Trappers catch a lot more than wolves

  • Courtesy NPS


As the feds handed management of gray wolves to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming over the last few years, reactions were mixed. Conservationists worried that wolf numbers would plummet, while hunters and trappers were thrilled they'd get to legally pursue the predators. All three states have hunting seasons now. Idaho started allowing wolf trapping last year; this year, Montana had its first season.

Despite mandatory state-run education classes, though, trappers have been catching a lot more than wolves -- mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, eagles, fishers, deer, moose, even family pets. Hikers and skiers have encountered wolf traps on public lands close to trails. In January, a National Park Service employee accidentally stepped into one, just outside Glacier National Park; the next month, a dog got three of its legs caught in two different traps at once south of Livingston, Mont. Below are some figures from Idaho's 2011-2012 wolf trapping season. (Complete data from the current season aren't yet available for either state.)

123 Total wolves trapped

143 Number of people who reported setting traps for wolves *

557; 111 Greatest number of wolf snares set in one night in one game-management unit; foothold traps set *

45; 33 White-tailed deer caught; released alive *

45; 1 Coyotes caught; released alive *

9; 3 Mountain lions caught; released alive *

9; 7 Domestic pets caught; released alive *

39; 22 Other non-target animals caught, including bobcats, geese, skunks, raccoons, golden eagles and ravens; released alive *

$37,115 to $1,256,966 Estimated monetary value of one Northern Rockies wolf **

$38.25; $333.50 Cost for license and tag to trap one wolf for Idaho residents; for nonresidents

* Based on responses to a survey sent to 460 people who took Idaho's wolf trapper education class and purchased a 2011-2012 trapping license.

** according to 2011 Duke University study

Sources: Idaho Fish and Game Department, Duke University.

Ruthann Yaeger
Ruthann Yaeger Subscriber
Apr 30, 2013 09:28 PM
Keep in mind that "released alive" sounds good but does not mean unhurt. If you break your leg or tear up your skin, you are still alive, but if you are a wild animal you will surely die a miserable death very soon anyway.
Charles Fox
Charles Fox Subscriber
May 01, 2013 09:33 AM
Trapping is as ugly and cowardly an activity as is possible by humans. Let's take a moment to recall the actions of Forest Service employee Josh Bransford who posed smiling for a picture of the wolf he trapped (i.e., tortured to death):

Ken Salazar handed wolf management (i.e., extermination) back over to corrupt states rife with pathological hatred for native carnivores (i.e., essential ecosystem assets), and in so doing began the second extermination of wolves in the American west. Wolf extermination is Salazar's legacy.

We still have yet to see how Sally Jewell regards wolves. I don't see much cause for optimism from the Obama administration, they're too centrist, too corporate, too corrupt. Don't get me wrong, I voted for the guy, twice.
Walt Foutz
Walt Foutz
May 01, 2013 10:10 AM
Being an avid elk hunter in Colorado, I hope the pressure on wolves in Wyoming brings some of them here. The presence of wolves in Colorado might reduce the number of cattle overgrazing national forest land and ruining the riparian habitat for six months of the year, and would surely wipe out chronic wasting disease in our big game herds in short order. The presence of wolves in Colorado would improve the big game hunting experience and the habitat.
Marcia Mueller
Marcia Mueller
May 01, 2013 10:48 AM
We need a modern Dante to describe the right circle of hell for trappers.
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell
May 01, 2013 11:37 AM
Some of the wolves brought in from Canada and introduced into America were caught in the foothold trap which contrary to mythology does not harm or cause pain to the animal. All of the lynx reintroduced to Colorado, and most of the otter reintroduced countrywide were caught in leg hold traps. Traps and trappers are the most efficient tool used by wildlife biologists to achieve predator population goals.

Jodi I've noticed of late a tendency for environmentalists to call themselves conservationists. Environmentalists have sullied the word, let them live with it.
Jodi Peterson
Jodi Peterson Subscriber
May 01, 2013 11:50 AM
Thanks for the comments. Robb Cadwell, you are correct that reintroduced animals are often caught in leghold traps. However, claiming that such traps "does not cause harm or pain to the animal" is not supported by the facts. For example see this USGS study:‎. From the study: "There were definite differences in the level of risk presented to Mexican wolves by trapping devices legal for use in New Mexico. Unpadded, smooth­jawed steel traps, even if laminated or offset, generally presented the highest potential for injury to all species targeted in the studies. Wolves were no exception, with high percentages of those caught in these traps sustaining injuries including fractures, major cutaneous lacerations, and tendon damage (Sahr and Knowlton, 2000; Frame and Meier, 2007); however, the study by Houben and others (1993) suggested that traps that were both laminated and offset resulted in less severe injuries than smooth­jawed steel traps, laminated steel traps, or offset steel traps." Sincerely, Jodi Peterson, Managing Editor
Joe Bocchieriyan
Joe Bocchieriyan
May 01, 2013 12:12 PM
I love when people say, "it does not cause harm to the animal". You don't know what damage is being caused! Even if the trap itself doesn't cause damage on the surface, what internal damage is there? And what muscle and joint tissues are being torn up and bones broken while the animal is struggling!!!!
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell
May 01, 2013 12:31 PM
Hi Jodi, when I tried the link it somehow didn't work. My computer might be allergic to Wild Earth Guardians. Here's neat video.
Jodi Peterson
Jodi Peterson Subscriber
May 01, 2013 01:05 PM
Sorry, here's the correct link to the USGS study:
Crista Worthy
Crista Worthy Subscriber
May 02, 2013 11:41 AM
A few weeks ago I flew in to Enterprise, Oregon for a meeting. Enterprise is a very small town just across the border from Idaho. I spoke with a guy there who runs some cattle. He checked his cell phone several times. I asked what he was doing. Apparently the few local wolves are collared and he has an app or program on his phone so he can see via GPS where they are. He said if they get close to his cattle he drives over there to run them off. He said he can't wait til the ESA listing is removed for wolves because he intends to shoot them all. I asked if any of his cattle had been killed by wolves and he said no. I asked if he knew that ranchers who lose cattle to wolves get compensated. He said yes, but often Fish & Wildlife can't confirm it was a wolf kill, and then the rancher doesn't get compensated. I don't know if that's true, but the writing is on the wall: if wolves are removed from the Endangered Species List, people are going to kill every wolf they can. I live just north of Boise, Idaho. I can't believe the completely irrational hatred most people around here have for wolves. Even people who have nothing to do with ranching or hunting.