A man who says he has set a trap line at one of the valley’s most popular dog-walking spots set off a flurry of commentary on social media.

The recent transplant from Star Valley posted on the Facebook page Jackson Hole: For Sale Classifieds, warning people who have tampered with his traps that he would report them to authorities. On Facebook, he created an account under the name Chris Bratcher.

The News&Guide reporter interviewed the trapper and determined Bratcher was a pseudonym. The reporter confirmed the trapper’s actual name but editors agreed not to print it because of the inflammatory subject. Editors decided the public benefit of this article called for an exception to our usual policy of not granting anonymity. — Eds.

It was a previous stint in the valley, when he worked at the Bar-T-5 Covered Wagon Cookout, that hatched the idea of trying to catch furbearing species along Cache Creek. While employed by the chuckwagon he noticed that Wyoming Game and Fish Department personnel were setting live traps to move black bears out of the low part of the drainage on the edge of town.

“I figured if you have a bear coming in,” the trapper told the News&Guide, “you’d have everything coming in.”

Additionally, he thought it would be wise to run a trap line at Cache because he’d heard that there was a leash law in the area that could help keep free-roaming dogs out of his sets. (The leash requirement applies only to the parking lot, not where the man says his traps are actually set.)

On Sunday morning he took to social media to let people know.

“It’s well off the trail so no dogs get caught in them,” he wrote in the Facebook post. “I have had my traps tampered with and stollen [sic]. I have now put a game cam up and will be sending further incidents to the game wardens and police.”

Tampering with traps is illegal in Wyoming, though there are exceptions. In 2016 the Wyoming Game and Fish Department altered its regulations to allow any person to release accidentally caught non-furbearing, non-predators.

The trapper’s notice set off a debate about the wisdom of running a trapline at one of the most-visited nooks of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which is particularly popular with dog walkers in the wintertime.

“I’m sure you’re a decent guy and hopefully you realize what you are doing is wrong,” Jackson resident Destin Peters wrote in one of 100-plus comments that amassed. “Even if it is legal, trapping in a very heavily used area is still wrong and will hurt the reputation of hunters and trappers, ultimately getting more restrictions placed on all of us. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

It being a Facebook discussion, the discourse predictably degenerated into tribalistic name calling.

“I’d be happy to have him trap anywhere near where I live because I’m not an insufferable imbecile and I’m perfectly capable of keeping my animals safe at all times,” Kaityn Roberts wrote in response to another post from Peters.

In a phone interview, the man stood by his decision and said he plans to run a trapline at Cache Creek through the winter. Roughly, his traps are located on the south side of the creek, downstream from the bridge preceding the main parking area. He’s using three styles of traps: body-gripping devices called conibears that are set in trees and intended to catch pine marten, and also foothold and live traps that are targeted at fox and raccoons.

“It’s public land, and it’s my public land just like anybody else’s,” the man said. “I have the same rights that they do.”

Cache Creek has been at the center of a community debate about trapping, a historic outdoor pursuit that attracted famous mountain men to the northern Rockies in the 19th century. Responding to a request from the advocacy group Wyoming Untrapped, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department proposed designating the Cache drainage downstream of Noker Mine Draw as a trap-free zone in 2015.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission disagreed, rejecting the trap-free zone by a 5-1 vote. Some members of the board at the time acknowledged that they didn’t even know where Cache Creek was, but opposed the measure because it had the fingerprints of a group that sought to end fur trapping.

Lisa Robertson, Wyoming Untrapped’s founder, said having an active trapline in Cache Creek is motivation for her to again pursue regulations that create trap-free areas and trail setbacks.

“If there’s a trapper who has the judgment to put traps in busy areas, then we need to get rid of those and we need to stop it,” Robertson said Monday. “It’s a bad idea to have traps in that area, period. It’s a very busy, highly used area and that’s the last place I would put my trapline if I were a trapper.”

Because trappers often use scented baits to attract their targeted animals, Robertson said it’s only a matter of time before a dog is caught.

The trapper said he had no desire to catch or injure anyone’s pet.

“I’m taking more precaution than the regulations require,” he said, “and I think I’m being very cautious about it.”

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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(12) comments

Glenn Graham

Michael Miller - You miss the point. There is nothing ethical about trapping. You kill animals for fun and a (small) profit. Its not an issue of 99.6% of the population "withstanding things (we) may not personally agree with". Its a matter of your and your friends cruelly killing animals for no good reason. Its the 21st century. Act like it. Why not use a camera instead of a steel trap?

