of one guy who trapped his fourth wolf in some very arrogant photos. Not something a state should be proud of.

      How can this be condoned by legislators? And they can’t keep their head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t go on:

      Source: Exposing the Big Game

  9. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    What more can anyone say? This was to be expected once any kind of oversight was handed over to the states.

    As with most things, it is even worse than anyone could have imagined. I just hope that it doesn’t happen in the Great Lakes. As before, the last stronghold of wolves.

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      The Great Lakes states, at least MN, allows coyote snaring. Those snares also nab incidental catch, including moose and deer.

  10. C. Denise Mastroianni-Di Biasi Avatar
    C. Denise Mastroianni-Di Biasi

    THIS MUST STOP!!! God gave us animals for reason. These people use the animals to kill. STOP THIS!

  11. kevin brown Avatar
    kevin brown

    I HAVE BEEN FIGHTING THIS FIGHT AGAINST TRAPPING ALL MY LIFE AND i AM IN MY 60’S. i ALWAYS KNEW ONCE THEY GOT THEM OFF THE E.S.L. WE AND EVERY ANIMAL WERE SCREWED. mY QUESTION; WHERE ARE ALL THE GROUPS I SUPPORT THAT CLAIM TO BE TRYING TO STOP THIS. are they just ineffective. I would encourage them to join forces with their priority to end trapping. Without doing this everthing else is a lost cause. Nothing worse than a trapper.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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