Utilizing the truths in trapping, the best available science, ethics, & responsible stewardship to achieve trapping reform.

2016 MT Trapping Proposals!

The Montana FWP Commissioners voted during the July 13 public hearing on the 2016/17 trapping proposals, wolf quota and griz mgt plan. 
Three of our board members from Hamilton and Great Falls went to Helena and we gave public comment again on all the proposals. Pro-wildlife participants far outnumbered anti-wildlife. Other than Helena, the FWP regions appeared sparsely attended. However, it quickly became clear, the Commissioners votes had already been cast.
Here are the winners and the losers:

  • Wolf quota for unit 313, outside Yellowstone will remain at 2!
  • A no wolf trapping zone in the Deckard Flat - Trail Creek elk closure area will be instituted!

655 "communications" were received by FWP regarding the wolf quota increase with most opposed to hunting and trapping wolves.  Many were reportedly from out of state, but Commissioners stated, Montana does care about the tourists. Rightfully we should!  Tourism is our 2nd leading industry and wolves and grizzlies are what many come here to see. Although the elk in unit 313 area are at management objectives, comments were this decision wasn't biologically based but was done for social reasoning.  We thank our friends at Wolves of the Rockies for taking the lead and all their work on keeping this quota as low as it is.

  • The Grizzly tri-state agreement with some change to the hunting structure was approved. We'll leave the info on the Grizzly up to those groups that are following and working for them. Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Sierra Club, Defenders, Wildearth Guardians, i.e., gave some great comment at the hearing.
  • Trap setbacks from designated roads, trails, trailheads, etc. as now applies for trapping furbearers and wolves will apply for trapping ALL, including predators and nongame!
  • The swift fox quota will be reduced from 30 to 10 which is consistent with the average number being reported trapped and killed annually since they were reintroduced and trapping resumed!
  • More bobcat will legally be trapped as commissioners voted to increase the quota from 180 to 200 for Region 2 ie Bitterroots, Missoula, also areas designated Lynx habitat.
  • Despite public comment 2:1 opposing increasing the trapping of River Otters  for Region 1, NW Montana, the otters again lost and their quota will go from 23 to 28!
Monitoring the quotas and reviewing over the years the reports, one can basically conclude this is the norm. Regions that go over quota are addressed and reinforced by having the quota increased. During the Commissioner's hearing, FWP provided graphs depicting the increased trapping of River Otter as summation the River Otter population has increased and increasing the quotas are therefore justified. Yet what the graphs show us is more River Otter are killed, not that more exist, or existed over time.

FWP reports trapping is market driven. River Otter pelts sold for $63 on average to high of $127 in Montana this past season early on. However, unless the trappers aren't interested the wildlife rarely catch a break. When trappers lose an interest in a species, FWP reportedly increases the quota to entice them.
  • Despite the FWP Commissioners proposal in May to actually eliminate a quota on the rare Fisher, they since met with the Montana Trappers Association and rescinded. Fisher will now have 4 mgt areas with a quota of 5 and subquotas of 1 female in 2 of the areas. Killing 1 female is potentially far more than killing 1 fisher. They experience delayed implantation and therefore can either be pregnant or caring for dependent young during the trapping season.
  • Montana Trappers Association testified previously that Fisher weren't of interest to them and that Fisher were incidentally trapped in Marten sets. Since then they must have looked up the pricing of Fisher fur and seeing it basically tripled in value in three years from $50 to $145 they became very interested! A trapper testified yesterday in a region where Fisher were reintroduced and actually have not appeared to survive. He said trapping a Fisher is like trapping the Holy Grail! What a gift. What it really is about, friends. Wildlife are trapped and killed for selfish greed.
    Photo of fisher in trap.  Trappers selfish greed took characteristic precedence over the Fisher trapping 2016/17 proposals

    Photo courtesy: Zaxtor. Reproduced for educational purposes.

