Montana, Idaho trappers catching more than just wolves

2013-03-03T10:00:00Z Montana, Idaho trappers catching more than just wolves Ravalli Republic

In the first year that wolf trapping was allowed in Idaho, trappers captured a total of 123 wolves.

But according to a survey by the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Department, those same trappers in 2011-2012 also inadvertently captured 147 other animals, including white-tailed deer, elk, moose, mountain lions, skunks and ravens.

Trappers reported that 69 of those animals died as a result.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife management chief George Pauley said his office is currently gathering similar information about the state’s first wolf trapping season.

He doesn’t expect the numbers of non-targeted species to be anywhere near that high in Montana.

The difference may center on the use of snares.

Idaho allows trappers to use wire snares that collapse around an animal’s neck as it struggles to free itself.

Montana officials have considered snares for wolf trapping, but so far have opted not to allow the use of that method, Pauley said.

Jon Rachael, Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s state wildlife game manager, said the survey sent to his state’s trappers didn’t require them to identify if the non-targeted animal was captured by a foothold trap or a snare.

“My guess is those animals caught in snares are typically the ones that end up dead,” Rachael said. “White-tailed deer will kill themselves. They’re high strung and they’ll struggle.”

Rachael said all wolf trappers in Idaho are required to complete a one-day course that offers ideas on how to avoid capturing non-targeted animals.

A similar course was taught this year in Montana.

The course included directions on how to set wires in front of snares that would divert elk and moose as well as instructions on building break-away devices and other methods.

White-tailed deer seemed to be the main challenge facing Idaho’s wolf trappers.

Trappers reported capturing 45 deer. Twelve of those died. They also captured 18 elk and four moose. One of the elk died.

The same number of coyotes ended up in traps as deer. Trappers reported that 38 were killed. Mountain lions also took a hit. Nine were captured and six died.

“It’s been a challenge,” Rachael said. “Trappers are talking with each other about ways to mitigate that. No one wants to catch a deer. It costs them a lot of time. They don’t want to kill deer, moose or elk.”

Montana trappers are required to report the capture of any non-targeted species as well, Pauley said.

So far this season, 45 dogs have been captured in traps. Only three of those were caught by wolf trappers, he said.

“There are a heck of a lot of people out there trapping furbearers,” Pauley said. “And there also are a lot of people trapping coyotes, which aren’t even regulated.”

The FWP office in Helena is currently collecting information from around the state about non-targeted animals caught in wolf traps.

“I’m aware of a couple of mountain lions, but right now that’s all I know about,” Pauley said. “We’re probably not going to have elk or moose. They are big enough to pull out of a wolf trap. There probably will be a small handful of deer that were caught.”

Pauley expects to have those numbers summarized in the next two or three weeks.

Montana’s wolf season ended last week. As of Friday afternoon, hunters had killed 128 wolves and trappers caught another 97.

The wolf harvest was up about 25 from the previous year – before trapping was allowed in the state.

In Idaho, Rachael said the wolf harvest was down about 25 percent.

“There are probably multiple factors that have caused the decline,” Rachael said. “There are less wolves and certainly less naïve wolves. After a couple of years of being hunted, wolves clearly exhibit avoidance behavior when it comes to people.”

While there’s always a new crop of young ones that are more vulnerable, Rachael said they tend to learn quickly.

“The naïve ones get picked off early,” he said.

Reach reporter Perry Backus at 363-3300 or

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at

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(4) Comments

  1. DA____
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    DA____ - March 07, 2013 7:29 pm
    Any decision made because it is politically correct is a stupid decision. PC is the biggest load of garbage ever sold to America and unfortunately we bought it. And the part about neighboring states and counties and history why don't you go study it.
    As you talk about the food chain I wonder what you are eating for dinner. Any meat, any dairy?
  2. Comment Not Approved
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    Comment Not Approved - March 04, 2013 11:26 am

    "Wolves became extinct, then thrived, & NOW! back to extinction!"

    The ignorance in the above quote is astounding.

    Prepare and pray.
    Molon Labe!
  3. Laura
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    Laura - March 04, 2013 10:09 am
    Unbelievable the ignorance of those in charge. Obviously the point is NOT to trap just fur-bearing animals, it is to trap anything that gets in the trap and hope you can make a buck off it. For the killing of those 'meat' animals (elk, deer, moose) admitted or discovered, did a FINE occur for killing out of season? I bet not. Wouldn't want to impose no killing of these animals out of season on a trapper, who has the right to snare/trap.

    FWP needs to get educated. Living after being caught in a trap or snare long enough to move off site doesn't really mean 'living.' Animals maimed in the wild don't often live long - it is called predation. A little education on the food chain would be helpful for them, too. I really wonder when our 'agencies' are going to start connecting the dots and maybe learn from history and from the information gleaned from neighboring states and counties. But then, intelligent decisions might be made, which in this day and age, are seldom politically correct.
    Keep finding ways to kill off those in the food chain. And look up food chain. Humans are in there, too.
  4. debbya
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    debbya - March 03, 2013 2:23 pm
    If traps are set for anything, then anything will be trapped! If "they" are setting out to trap wolves, ANY thing can be caught! I find ALL trapping, baiting, killing of wildlife despicable. They were here first, after all! The idea of flying just above Wolves & murdering them from that vantage is sickening, the way sarah palin thinks is so great; or murdering an Elk (or Caribou?) for the heck of it sickens me. I doubt she's the one that hit it anyway, but that's not the point. Wolves became extinct, then thrived, & NOW! back to extinction! NATURE has taken care of itself for ever, & needs no interference from "humans". Unless it is to help them from danger or injury. There will be NOTHING left for future generations except pictures in books or stuffed animals at this rate. Insanity! Sincerely, Debby Ledbetter
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