Trap-release workshop

Carter Niemeyer, a former federal trapper, shows how to use a leash to free a dog from a Conibear trap during a workshop last winter at Teton County Library.

Wildlife managers in the Equality State are taking steps to rework their trapping regulations and setting out on a public process pointed at reform.

Calls for change to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s furbearer trapping rules have been loud at times, especially in the aftermath of incidents that kill people’s dogs. This spring an internal agency working group queried a diverse batch of 140 residents, including trappers and conservationists, to better understand their views on potential reforms. Recommendations emerged, and now they’re taking the ideas to the general public.

“I think this is aimed at change,” Game and Fish Lander Region Supervisor Jason Hunter told the Jackson Hole Daily. “A lot of the recommendations are for more education. That includes letting folks know that trapping is an accepted use on the landscape so they can better prepare themselves — as well as more education for trappers.”

Other preliminary recommendations listed by the department include signing areas that are actively trapped and establishing trap-free setbacks from trails and trailheads. There were common concerns identified around the issues of wildlife and pets inadvertently caught, the trap check periods for snares, and for the lack of monitoring and mortality limits for furbearing species. There was also support for new trap type restrictions and larger trap-free areas.

In the past, Game and Fish’s governor-appointed commission has resisted trapping reform. As recently as this spring, the advocacy groups Wyoming Untrapped and WY Trap FREE-mont County petitioned the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to close heavily recreated parts of Teton and Fremont counties to trapping. Their pitch was shot down unanimously at the time, but the discussion that they started spiraled into the stakeholder interviews, recommendations and now the public process that’s gearing up.

“We are very encouraged,” Wyoming Untrapped Founder Lisa Robertson said. “There are recommendations for change. They don’t go far enough, but we’re going to continue requesting what we’ve requested for the last five years and we hope we’ll get more of what we like to see.”

Some reforms — if the recommendations carry forward — will require approval from the Wyoming Legislature, Hunter pointed out. That’s the case for creating setbacks along trails or establishing trap-free zones where there’s a lot of recreation activity. Game and Fish has jurisdiction to create such change for furbearing species like beavers but lacks such authority for species that are classified as “predators,” like coyotes and red fox.

Game and Fish has set up six meetings statewide, which include: 6 p.m. Tuesday at White Mountain Library in Rock Springs; 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Wort Hotel in Jackson; 6 p.m. Sept. 9 at the Game and Fish office in Laramie; 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at The Inn in Lander.

The Laramie and Lander meetings will be broadcast virtually. Go to WGFD.WYO.gov/meetings to register to attend, and to find trapping reform regulations being considered.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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