New Bill Adds to Trapping Reform Efforts

Electrified fladry can protect livestock, keep wolves alive, and reduce the use of traps. Photo: NRDC.
Credit: NRDC

Last week, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced legislation that would restrict the use of “body-gripping” traps (i.e., foothold traps, Conibears, and snares) in two ways: first, it would limit their use by U.S. Department of Agriculture and Interior officials; and second, it would generally prohibit their use by anyone on federal public lands. We applaud the bill and Rep. Blumenauer for bringing much-needed attention to the still-widespread use of these archaic, inhumane, and often-indiscriminate devices.

Rep. Blumenauer’s bill reflects a growing call for reasonable restrictions on the use of body-gripping traps—especially on public lands.  It joins another, similar bill sponsored by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) that would prohibit the use of these devices on national wildlife refuges. And it comes at a time when, here in Montana, a group called Montanans for Trap-Free Public Lands is promoting a sensible ballot measure limiting similar types of traps and snares on public lands in the state.

NRDC has also advocated for more stringent trapping regulations for both agency officials and recreational trappers. Most recently, we petitioned Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to establish a statewide, 24-hour trap-check requirement (Montana is one of the last states in the country with no rules requiring trappers to regularly check their traps, except those set for wolves and, in some places, bobcats).

We have also begun to work on the ground to reduce the perceived need for these devices by implementing nonlethal alternatives. Earlier this year, we partnered with Montana Wildlife Services to purchase and install several miles of electrified fladry around calving pastures across western Montana. The project concluded in June and was a complete success. All of the pastures we focused on had had wolf depredations in the past; with fladry around them this year, none experienced a single loss or attack (by any predator species). As a result, in those areas, cattle were kept safe, wolves were kept alive, and no traps were set in response to depredations. This was a positive outcome for all involved—animals and people alike.

By supporting proposals for trapping reform such as Rep. Blumenauer’s bill, looking for opportunities to collaborate, and using and promoting nonlethal alternatives (such as cage-traps for recreational trapping, or electric fencing to protect livestock), we can all contribute to reducing the use of traps and snares and the damage they can cause. And we should. Because in the end, can’t we all agree that if it’s possible to protect our property, and use our public lands, and live our lives in ways that cause wildlife less suffering and promote conservation—we should?

This blog provides general information, not legal advice. If you need legal help, please consult a lawyer in your state.

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