Leg-hold traps. (Josh Santelli/FlickrCC)

Just days after the Dec. 8, 2020 Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources committee meeting, Sen. Ogden Driskill (R. Devils Tower) posted the following note on Facebook. “I have been recently attacked by the “Leash-free” anti-trapping crowd in Wyoming about my stance opposing dogs off leashes in our wild areas on public lands,” he wrote in the Dec. 11 post. 

Sen. Driskill included the words “Leash-free.” We wonder why. Wyoming citizens working for trap reform have never used those words. We have never proposed a “leash-free” state. We have never suggested, or asked for, a ban on trapping. If citizens’ voice opinions about trapping that differ from his, is that an attack? It seems likely that Driskill’s suggested persecution, the words “leash-free” and the misrepresentation of trap reform as anti-trapping has been directly influenced by the opinions of his friend, Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner Mike Schmid.  

Commissioner Schmid publicly broadcasts similar statements against trapping reform at other public platforms. At the April 2020 Commission meeting, Schmid said, “One group is regulated and that is trappers — limited by seasons, have to buy a license. Whatever they do on their public land, at least they enjoy it. We sell 2,500 licenses and that represents a lot of happy times, family times. I will not support more regulations on the trappers.” 

Apparently, in his view, buying a license and adhering to a season is enough regulation. His actions also suggest there is no room for conversation that would create trap-free zones on public land for the 99.5% of Wyoming’s population that does not trap. Why should a trapper’s “family time” be at the expense of others’ family time on our public land? 

This is not action that would be taken against trappers, but rather action taken for the sake of public safety on public land. Implementing trap-free zones is progress on an issue that requires leadership and action.

A Dec. 10, 2020 post on Sen. Ogden Driskill’s Facebook page. (screengrab)

Game and Fish has shown it is listening and concerned about Wyoming citizens. Department leadership and staff have collaborated with Wyoming citizens and organizations, working long hours addressing trap reform and public safety. 

At the November Game and Fish commission meeting, the commission voted 4-1 in favor of trap reform, specifically mandatory trapper education and trap set-backs. 

Why then at the TRW committee meeting was Schmid, the lone commissioner to vote against trap reform, given unlimited time, granted by Driskill, to derail the topic and shift the conversation away from the Game and Fish Department trap reform recommendations brought to the committee?

For those watching the TRW committee meeting, it had been a long day. Topics ranged from amending gaming commission bylaws to requests that roadkill be used for pet food. Public testimony was welcomed throughout the day and heard in its entirety without a time limit. 

Senators and representatives in attendance appeared engaged, asked good questions, worked through issues, improved the wording of amendments, and made progress.

The Game and Fish Department’s draft reforms were near the last agenda item. Sen. Driskill instructed speakers on trapping reform they had a three-minute limit. Many senators and representatives on the committee acted disinterested in testimony given by concerned constituents. With some exceptions, it appeared that most on the committee had made up their mind in advance about the recommendations. Schmid’s obstructionist tactics apparently worked because not one TRW legislator would stand up and take action for trap reform. These same apathetic legislators are our designated public leaders for Travel, Recreation, and Wildlife.

Does the TRW committee believe it is in the best interest of the public to ignore recommendations from Game and Fish professionals that would clearly make Wyoming’s public lands safer? Documentation on the department website reports that mandatory hunter education reduced hunting accidents by “well over 50%.” 

Why is the TRW committee taking “no action” on mandatory trapper education? Wouldn’t the benefits of a 50% reduction in non-target trapping incidents, including family pets, big game and other wildlife, be a positive for the public? The same is true for the possibility of a 50% decrease in conflicts between trappers and recreationists.

And why are these legislators ignoring a public safety recommendation regarding trap setbacks in picnic areas and campgrounds? The public has a right to picnic, camp, launch a boat or hike a trail with their family and pets, and view wildlife on public lands with some reasonable expectation of safety. It remains a right, even though the TRW denies the public access to that right. 

The TRW committee has a responsibility to the people they market to — visitors that contribute to Wyoming’s economy — to provide trap-free opportunities for recreation and enjoyment.

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We ask that in 2021 the TRW committee revisit these recommendations from the WGF Commission. We ask the TRW to be prepared to openly and fairly discuss the importance of not only trapper education and trap setbacks, but also trap-free zones for recreation and mandatory reporting of all animals trapped, domestic and wild. We ask that the committee commit to working with all interested parties to make positive progress toward ensuring safety on our public lands with respect for and consideration of all public land users. We are all Wyoming neighbors.

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5 Comments

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  1. For Karen Zollar, we sympathize with the traumatic loss of your dog to a trapping snare while you were out running together on public land in Wyoming. I’m 73years old, and recently adopted my very first dog in 61 years—a little Havanese puppy. My wife and I would be devastated to lose him in any manner.

    We call him my therapy dog, and he’s a good one. For over 50 years after serving voluntarily as a teen-aged combat Marine in Vietnam, I was plagued with horrific nightmares nearly every night while sleeping. Though there were days when I had to struggle to find my way around our little house or to even remember my good friends names or the route to work (until retiring at age 67), I nevertheless stayed totally employed at a good job, stayed married to a great woman/farm girl/teacher for over 51 years, and we’ve raised three fine kids, and enjoy 9 grandkids. Being nearly deaf now, I am pretty isolated , so we got this little pooch who stays glued to us and rounds us up like an Australian sheep dog, and even sleeps on our feet, summer and winter (great here in cold Minnesota).

    And after getting this puppy, I haven’t had even one single combat related nightmare.

    My lifetime Hobby has been backpacking and hunting in the West, including all over Wyoming, prairie, desert and mountains, sometimes alone and often too lazy to carry a tent, but always with a big .44 holstered on my chest (every minute while outside my truck). I’ve had to shoot only one bear (out of the five pestering us all one night long — in ‘94, and my wife hasn’t been off the pavement since!).
    I never even sat down once all night long with those 5, and then 4, black bears, and once bivouacked real close to a huge grizzly I saw at dusk (in Montana), and again within too-close howling distance of a pack of 6 (we think) wolves in Idaho (and lots of times with curious coyotes in camp).. Every one of those times were in designated wilderness areas,, once with an active forest fire sharing its embers and smoke, and a lot of my hunts and wandering were on BLM land.

    I always tried to assess and respect the dangers -especially concerned about danger of a grass fire. But I knew that the two-legged varmints would be the most dangerous of all. So, no alcohol, no bars, no strangers, no campfires, just settling down right at dusk.

    I’ve shot a lot of deer and antelope, and a few elk out there, and we pretty much raised our family on them. But I’ve only killed a few varmints. I always feel bad about the latter — since they weren’t for eating.

    No one should think that killing animals is macho, because it isn’t. Everyone knows that it needs to be well regulated. And so does trapping. And so do most activities done on public land., including in some ways hiking, running, biking, boondocking, campfires, timber harvesting, fishing, and whatnot.

    Wyoming is fortunate to have so many conservative leaders. The Wy Republicans should never take that blessing for granted. They should listen to the people, their voters. And they should try their best to balance all their interests in using and managing public land. In this case, some safety setbacks are only reasonable.

    Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you good folks. See you soon
    Old Jim

  2. There are some flaws in your data. Specifically the relation of hunting accident reduction compared to what a trappers education would do. The issue is a equal and major contributor to incidental catches like dogs getting caught is the dog owner. One can never expect changes in those numbers unless dog owners accept responsibility or liability for thier side of the deal. Certainly they have freedoms just like everyone. Those freedoms include risks just like everyone else. One does not try to irradicate snakes when one in the wild bites a dog. The snake has the same right to be there as the trapper or the hiker. The trapper should accept the responsibility of preventing incidents the hiker should do the same.

    In the end though accidents do happen. They are at times horrible and unfortunate. A few occurring for not signal a need to eliminate the risk altogether. That’s not how freedoms work.

  3. I do believe in some reform. Like to start off with need a leash law for your pets and not just letting them roam. That does not make it your dog if it’s just out roaming. But trapping is a important thing to manage game population. Just like the wolf’s. They were left alone and now they are causing more damage to ranchers now then they ever did. Cost the tax payers more money to recoup the ranches loss.

  4. If the writer of this article had kept her dog on a leash it would still be here. You live in Wyoming not Boulder, CO. Come here to Colorado if you want trap free zones which would be our entire state. You live in the wrong place it would seem.

  5. I would just as soon see trapping completely banned. It’s nothing but a holdover from the 19th Century, when trappers extirpated fur bearers, notably beaver, in many areas. Current populations exist in many cases as a result of transplants from areas where species still existed. There are ways of expressing ones “manhood” besides torturing animals.