Michael Miller

Glenn. I am terribly sorry that you don't understand the point or purpose of trapping as a sport nor as a way of predator and animal control. It is not about cruelty to animals in no way shape or form. Most with a negative viewpoint of trapping cannot get past this viewpoint though. I can share with you some observations and leave little more for you as likely you will not take the time to try and learn what the other side might have to offer. In the past I was a resident of the Beautiful state of Washington. The state has many things to offer like hunting and fishing but trapping has been all but banned with only cage trapping being allowed in the state with heavy regulations on that. Interestingly enough you will not find pheasants in any part of the state for your viewing pleasure or Turkeys or most ground nesting game birds in general. These populaitons of animals have been decimated to almost extinction by nest predators and predators in general because there is no control available to the public of those predators that is effective. Millions at spent yearly there to work on the Turkey population that used to be vibrant in the state that doesn't exist anymore due to this issue. Nest predadation is just one aspect of trapping as a conservation effort though. There are several others. But like i said I am well aware that you will likely not take the time to understand this from your viewpoint.

Grant Spellerberg

There’s one in every crowd. Sounds like a lazy trapper to me. Shouldn’t be trapping anyway. If he is proud of what he is doing he shouldn’t hide.

Lisa Robertson

During the Christmas holidays, WU was alerted that a trapline had been placed on one of the busiest community hiking and recreational areas in Jackson.  Let me share a few facts for the public. It is legal to set traps directly on the public trails without a setback. Furbearer traps and snares can be set for a minimal $45 permit, without any limits on take, and without a required trapper education course.  Animals can be taken in almost any manner with this license, including shooting.  Pets are not required to be on a leash in most of that area. Almost every trail where a dog can be walked, traps can be set directly on the trails.  A leash would not ensure safety from a possible lethal trapping incident.  In summary: the public is not "free" to recreate on public lands with a reasonable expectation of safety from traps and snares littered across our landscapes.

Until three years ago, it was illegal to remove a pet from a trap under the definition of "tamper" under the WGFD statues. Resulting from Wyoming Untrapped's successful initiative through the legislative interim committee process, domestic animals are now legal to be removed from a trap or snare. However, the trapper is not accountable for any injuries to your pet, its death, or resulting emotional trauma.

Less than 1/2 of 1 percent of Wyoming public lands users are registered as trappers, but not all of these licenses are actively used.  But yet this subset of public land use is "free" to set deadly traps and snares on or adjacent to busy trails while more than 99.5% of the public suffers the risks. The public is now aware of the antiquated furbearer trapping regulations in our state and the crucial need of reform.

In 2015, Wyoming Untrapped initiated a proposal for trap setbacks off busy public trails countywide. With broad support from our local WGFD district supervisor at the time, WU met with WGFD and the Wyoming State Trappers Association (WSTA) to reach solutions. The WGFD office in Cheyenne delivered a proposal as a first step to allow only the closure of Cache Creek and Snow King to furbearer trapping or snaring.  The WSTA regional director Tom Krause took no position on the Cache Creek closure, stating that they recognized that the data regarding the heavy annual traffic pattern suggests potential conflict and that there certainly are places where trapping is not wise.  Wyoming Untrapped presented the proposal to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, which voted 5-1 against our Teton County request. 

Once again, WU will introduce proposals to resolve these issues in the days and weeks ahead. As we all know now, science takes a secondary role in our management agency's policy decisions due to this outdated perspective on wildlife and the absence of the non-consumptive public in the decision-making.  The growing broader public is insisting that our wildlife management agencies recognize and utilize the principles of modern-day wildlife biology along with the values of all the public to inform actions of wildlife management that account for diversity in decisions regarding Wyoming's wildlife.  It's time to create a conservation ethic aligned with ecological and social current principles.  And trap free zones in our state are a big part of that. Stay tuned for updates ahead.

Michael Miller

Lisa May I ask why the rights of the hiking public and their pets have a higher rank of importance than the rights of the Wyoming trapper? First of all lets be clear the hiking pubic is not in danger in this situation but their pets could be considered to be. Why is it not a part of your stance to inform the public about the dangers of letting their dogs run free on public ground where it is free and permitted to trap. Instead you find in necessary to push out the trapper because folks with dogs apparently cannot be held accountable for their own pets? If a hiker is crossing a road and their dog runs into traffic and gets killed then is it the Drivers fault or the owners or just a bad situation?

