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Footloose Montana hosts trap-release workshop Saturday

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Footloose Montana hosts trap-release workshop Saturday

Belle, Clare Beelman’s yellow lab, looks at the wolf-size foothold trap, a soda can for size reference, and a coyote-sized foothold trap. A Footloose Montana presentation will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15, in the community room of the Bitterroot Public Library. RSVP to info@footloosemontana.org.

Footloose Montana will present a trap-release workshop covering the details of how to free your pet, the medical supplies and tools you’ll need, and trapping laws on Saturday, Jan. 15.

Footloose Montana Board Member Clare Beelman will conduct the workshop in the Bitterroot Public Library community room. Masks are encouraged and reservations are required via email to info@footloosemontana.org.

Beelman said she will bring a variety of foothold traps, the steel open jaw-type, and snares for workshop participants to learn with hands-on experience.

“The main thing I think people are really looking for is getting their hands on traps and getting practice on how they work so you’re not caught unaware in a stressful situation,” Beelman said.

Field veterinary care for dogs will be presented by Jan Bullock, who worked for the Iditarod race in Alaska for many years.

Beelman said releasing the foothold trap may be the easy part and the hard part can be figuring out how to approach a trapped dog.

“Bullock will be talking about how to safely handle your dog and what first aid you need to be prepared for,” Beelman said. “The main thing that I’m seeing really commonly this year is trying to free a dog from a trap and owners getting extremely bitten. Every dog will react differently, but it is not uncommon that you get bitten.”

Beelman said she grew up in Missoula, moved away for school and then returned several years ago.

“When I came back, I was meeting new people and they were talking about their dogs and their friend’s dogs getting in traps,” she said. “I have a friend who lives outside of Missoula who comes into town to walk her dog because her dogs were getting caught in traps on forest roads. It was eye-opening and I think it is to a lot of people.”

Trapping is a legal activity throughout the state and coyote trapping happens year-round. 

The winter months, November through April, are the height of the trapping season. Footloose Montana knows how trapping works, keeps track of where traps are being found and usually presents five to 10 workshops a year across Montana. They have done more presentations during the COVID pandemic due to the increased number of hikers and dog walkers who are outside enjoying the forest.

“Wolf traps are typically baited, to draw in a wolf, and whatever draws in a wolf draws in your dog,” Beelman said. “Also, because it is wintertime those corridors where wolves and people are walking tend to get problematic incidents more frequently.”

She said trapping knowledge varies among workshop attendees and she has many details to present in the two-hour workshop.

“There is a ton of information and people are left with more questions than when they came in. Honestly, that’s good, this is a very nuanced and complex issue,” Beelman said. “We’re offering an overview of the bottom line. I provide trapping booklets and contact information for FWP.”

She also presents information on trapping laws and how they affect recreationists, including the fact that disturbing traps or removing wildlife from traps is illegal.

“You’re worried about your dog and want to free it as minutes matter, but you should call FWP [Fish, Wildlife and Parks] right after,” Beelman said. “You’re responsible for what your dog does and even you further handling the trap have disturbed it. It is within the law for a trapper to call FWP and they can cite you for a misdemeanor offense.”

Footloose Montana teaches hikers and dog walkers to reduce conflict.

“Generally, trappers don’t want your dog in their trap,” Beelman said. “Often traps are hidden below the surface, in the water, in trees, depending on what type of trap you’re talking about. They don’t need to be tagged or signed.”

Footloose Montana maintains a map of trap reports to help people to know where traps have been located. The Trap Map details are posted on their website footloosemontana.org.

The Footloose Montana presentation will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15, in the community room of the Bitterroot Public Library, 306 State St., Hamilton. RSVP via email to info@footloosemontana.org.

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