I was down at the river at Fort Missoula today, enjoying the weather and looking for birds. I noticed a canoe across the river and took a quick look through my binoculars to see who was canoeing. It was an older man, standing up in his canoe, rowing slowly, close to the bank. I wondered, “What is he doing? Oh dear God, is he trapping?”
The answer was a resounding yes. At this point, I was stunned and continued to watch. The area where he was trapping—across the river from the fort—I believe is Maclay Flats. Is trapping really legal at Maclay Flats? It is, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks would tell me. Many people access the river at Maclay Flats, often with their dogs.
I was horrified to watch him pull out the large, bloated body of a beaver. How awful to see this beautiful animal bloated from having died by drowning and laying under the water for God knows how long (considering the law says the trap must be checked only within a “reasonable” time period), pulled up and tossed into a red Coleman canoe. How unsportsmanlike! And how cruel. I guess death by drowning is better than having your skull smashed while still alive in a trap, which is how many of the fur-bearing land animals are killed. Then I watched him rebait the trap (definitely big enough to kill my 30-pound dog) and continue down the river to check his next trap.
When is this horrific practice going to end? Trapping has no part in a civilized society, not even by government officials. Be fair. We already have taken over most of the wild animals’ habitat in this world. At least get out there and stalk your game to kill it. I don’t want to hear how trapping is part of Montana’s heritage. It’s not. It is an unfair way to kill animals for money. Trappers claim they want to enjoy the outdoors. May I suggest you get a pair of binoculars, a scope or a camera and get out there and enjoy the outdoors and the wildlife that deserve to live in it?
These animals are not varmints. Trappers seem to believe all of these animals they trap, including the ones they trap in error, like dogs and eagles and deer, are all varmints. None of them are. These animals belong in the landscapes, whether you like them or not.
This scene has stayed with me all day. It is horrible and upsetting. What if a Labrador retriever had been swimming in the area and got wind of whatever bait is used in traps? I bet the trapper would have disposed of the dog without a word to anyone. No animal deserves to die in this manner. It is time we put a stop to recreational and commercial trapping.