The fuse has been lit on the most volatile issue of which most Wyoming people are unaware. If you are not a trapper or have not had your pet die a horrible death in a trap laid …
The fuse has been lit on the most volatile issue of which most Wyoming people are unaware. If you are not a trapper or have not had your pet die a horrible death in a trap laid alongside a trail on public lands, you probably know nothing about the debate quietly being fought between trappers and those who think trapping should be regulated.
Full disclosure: I learned of the conflict from my wife, an animal rights advocate, involved with other Wyoming people encouraging the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to enact trapping regulations.
I chose to write about the controversy for two purposes: to make people aware of it and, in the hope that those on both sides of the issue will make this a matter of greater public dialogue.
Trappers point out that their hobby or vocation is protected in the Wyoming Constitution. It is true that Article 1, Section 39 of the constitution mentions trapping. It also refers to hunting and fishing. And it subjects all three pursuits to regulation. Specifically, the provision says it is not intended to “diminish other private rights or alter the duty of the state to manage wildlife.”
Among those “other private rights” is access to public lands. Virtually unregulated, trapping significantly limits the ability of the public to fully enjoy public lands without the threat of injury or death to pets or children.
Game and Fish does not keep data about unintended injuries or deaths caused by trapping. However, a trapping-regulation advocacy group does. Wyoming Untrapped collects reports on the multiple incidents when those freely enjoying hikes or camping with a family pet on public lands have experienced tragedy.
Most are surprised to learn that traps are set close to trails in popular mountain venues. A Wyoming travel website invites people to enjoy trails in areas like Vedauwoo: “Mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners can progress tirelessly on trails among the pine and aspen trees with views of the Medicine Bow Mountains.”
The Wyoming Untrapped website warns those using public lands. There is good reason to beware. Last month, a couple was hiking at Vedauwoo with two dogs. The dogs were near the trail when one, stopping to sniff what turned out to be bait, was seized by a hidden trap. Although the dog and its humans were traumatized, the dog limped away alive. The dog’s owners said, “We had no idea that traps were even something to worry about while exploring public lands.”
Other pets have not been so fortunate. Mac, for example died near Pavillion. This beloved family dog was “caught in a power neck snare (an extremely lethal device) set for bobcats.”
A Casper nurse took her two dogs to an area they often visited. The dogs exercised by running on the sandstone outcroppings. Both dogs were killed by a hidden M-44 cyanide bomb.
These incidents all harmed pets. But, any of them could just as easily have taken the life of a small, curious child. Maybe your pet; perhaps your child.
Christy Stewart was with family, walking her dog up Wickiup Knoll Trail outside of Afton, same as she’d done almost every day for the past four years. Her dog, a 3-year-old Pyrenees named “Sage,” practically grew up on that run. Sage died, trapped on that trail.
“Out of sight for just minutes, the dog caught a scent of fresh meat used to bait a bobcat snare. It didn’t take long. Sage suffocated, hung in a trap just 20 feet off the trail,” Wyoming Untrapped writes. “Afton game warden James Hobbs investigated the incident and reported the trap, baited using a cubby set, was legal.”
Therein lies the problem. Not one of these tragedies was the result of any violation of law or regulation. A growing number of public lands users are asking the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to solve that problem by enacting reasonable trapping regulations so they can safely use public lands without exposing their pets and children to deadly, hidden dangers.