The recent guest opinion by Rusty Kramer, president of the Idaho Trapper’s Association (“Trapping is a safe and effective wildlife management tool,” Feb. 10), is an offense to wildlife management professionals everywhere. I am a wildlife biologist with peer-reviewed studies published in the scientific literature, and to hear trapping being promoted as “a safe and effective wildlife management tool” struck me as completely dishonest.
Kramer’s secondary organization, cynically named the Foundation for Wildlife Management, has nothing at all to do with wildlife management. This organization’s chief claim to fame is as a front group for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to fund thousand-dollar bounties on wolves.
Trapping has never played a meaningful or ecologically useful role in wildlife management. Do we need to “manage” pine marten populations with trapping to prevent the decimation of pine squirrels? Is trapping of lynx a legitimate form of wildlife management necessary to maintain snowshoe hare populations? Must weasels be managed to keep mouse and vole populations from going extinct? Of course not. Trappers may target these animals, but the reason that state agencies make no attempt to manage these predators is because they live in a natural balance with their prey, without any human interference.
The same is true for wolves and coyotes. But because the livestock industry still dreams of driving large carnivores extinct once and for all, they direct political pressure through the Legislature and the Fish and Game Commission, corrupting state agencies to pursue the killing of wolves and coyotes under the fictional pretense of “wildlife management.”
To the extent that state wildlife agencies manage trapping, the intent of the management is to prevent excessive impacts of trappers on wildlife populations. There is no possible benefit to achieve for wildlife.
Not only has trapping never played a necessary or useful role in wildlife management, it has been actively detrimental to wildlife conservation. This has been true historically, and trapping today remains an obstacle and a problem facing conservation.
Trapping wiped out beaver populations, causing long-term damage to grassland, sage-steppe and mountain ecosystems. Many of these beaver populations never recovered, rendering this damage permanent. Beavers are ecosystem engineers. Their dams and ponds sub-irrigate fertile floodplains, boosting productivity and biodiversity, and driving valley-bottom succession from pond to wetland to meadow. Their activities benefit a variety of wildlife from waterfowl to trout to elk.
Trapping is the prime culprit responsible for the disappearance of many other wildlife species. Lynx are now listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Wolverines are so rare they deserve to be listed. Many in the Rockies have never even heard of the Rocky Mountain fisher, so rare has it become. Its cousin, the Pacific fisher, is listed under the Endangered Species Act. Based on its track record, trapping could only be considered “wildlife management” if the goal of that management is driving native wildlife to the brink of extinction.
Trapping was historically pursued by the livestock industry to extirpate large native carnivores like wolves and mountain lions across vast expanses of the American West. These same special interests are working hard to prevent the recovery of these species, and trapping is one of their “tools in the toolbox” to help them further their goals of accelerating predator extinctions.
Our planet is currently in the midst of a global biodiversity crisis, fueled not by failing to manage wildlife, but by a failure to manage human excesses. Habitat destruction and degradation are the prime causes, but commercial exploitation of wildlife also plays a role. In Idaho, that means trapping: a dangerous and antiquated hobby with no redeeming benefits for wildlife.
Erik Molvar is executive director of Western Watersheds Project.