Trapping — a time-honored Montana tradition

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Guest Commentary

When we learned that the Western States Fur Auction, sponsored by the Montana Trappers Association, was being held at the Park County Fairgrounds last week, a couple of our reporters went down to check it out.

Not to do a big investigative piece about trapping but just a story about the auction.

However, they were met with some suspicion by auction organizers who no doubt worried the media was there to do yet another negative story about trappers and their ilk.

Eventually, the organizers relented but by then our reporters had run out of time for the story. Perhaps another day.

We can’t say we blame the organizers. Montana trappers often get an unfair bad rap, and it’s not surprising they would be a little skittish when reporters show up.

But most of that bad rap is not coming from the regular press — at least not in Montana. It’s more likely from extremist groups that view trapping as an abhorrent activity — groups as well as newcomers who don’t understand trapping is a timehonored Montana tradition that serves useful and positive purposes.

For one, it provides an additional income from the sale of the furs. That’s no small thing in a state not known for its highflying East and West Coast salaries, where people often depend on two or even three jobs to get by.

Most importantly, it helps to manage wildlife populations. Animals like beaver, muskrats and coyotes can be destructive to property or livestock. Controlling their numbers is not an evil activity. It is wise management. The federal government controls bison populations in Yellowstone National Park to keep them at a manageable level. Fur trappers do the same with several other types of wildlife.

It should be noted that Montana trappers can’t trap whatever and whenever they want. Their work is controlled by the state of Montana. They must be certified and follow all trapping laws regarding the animals they trap.

Trappers aren’t wild-eyed mountain men who want to take everything in sight until the resource is gone.

Like ranchers who have a vested interest in taking care of their land so it doesn’t erode away or is rendered useless by noxious weeds, it’s in trappers’ best interests to take the right number of a population so it remains sustainable for them to continue trapping.

Here in Montana, outsiders fleeing the urban madness of other states are welcome — no one here is better than anyone else, whether native or newcomer. But please, if you are a newcomer, and you are convinced you’re right about how things should be done, listen and learn before trying to change things.

Because now that you’re a Montanan, you should know that’s the Montana way.

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