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.”