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Montana sends wolf-trapping rules to the public for comment

Oct 13, 2012 - The Associated Press

The plan includes setting the tension on trap pans at a minimum of 8 pounds.

HELENA, Mont. -- Montana wildlife regulators have given initial approval to wolf-trapping rules meant to reduce the chances of dogs, lynx and other animals from being caught.

The Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission took a preliminary vote Thursday on the proposed rules, which will now go to the public for a 30-day comment period before a final vote is taken.

The proposal includes setting the tension on trap pans at a minimum of eight pounds. The tension setting is the amount of weight it takes to spring a trap, Wildlife Bureau Chief Ken McDonald said.

"The proposed rules mandate a trap pan tension setting. Wolves happen to be larger than most fur bearers, and a higher trap pan tension setting increases the amount of weight it takes to trip the pan on a trap and set it off," McDonald said.

Opponents say the proposed setting is not enough to prevent the inadvertent trapping other species. Kim Bean of Helena said the proposed setting could be tripped by her 70-pound dog or by the mules she travels with in the backcountry.

Other wildlife, such as protected lynx, also could set off the traps, and conflicts are more likely to occur when inexperienced trappers head to the backcountry, she said.

"Trapping is dangerous to those of us who utilize this land," Bean said. "I'm not feeling very safe doing what I love to do best. Make no mistake, this is not keeping me out of the backcountry, but I'm not going to believe this is the best idea you have in preventing non-target deaths and injury."

Montana is looking to Idaho as a model by adding trapping to its wolf hunt for the first time this year. Commissioners approved expanding the hunt after the wolf population grew to at least 653 predators at the end of last year.

Montana's archery season closes Oct. 14. The general rifle season for wolves runs from Oct. 20 to Feb. 28 and trapping is allowed from Dec. 15 to Feb. 28.

Last winter, hunters killed 166 of a 220-wolf state quota. This season, hunters have killed seven wolves as of Thursday and there are no quotas except for small districts near Glacier and Yellowstone national parks.

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