Angelo Pecora, in his Feb. 23 letter defending trappers, misses several points. He equates trapping with walking one’s dog and believes if someone wants to do an activity, so be it, and mind your own business. Unfortunately for this line of reasoning, wildlife are a public resource and as such, everyone has a say in how they are managed. Fur-bearers are not the exclusive property of the trapping industry and unlike Pecora, I would argue this commercial endeavor is not a “sport.”
I agree, however, that society should allow people to choose their activities as long as they do not infringe on everyone else or are morally repugnant or cruel. Trapping, however, is one of those “sports” that does infringe. First of all, trappers are a very small minority of people in Montana, less than one-half of one percent. Yet they basically take over the woods from Thanksgiving until the spring. Why is this? Well, while trappers are fond of saying their industry is “highly regulated,” the lack of rules in several areas allows a small minority to have a large impact.
Two of these lapses are no mandatory check period and no limit to the number of trapping devices. This allows trappers to place as many traps as they can, with traplines up to hundreds of miles long. The ability to take as long as necessary to check these traps also contributes to this large number. If there was a three-day check period, as in Idaho, a trapper could manage only so many traps and snares. On the other hand, putting a specified trap limit on each individual would more effectively cut down the impact to the rest of the public.
What unrestricted trap numbers mean is that traps are everywhere, and encountering them is commonplace. It would be different if it was rare occurrence. It would also help if FWP would require traps to be placed much farther away from trails than currently.
Finally, Pecora generally dismisses animal cruelty, which requires trapping to be specifically exempted from Montana statute. In his letter, he mentions only one trap, the “body gripper” or conibear, but conveniently leaves out other trap types. Just because someone is making money “doing what he wants” doesn’t require that everyone else make accommodations, nor does it make it any less cruel.