FWP neglected to mention in their publicized cover sheet of numerous comments received supporting NRDC 24 hr trap checks that was denied public comment. Yet during the hearing, FWP acknowledged the comments were significant. Not on the agenda was the Dept of Livestock providing comment at length on their need to continue to use M44s and opposing any tools such as snaring being removed from their war on predation especially against coyotes even on public lands or in Grizzly habitat. Commissioner Wolfe asked to what extent are these deadly M44 (sodium cyanide) explosives used on public land? The answer remains unknown.

Short from ending trapping, it is hard to really find much winning given the cruel and unnecessary practice of trapping. Of the reported 480 comments FWP received, 54% opposed trapping and favored all proposals to limit trapping. From yesterday's FWP Commissioners public hearing what was evident  is the trappers remain in control and our wildlife is managed, or the lack thereof, in Montana, for trappers. 
What was further emphasized by Montana FWP and promoted by some Commissioners is trapping is a heritage to be protected in Montana.
In contrast,  we will continue to push for preservation and ethical treatment of wildlife for their intrinsic, economical and ecological value.


Below are some facts and more detail to help you submit necessary public comment for Montana's wildlife!

  • Increase Quotas for Bobcat Region 2 (Missoula/Ravalli county area) from 180 Bobcat to 200.    NO!

District/Region 2 has gone over quota on bobcat for 4 years in a row for a recorded total of 45 over quota.

Bobcat quota/harvest table 2011-14 showing over quota

 This year, finally, Region 2 was closed proactively before it came too close to the quota. However, adjacent Region 3 went over quota, again.  A trapper, licensed taxidermist, licensed fur buyer since 1966, from Region 2,  Larry Rose, Chief of Police, wrote in a letter to the editor,  "Here is what is going on, when Region No. 1 fills their quota, many of the trappers just keep on trapping, they can say they are trapping fox or coyotes, when a bobcat is trapped in these so-called sets, they turn them in as trapped in Region 2 or 3; quickly filling the quotas in those areas. A warden made the comment that there are about five cats a day turned in to Region 2, until Region 1’s quota is filled; then Region 2 jumps to nine or 10 per day."    Too Many Illegal Trappers, Not Enough Bobcats.  Ravalli Republic 2014

Regions 1, 2, 3, together, went over quota by 187 bobcats in the last 5 years.  

As long as it is within the trapping season and the lax regulations, they are permitted to keep these highly lucrative bobcats over quota. Bobcat pelts have gone for $225-$1100 each!

8338 bobcat were recorded killed, overwhelmingly by trapping, in Montana in the last 5 years with 6 of the 7 regions going over quota!

District 2 includes designated Lynx habitat. It is counter intuitive to increase incidental trapping risks to them.

  • Increase Otter quota for Region 1 (Flathead region) from 23 otter to 28.   NO!

Here again, Region 1 has gone over quota for Otter in 4 of the last 5 years. This year TFMPL started calling when it was 1 under quota according to FWP harvest reporting website. We were told it was actually already 1 over but neither the website or the 24 hr hotline were indicative of this. Region 1 closed 3 days later. It went 3 reported over quota, from 23 to 26 killed.

FWP's response to increase quotas in these regions makes a mockery of the very notion of a quota.  Lax regulations, inadequate monitoring techniques, trapper's irresponsible behavior and greed facilitate trappers exceeding the quota.  Overages should actually come off the next year's quota! Increasing quotas reinforces and exacerbates the problem.  Unfortunately, the furbearers pay the lethal penalty.

  • Decrease Swift Fox quota for Region 6 from 30 to 10.   YES and Better if 0!

Over the years the average trapped has been 11. Swift fox were wiped out during the wolf eradication periods and reintroduced. FWP says trapping is market driven and there is no reported market value for Swift fox pelts.

  • Commissioners motioned to reduce Fisher quota to 0.   YES

Commissioners asked if all we are harvesting is a quota of 7 Fisher, why are we at all? Over 10 years an average of 7 of the rare Fisher have been trapped in Regions 1 and 2. This year 4 were trapped and killed quite possibly indicative of a further declining population.

  • Establish current trap setbacks on state and federal lands to apply to all species, i.e. predators and non-game.  YES!  

To help reduce the likelihood of dogs getting caught in traps.
Urge FWP to link with local animal control/humane associations for trapped "at large" dog reports to help reunite lost dogs.

