I-177 takes away most effective Grizzly Bear capture device

Four Ballot Initiatives qualified to be on the Montana voter’s ballot this fall.  Ranchers may take particular interest in Initiative 177 (I-177) which is officially supported by Montanans for Trap Free Public Lands.  This is the third time this initiative has been tried and it finally gathered the required signatures to get on the ballot. It seems like short and simple verbiage, but in that simplicity lurks sever problems for livestock producers and trappers.

Montana is 37 percent public land. Obviously people are not trapping on National Parks but for ranchers the removal of being able to control predators on school sections,and other lands would be costly and inconvenient.

Notice on this excerpt of I-177 text trapping by public employees and their agents”   the word snaring is not included.   The word snaring is included in the first sentence  “I-177 generally prohibits the use of traps and snares for animals on any public lands within Montana.”  Trapping and snaring is not the same thing.   This would mean that USDA, APHIS, Wildlife Service ( you may call him the State Trapper) would not be allowed to use foot snare on Grizzly bears, basically eliminating the only effective capture tool WS has.  Bear that have been captured in a culvert trap for population monitoring or nuisance bear conflicts are very difficult if not impossible to catch in a culvert a second time.  In our area WS captures almost all of it’s bears using foot snares.  Foot snares are more portable, and more can be set up in an area than would be practical for Culvert trap use.  Modern foot snare are humane and in most cases non-damaging which allows for release of animals that are to be relocated or released on the spot after chip, tag and collar.

foot snare
Dead ewe is used as foot snare  bait for Grizzly bear on the Dave and Lenora McEwen Ranch in the of Sweet Grass Hills, MT.

The other issue is even if MFWP and other public employees can trap what are the nonlethal methods of management that must have been used? For how long? What documentation would we need to prove it?  That condition could be highly limiting.  In the case of the McEwen’s sheep depredations guard dogs were in place but would they count as non-lethal method.  Grizzly bears had not been in the area for generations. Why would ranchers here be using non-lethal methods of detering bears? There was no reason. The limiting WS ability to trap bears only if nonlethal methods had been tried prior would mean no management actions could be taken for all areas the bears are just now moving into.  People cannot predict that bears, wolves or mountain lion will show up where they haven’t traditionally been present.

The ballot clearly state that it will cost the State money as they will have increased wolf management and need MORE full-time employees for FWP. They also state there will be lost revenue for the MFWP do to lost trapping license sales.

Please discuss this with your friends, family and neighbors asking them to vote NO on initiative I-177

Actual full text of Initiative from Secretary of State website


A LAW PROPOSED BY INITIATIVE PETITION I-177 generally prohibits the use of traps and snares for animals on any public lands within Montana and establishes misdemeanor criminal penalties for violations of the trapping prohibitions. I-177 allows the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to use certain traps on public land when necessary if nonlethal methods have been tried and found ineffective. I-177 allows trapping by public employees and their agents to protect public health and safety protect livestock and property, or conduct specified scientific and wildlife management activities. I-177, if passed by the electorate, will become effective immediately.

I-177 reduces approximately $61,380 of state funds annually, resulting from a loss of trapping license revenue. In addition, the state will incur other costs associated with monitoring wolf populations and hiring additional full-time employees at the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.


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