Jackson Hole residents came out in force to a public meeting Thursday to vent disappointment about the lack of trap-free trail setbacks in a draft plan to reform state trapping regulations.
Trappers attending the Wyoming Game and Fish Department meeting, meanwhile, spoke against a proposal to require more reporting of nontargeted trap bycatch and also a plan to close down lower portions of the Cache Creek drainage to furbearing animal trapping.
Lisa Robertson, who’s spearheaded the effort to more tightly regulate trapping in Teton County through the advocacy group Wyoming Untrapped, said during public comment she has tried to collaborate and compromise while working with the state on reforms.
“Wyoming Untrapped believes that the commission’s regulatory changes should move forward with proposed setback distances of 300 feet on selected trails in Teton County clustered in areas of exceptionally high nonconsumptive use and companion animal traffic,” Robertson told a crowd of about 60 people.
“Basically, we as nonconsumptive users do not have any areas where we can walk our dogs or walk on trails that traps are not allowed,” she said. “We want to change that.”
The nonprofit group originally requested 500-foot setbacks on 50 trails and three seasonal roads in the county, but “in the spirit of compromise” narrowed the request to 26 trails and two seasonal roads with 300-foot setbacks, Robertson said. Setbacks and closures being pursued, she said, account for 1.1 percent of Teton County’s total area.
“That’s 30,000 acres,” she said, “out of 2.5 million.”
When Game and Fish released its proposed trapping regulation changes in mid-May, no trail and road setbacks were included.
The largest change locally was a prohibition against trapping furbearing species for about 5 miles up the Cache Creek drainage and also along the Bridger-Teton National Forest east and south of Jackson.
Speaking as a trapper who uses those areas, Mike Beres blasted the plan.
“I currently trap in the Cache Creek drainage that we’re talking about and I have for years without human or pet conflict,” Beres said. “My consolation for being an ethical, responsible sportsman is to have my right removed because of a smear campaign.”
Beres said he traps pine marten in the area using sets that are placed in trees and don’t pose a threat to dogs.
Because Game and Fish lacks jurisdiction over species managed as predators, like coyotes and red fox, the department cannot prohibit ground-based traps commonly set for those species.
“A person from any state can travel up Cache Creek any day of the year and set a coyote trap legally,” Beres said. “The proposal that’s being suggested would be implemented solely to make people feel good.”
Wyoming State Trappers Association regional director Tom Krause took no position on the potential Cache Creek closure.
“The reason for this is there have been no documented trapping incidents along this trail for years,” Krause said, “and we recognize that the data regarding the heavy annual traffic pattern of approximately 100 people daily suggests potential for conflict.
“There certainly are places where trapping is not wise,” he said.
Krause pushed back against Game and Fish’s proposal to require reporting of all nontarget wildlife caught other than predator species and furbearing animals, calling it a “burden.”
Previously only big or trophy game animals, game birds, raptors and protected species fell in the category of wildlife bycatch that needed to be reported.
“That language would now make it mandatory to report immediately the capture of cottontail rabbits, red squirrels, packrats, marmots and a whole host of other rodents and wildlife,” Krause said.
One woman in the audience inquired about why Game and Fish does not require trappers to report accidentally caught or killed dogs.
Laws limit G&F authority
Game and Fish’s regional supervisor Tim Fuchs explained that his department lacks the statutory authority to require trappers to call in instances of catching a nonwildlife species.
The woman continued to press the issue, asking Fuchs, “Who has the authority?”
“Basically,” Fuchs said, “the Legislature would have to increase the statutory authority of the Game and Fish commission.”
No other regulatory body in Wyoming currently has the authority to tell trappers they have to report a trapped-and-killed pet dog, he said.
The Game and Fish department reviews furbearing animal trapping regulations once every three years. All the changes currently on the table are subject to approval from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, which next meets from July 8-10 in Cody. Two commissioners attended the Jackson meeting, though neither spoke.
Another proposed change statewide is the prohibition of large-diameter quick-kill traps, called conibears, when they’re set out of the water on public lands. The proposed ban was prompted and supported by the Wyoming State Trappers Association, Krause said.
Red Top Meadows resident April North spoke last.
North told the crowd of her experience Nov. 22, 2013, when two dogs she walked along Fall Creek Road got caught in traps.
“That day, two of my dogs were caught in traps within eyesight — within 10 feet of me. They were under control,” North said. “Two were in snares, one was in a leghold. It was an experience that no individual should ever have to experience.
“A simple setback of a few hundred feet on a widely used trail could prevent this,” she said. “It’s beyond thought that we can’t even consider some of these rational compromises.”