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Urgent – Montana Bill Seeks to Allow Hunters to Snare Wolves

Not Trophies

Right now, Montana lawmakers are considering several bills that would significantly change the way Montana manages wolves.

The proposals range from expanding wolf trapping seasons to classifying wolves as predators, meaning they could be killed year-round without a license. Additional proposals would allow trappers to use snares to kill wolves and allow for private reimbursement of people who kill wolves.

Ultimately, this slew of bills seeks to allow the killing of as many wolves as possible. The next bill on the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee calendar is House Bill 224 (HB 224). A hearing on is scheduled for Tuesday, February 2 at 3 p.m.

About House Bill 224

HB 224 would allow licensed trappers to snare wolves. A neck snare is a trapping device that consists of a light wire cable looped through a locking device to create a noose that tightens as an animal struggles. Out of all the traps, the snare, a simple wire noose, will inflict some of the worst cruelty imaginable.

Montana wolves need Montana voices!

If you live in Montana or reside there part-time, please consider testifying tomorrow via ZOOM to speak out against HB 224.

Participants are required to register TODAY, February 1, no later than 12 p.m. mountain time, to testify.

To watch the hearing live on Tuesday at 3 p.m. mountain time.

* IMPORTANT * Particpation in this hearing from those who live outside Montana will do more harm than good. Instead, please consider contacting MT Governor Greg Gianforte as one who visits Montana as a tourist.

Talking Points: Oppose HB 224

  • Snaring is a primitive, archaic, and torturous method of killing animals.
  • Snares injure and kill nontarget animals, including endangered and threatened species and even family pets.
  • Snaring fails to pass the rule of Fair Chase.
  • Snaring will damage Montana’s public image; it sends a clear signal to potential tourists that the state does not respect wildlife.
  • Snaring will further degrade the face of hunting.
  • The trapping of wolves leads directly to more livestock deprivation by the eradication of wolf family groups.
  • These actions will lead to the federal government taking control of wolves in Montana.
  • Bill takes no consideration for the wolf’s ecological and economic importance.

Snaring is a primitive, archaic, and torturous method of killing animals.

Although snares are intended to kill the animals quickly, once snared around the neck, wolves can still live for up to two days, and in some cases beyond. Snares do not have the ability to quickly render wolves unconscious. Less than 50% of canids (wolves and coyotes) captured by the neck in killing neck snares lose consciousness within five minutes; death may come after hours or days, depending on the killing efficacy of the snare and the frequency of visits by trappers. (Proulx G., Rodtka D. 2019)

Unable to free themselves, the noose slowly cuts off blood circulation from wolf’s head to their heart; meanwhile, the carotid artery keeps pumping blood into the brain. Then the brain swells up until the wolf’s head explodes. Trappers refer these swollen heads as “jelly heads.”

If a wolf escapes, they’re still with the snare around their neck. All the while, the snare keeps slowly tightening, working its way through the hide and the flesh of the wolf.

Snaring fails to pass the rule of Fair Chase.

Fair chase is a term used by hunters to describe an ethical approach to hunting big game animals. The Montana-based The Boone & Crockett Club, an organization founded in 1887 by sportsman, defines fair chase as the “ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.” It also places a strong emphasis on treating hunted animals with respect, minimizing the pain and suffering of an animal by killing it as quickly as possible, and not wasting it.

By the ethical standards laid out above, snaring grossly fails to pass the rule of fair chase. Moreover, the practice reflects poorly on all sportsmen and sportswomen.

Snaring damages Montana’s public image

The Montana Office of Tourism invites visitors to explore and enjoy its Big Sky Country. With photos advertising epic alpine scenery, water adventures, and winter bliss, the website promises to impart lasting memories of amazing landscapes rich with wildlife.

Boasting of unparalleled beauty that defines the West, it’s no surprise that the website hasn’t a single photo of a “jelly head” wolf. 

Unsuspecting tourists taking in the wonder of Montana could be in for a gruesome sight – wolves with hunters’ tight snares around their necks. Tourists visiting Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve were shocked when they encountered two wolves who escaped snare traps set legally on state land outside the park. Tourists were excited to spot wolves in the wild, but not pair with their faces and necks swollen from embedded snares. Although the incident attracted national media coverage, Alaska’s Office of Tourism doesn’t mention it in their brochures. They know that when people see something that sickens them, they’re not going to want to visit.

Allowing practices as snaring send a clear signal to potential visitors that the state does not respect the wolf’s place as valuable native wildlife; it damages Montana’s reputation.

A former state wildlife professional in neighboring Wyoming spoke about his state’s wolf-killing policies, “what happens with wolves is kind of our dirty little secret — and if the public only knew this is allowed, people would be outraged, deservedly so.

The passage of HB 224 would allow activities that will harm the public’s perception of Montana and further degrade the face of hunting.

Wolves Can Save Montana Wildlife from a 100% Fatal Disease 

Montana should give greater consideration to the “value” of wolves. We know that every wolf is essential. As unique, sentient creatures, wolves have value in and of themselves.

For Montana, however, wolves have a different kind of value and a lot to offer to the state.

Long before COVID-19 emerged, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts alike had been worried about an epidemic that threatens some of our other most iconic wildlife species.

We’re talking about chronic wasting disease (CWD), an ultra-lethal degenerative neurological illness similar to mad cow disease among elk, deer, and moose that is invading ecosystems across the American landscape, including multiple regions of Montana.

Currently, there is no known vaccine, and infection is on the rise in Montana. Thus far, their current control strategy: relying on hunting by humans to lower deer/elk numbers and subsequently CWD prevalence, has not yielded demonstrable effects. Predation by wolves, however, could have potent effects on disease prevalence. Human hunters only remove sick deer randomly; wolves actively seek out the infirmed.

Because wolves are not susceptible to the disease and can safely consume prey infected with CWD, they effectively remove the infectious agents from the environment, reducing transmission to healthy deer, elk, etc.

Even former Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commissioner Gary Wolfe said halting recreational hunting of large predators like wolves in areas with emerging CWD outbreaks could curb the disease.

Economics of Wolf Watching in Montana

What draws tourists to Montana? A recent scientific Yellowstone visitor survey shows the number one draw is wildlife, specifically wolves and grizzly bears! Beyond their value as a critical keystone species, by drawing an abundance of tourists to the region, wolves benefit the economy.

National Parks Service (NPS) estimates that wolf watchers bring $35M tourism dollars to the greater Yellowstone area annually. Moreover, a 2013 NPS report shows that 3,188,030 visitors to Yellowstone National Park that year spent almost $382 million in the surrounding communities. That spending supported 5,300 jobs in the area.

Montana lawmakers need to consider the economics of wolf watching and elk and deer hunting. No doubt, wolves serving as an unexpected ally in protecting the West’s most popular big game animals is a hard reality to swallow for some hunters, trappers, and hunting groups who oppose the predators. But Montana’s slew of bills seeking to expand opportunities to kill as many wolves as possible isn’t doing the state any service.

Please help. Sign up before noon TODAY to testify, join the meeting tomorrow at 3 p.m., and please encourage your fellow Montanans to speak up for wolves too.

Remember that every voice raised in support of wildlife and wild places can make a difference. And when we all howl together, we can make big things happen.

Thank you!