There is no segment of the population that is over and above the other. One persons legal rights are not above anothers. We all have legal and ethical obligations in the paths we chose and those paths should be respected.

Lets be clear your objective is not to get setbacks so hikers and their pets can be safe. Your objective is to get trapping banned in the state of Wyoming. Do not mask your overall objective with your small events being used to push your agenda. Please speak from the root of your belief. That is overall your mission as a group.

Konrad Lau

I find it humorous that the original visitors to the Jackson area brought dogs as a food source for the humans. They would never have allowed their animals to wander off and be ensnared.

Here we have spoiled Gringos letting their hounds run wild (a violation of the law) and expecting the government to protect them from a legal and ethical practice???

It's funny how things change.

There once was a time when, if someone complained about their pooch being caught in a trap, they would have been ridiculed for being a fool and disturbing another's income.

Michael Miller

I would like to make a couple of observations. One the trail is a game trail. denoted and marked as such. Two the article doesn't comment on anything about them touching base with Wyoming Fish and Game about the issue at all not the Wyoming State Trappers association. The latter of which i know full well they would have liked to have been contacted and comment on such type of incident. Lastly the picture used to depict the trail itself is of a Moose in its natural habitat being harassed by a local dog being walked on the trail. Ironically nobody sees that a an issue. The intention of the trail is to provide a corridor for animals to pass through. One of few that exist in this area. Being used as a dog walking trail is likely more of a game issue than the trapper. Both of which though through law are allowed to be there. Due to issues in the past with Wyoming Untrapped one brings into question if the trapper exists. Most trappers i know that are doing what they do legally have no issue with attaching their name to their line and area. Especially one to call it out on Facebook publicly.

Now these issues i posted are just a few things i would have hoped that a writer and editor of the article would have addressed prior to publishing. I do not know if the trapper actually exists and is a real trapper. The state game and parks wardens are not aware of any issues in the area prior to this article and the Wyoming trappers association hasn't been made aware of any issue as well. But we do know Wyoming in-trapped is aware. Why contact them for a statement and nobody else?

Johanna Love Staff
Johanna Love

Mr. Miller, the reporter and editors verified the identity of the trapper. He provided his driver's license and a copy of his WGFD residency card. The photo on his license matches his FB photo. Although we rarely agree to anonymity, the substance of this article was deemed important enough to grant an exception. The file photograph used to illustrate the article shows the urban-wild interface. The reporter did interview Wyoming Game and Fish personnel, but they are not quoted in the article. Wyoming Untrapped is a nonprofit that has previously lobbied for a trap-free zone in Cache Creek.

Mike Koshmrl Staff
Mike Koshmrl

Mike, I contacted the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for this story, and was told the local warden was not aware of this trap line. The trapper told me the opposite, that he did reach out to Game and Fish. I wasn't able to get to the bottom of it before deadline, and so left it out of the story. I can and do loop in the Wyoming State Trappers Association in my reporting, but didn't get around to it this time, mainly for time reasons (I actually wrote it from my seat in an airplane, flying out for Christmas). Wyoming Untrapped approached me while I was reporting (in the terminal building) and also has a history of trying to create a trap-free zone specifically at Cache Creek, which is why they are included. Thanks for reading.

Jonathan Wiedie

Honestly, if you are going to be brazen enough to put a trap line in such a heavily used area, AND alert the public to it...go for it. Clearly you are a person seeking to ruffle feathers regardless. That being said, if you so strongly believe in your right to use public lands as much as anyone else, then at least have the guts to put your true name to your actions. Otherwise you’re nothing more than a coward seeking attention.

So what’s it gonna be? You bring the heat, then be prepared to take the heat.

Jon Wiedie

Rick Derevan

It's beyond time for Wyoming to ban trapping. A tiny minority of people cruelly trap and kill wildlife that others could see, enjoy, and photograph. It's the 21st Century Wyoming. Why do you continue to promote this cruel practice?

Michael Miller

I understand that there are differing viewpoints to trapping. A lot of them do come from lack of knowledge of how serious most involved with it take the ethicalness of the sport. I also know there is likely nothing one can say from this side that would sway the opinion of others. I do know this though. There are many things in the world that each of us are not a part of nor compelled to do. To the point of not liking them. I have many things myself i just do not like period. That does not mean that the issue should be absolved so it doesn't exist. There are many examples away from trapping that one can state. What we need to understand is that if we continue to live in a free country then we have to have the ability to withstand things we personally may not agree with. Otherwise free is a term we shouldn't be using anymore.

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