Much has been written in the Missoula area about the pros and cons of trapping. Connie Poten’s Feb. 3 letter to the editor (see “Trapping indefensible”) against trapping merits a response from a wildlife professional. I have two degrees in wildlife biology, worked 31 years as a wildlife biologist, published a dozen papers in wildlife journals, and started trapping almost 50 years ago. I feel qualified to discuss trapping.
The Wildlife Society supports regulated trapping as an effective method of managing or studying furbearers, and recognizes the economic and recreational benefits of trapping and that it’s an important component of the lifestyle of many people.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) has a position statement supporting trapping, pointing out that it’s regulated by state laws and supported by wildlife managers nationwide. The agency believes trapping is biologically sustainable and provides wildlife management information, and it’s taken measures to minimize incidental captures.
This viewpoint is based on science, biology and natural resource management principles. The same principals are used to manage forests, rangelands, fish and wildlife. Natural resource management based on emotions is bad and expensive.
Animal rights groups say that for every target animal trapped, two other animals are killed. That statement was made by former predator control agent Dick Randall in 1976. (He later became a consultant for the Humane Society.) Randall’s tenure coincided with a time when predator control agents often used large, exposed baits (such as dead livestock) that were laced with poison and surrounded with many traps. That method did kill a lot of unintended wildlife. But there have been laws against that practice in place for a long time. To continue using Randall’s statement about his activities long ago is misleading in today’s world. Some hunters used to drive buffalo herds over cliffs, but that is not practiced today either.
In any group, there are people who act unethically, unlawfully and obnoxiously. But it is unfair to brand all trappers based on the actions of a few. There are bad drivers, bad hunters, bad athletes, bad lawyers, bad politicians and bad trappers. If you don’t like something, don’t do it. Don’t try to make a law against someone else’s activity because you don’t like it. If you don’t like fishing, don’t fish. If you don’t like football, don’t watch football. And if you don’t like trapping, don’t trap. But let other people do what people have been doing in Montana for over 200 years.
Paul C. Fielder