Think trapping regulations protect you? They don’t. A pet owner has no legal recourse when their companion animal is killed or injured in a legally set trap. And that’s not going to change any time soon. Theoretically, concerned citizens could appeal to lawmakers, but in this state, repeated attempts to beef up existing trapping regulations to make public lands safer for Montanans have been quashed by the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission and by pro-trapping legislators. The trapping lobby is firmly entrenched in Helena, always ready to fight to make sure that trapping remains one of the least regulated consumptive activities on Montana’s public lands.
There is no trap check requirement in Montana. Trappers may not check their traps for days at a time. Read the stories of animals we know suffered alone in traps for several days. How many other animals suffer consecutive cold nights struggling against steel jaws? You will not find out from trappers, who have no incentive to report inhumane abuses. Can you imagine your family dog or cat, scared and vulnerable, with its leg caught in a trap for four or five days—and bitter cold nights—at a time? Don’t let it happen. Know where your pets are. View our Alerts! page with the most recent trap incidents reported to us. Please know that this is no guarantee that you and your companion animals are safe; so long as trapping is legal on public lands, traps can be anywhere at anytime of the year.
Unlike hunting, with specified bag limits and seasons, trappers may trap all year long and kill as much wildlife as they wish. Only five furbearer species—bobcat, fisher, river otter, swift fox and wolverine—are subject to quotas and every animal in Montana—even endangered species—could be killed 365 days a year as an incidental catch. Always keep your pet within your sight when recreating on public lands.
Traps can be set within 30 feet of the centerline on publicly owned and maintained roads. Stand in the center of the road. Five steps will take you to the edge of the berm. Ten more steps and you are standing in legal trapping territory. The setback is 50 feet along open roads and hiking trails (designated by administrative signs or numbers) on federal and state lands.
Nonlethal traps can be set 300 feet–a football field–of public trailheads. Lethal traps, such as Conibear and neck snare can be set 1000 feet from trailheads. It could take your dog less than ten seconds to run from the cushy confines of the backseat to a body crushing Conibear trap.
Traps can be set within 1,000 feet of campgrounds and occupied houses. Does this sound like a safe distance? At average speed, you will cover 1,000 feet in your first ten minutes of walking. Your dog could cover it in a minute.
Anglers, floaters and tubers, be vigilant: traps may be set on the banks of any river or stream in the state, within the high water mark. If your dog steps in a water trap, designed to drown its prey, chances are you won’t be able to reach the animal in time to save its life.