Wyoming Could Be Next To Restrict Wolf Trapping Because Of Grizzlies

Following a similar ruling in Montana, wolf trapping in Idaho was restricted Tuesday over concern that grizzly bears could get caught in wolf traps. Wyomingites are worried it could happen here.

Mark Heinz

March 21, 20244 min read

Grizzly and Wolf 11 8 22
(Getty Images)

After Montana restricted trapping wolves under the auspices of protecting grizzly bears, Idaho followed suit this week leaving many in Wyoming wondering if the Cowboy State could be next.

Maybe, some Wyoming outdoorsmen said, though they oppose the idea.

John Eckman of Greybull said he’s heard of only one verified incident of a grizzly getting caught in a trap in Wyoming, and to his knowledge that bear was released without incident or injury to the bear.

Considering the number of bears that get accidentally struck and killed on highways, or are killed by game agents because of conflicts with humans, concern over grizzlies possibly getting caught in traps seems misplaced, said Eckman, who is vice president of the Wyoming State Trappers Association.

“Trapping in grizzly country doesn’t seem to be a problem, does it?” he said. “There’s more grizzlies killed on highways than have ever been accidentally killed by trapping.”

Mike Schmid of La Barge, a former member of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, said circumstances in Wyoming are different than those in Idaho and Montana when it comes to wolf traps in grizzly county.

In the Wyoming’s “trophy hunting zones” for wolves, trapping wolves isn’t allowed, Schmid said. Hunters with wolf licenses must use firearms or archery equipment to bag their game.

And outside of those trophy hunting zones in areas of Wyoming where wolves may be legally trapped, there are few — if any — grizzly bears, Schmid said.

No More Year-Round Trapping In Idaho

Following similar successful legal actions in Montana, a coalition of environmental groups successfully sued to have year-round wolf trapping on private land in Idaho restricted. Idaho’s public-land wolf trapping season was also shortened by federal judge’s decision on Tuesday.

In both states, the restrictions were implemented over concerns that grizzlies could get injured or killed by being caught in wolf traps.

Eckman said he questions whether the legal actions were truly prompted by concern over grizzlies or were just a step toward banning trapping altogether.

The traps used for wolves or other species might hurt a younger grizzly, but probably wouldn’t be a threat to an adult bear, he said.

He also said that the federal judge’s order not only undermines Idaho trappers, but the will of most people in that state.

“The state of Idaho is pro-predator control, pro-hunting and pro-conservation,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who are really deflated over this thing. How can this be?”

Lager Topic Of Delisting

Schmid said he also wonders about the wider implication of the Montana and Idaho wolf trapping restriction.

While there’s been a push to get grizzlies in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho delisted from Endangered Species Act protection, there’s been a simultaneous effort to get wolves re-listed.

So, Schmid wonders if the trapping restrictions are part of a wider push to block the delisting of grizzles.

There was considerable chatter about desisting grizzlies last year among political leaders in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, but things have since quieted down.

However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still considering the matter, an agency spokesman told Cowboy State Daily.

“The service is working to complete an in-depth status review and analyses using the best available science and information to determine whether removing ESA protections and designating distinct population segments for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystems is warranted,” Joe Szuszwalak stated in an email.

There was no specific time frame for how much longer the analyses might take, he added.

Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter