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Over the past five decades, my dogs and I have run, hiked, biked, and skied together on the public lands bordering Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley. During this time, I learned of the ubiquity of traps hidden across the entirety of this landscape. To prepare for the inevitable, I acquired training in trap location identification and how to release my dog from each trap type. This information has proven invaluable.

With the rapidly growing population of Bozeman and Gallatin County, the numbers of people recreating on these public lands at the wildland-micropolitan urban interface have greatly increased. This includes heavily-used areas such as Sourdough Creek and Hyalite Canyon. With increasing popularity of mountain bikes, e-bikes, and off-trail back country skiing, distribution of recreational activity across formerly less accessible landscapes has also expanded. Many of these recreationists are accompanied by their dogs but remain unaware of trapping as a potential public safety hazard.

It is time that government agencies that control land in these areas such as the Custer Gallatin National Forest and city of Bozeman face this reality. Recreation is encroaching upon a landscape of trapping. At a minimum, these agencies should transparently inform the public through trailhead signage of the presence of traps in an area and whether set-back restrictions are in-place. Moreover, they should be proactive in restricting or eliminating trapping on public lands where it overlaps with heavy public use.

If you recreate on these public lands, educate yourself about trapping. Learn how to recognize traps on the landscape, free your dog from different trap types, and treat your dog’s injuries by attending trap release workshops put on by Footloose Montana ( Pressure public officials on the safety aspects of this issue and support the efforts of Footloose Montana to end trapping on public lands in Montana.

Jim Schmitt


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