And for the most important proposal to wildlife and pets: 

  • Zack Strong, with NRDC, proposed 24 hr trap checks for all wildlife, and prohibition on snares and M-44's(sodium cyanide) in Grizzly habitat/active time periods.     YES!

According to FWP Bureau Chief John Vore, FWP does not support this proposal because:
A 24 hr trap check is inappropriate for Montana. "It just doesn't fit on Montana landscape; that it would severely limit trappers and cost and benefits, it just doesn't work out."
The snare prohibition is not needed as it would primarily involve agencies addressing livestock protection and there is no record of snared grizzlies in Montana and
M-44s are prohibited in areas of threatened or endangered species.. 

At the hearing, Toby Walrath, President of Montana Trapper's Association, gave public comment his trap line runs 120 miles round trip from his home and that he spends 12-16 hrs a day on trapping. Therefore, eliminating the added suffering trapped animals legally endure for days, weeks, etc. is too much to ask of Montana Trappers!

Photo of coyote in trap howling in pain, suffering and fear

The majority of the FWP Commissioners voted to deny this proposal, refusing to allow it to go for public comment!

Chairman Vermillion suggested letting it go forward so all parties could weigh in but no motion was made accordingly.  Despite their opposing vote for public comment, please exercise your voice and insist on 24 hr trap checks in your comment!

Montana has NO required trap check time periods other than trap sets only for wolves require visual 48 hr trap checks and trap sets for bobcat require 48 hr trap checks only in designated lynx habitat.

We know from studies of the mammalian brain that trapped wildlife experience the same pain, fear and suffering that we would if we were caught in these traps. Over 2/3 of the rest of the country requires 24 hr trap checks. Does the wildlife in Montana somehow experience less suffering than the wildlife in other states? According to trapping experts such as Carter Neimeyer, the cold during the furbearer trapping season will result in frozen feet on target and non-target animals and birds requiring vigilance in checking traps and snares often. Over 70% of non-target reported wildlife trapped in Montana were dead including mt lions, wolverines, deer, and raptors. Why? Would they have been if we had mandated 24 hr trap checks? Scientific findings are the longer an animal is trapped, the greater the injuries and impacts on its future survival. Trappers legally set as many traps for as many miles as they choose, returning to check them outside their employment, their relaxations and recreations, days, weeks, later, whenever they choose. The trapped suffering wildlife should not be the ones held responsible. Furthermore, the dire consequences of trapping should not be the burden of the tax payers, wardens, veterinarians, or wildlife rehabbers. 65,000 wildlife on average are reported trapped and killed in Montana annually to satisfy the fun and profit of less than 1% of Montanans.

Our invaluable wildlife need you to speak up for them and demand far better!

In your own words please submit your comment, respectfully, on the above furbearer proposals and in your comment please be sure to include the need for 24 hr trap checks and your Montana town of residence.

Montanans comments carry the most weight in the management of our wildlife in the state.  Nonresidents please exercise your voice and let our Wildlife commissioners know in your comments what treatment of our wildlife means to you and your economically indispensable tourism dollars!

To Submit Comment:
The comment deadline is Saturday, June 18, 2016 at 5 PM.

For greater impact submit your comment additionally via email directly to the FWP Wildlife Commissioners and include your Montana town of residence.

District 1: Dr. Gary Wolfe: gwolfe207@bresnan.net

District 2: Chairman Dan Vermillion: Dan@Sweetwatertravel.com

District 3: Vice Chair Richard Stuker: rstuker@mtintouch.net

District 4: Richard Kerstein: 4buttes@nemontel.net

District 5: Matthew Tourtlotte: mtourtlotte@gmail.com

To listen to the audio recording from the Montana FWP Commissioner's May 12, 2016 public hearing click on the red arrow button corresponding to the proposal.

Get in touch

Trap Free Montana Public Lands (TFMPL)
PO Box 275
Hamilton, Montana 59840

Phone: 406-218-1170


Trap Free Montana Public Lands


All Rights Reserved. 2015-2023