For hunters like us, strolling through Montana’s glorious public lands with our hunting dogs bounding happily nearby in search of game is the perfect fall day. Unfortunately, what seems like the perfect outing for us, can be deadly for our dogs.
Over the past 15 years, our German Wirehaired Pointers have been caught in five different traps hidden in the woods baited with meat. Luckily, they survived. The noose traps up the Ninemile nearly strangled them. The leg-hold traps in the Garnet Range smashed their paws. The dogs survived because they wore electronic collars and were found quickly. If they had been caught in a larger trap, such as a Conibear, survival would have been unlikely, no matter when we found them.
Under current law, trappers have more rights to use public land than bird hunters, or anyone else with a dog. Trappers don’t even have to put up warning signs. If your dog is captured in a trap and you remove or damage the trap, you can be fined up to $1,000 or jailed up to 6 months (MCA 87-6-601).
The “incidental take” of dogs and other “non-target species” (eagles, lynx, bears, wolverines) is one of the many reasons why hunters like us support I-177, which limits trapping on public land:
• Trapping has no resemblance to “fair chase.”
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• Wildlife is for all Montanans, not for the personal profit of a few.
• Trapping is no more a “time honored tradition” than commercial harvest of deer and elk was prior to 1895.
• Limiting trapping to private land will not “begin the slippery slope” to outlaw hunting. The right to hunt is guaranteed in the Montana Constitution.
— Nancy Winslow and Doug Webber, Missoula, Nancy and Doug are avid hunters of big game and birds. Nancy is a 5th-generation Montanan, originally from Whitehall. Doug has been fishing and hunting in Montana for over 40 years.