Strangling neck snares are among the cruelest methods of trapping animals. These devices, made of cable wire looped through a locking device, are designed to tighten around the animal’s neck as he thrashes around and struggles to free himself, cutting his mouth and breaking his teeth in his desperation. Eventually, sometimes over a period of hours or days, the animal dies, his head swollen and bleeding because of the snare—a grotesque death trappers have dubbed “jelly head”.
These devices not only endanger the animals they target but have also been known to trap and kill dogs, as well as other wildlife, including endangered, threatened and imperiled species like grizzly bears, lynx and wolverine.
Organizations like the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association oppose the use of neck snares as inhumane, although in Montana they are allowed right now to trap and kill coyotes and some other species. Now some lawmakers in the state are pushing a bill to legalize the use of neck snares for killing wolves (HB 224).
The use of neck snares for wolves is particularly cruel. Wolves have extremely well-muscled necks and suffer greatly when trapped in these devices. What's more, wolves would not be the only ones in danger. Wolf snares are typically larger (they have a larger loop size and are set higher off the ground), which makes it easier for non-target animals like dogs, deer, farm animals and potentially elk, bears and mountain lions to walk into them.
Montana residents, conservation groups, outdoor recreationalists, scientists and even hunters oppose the use of neck snares. During public testimony held earlier this month and this week on HB 224, hunters, skiers and hikers in expressed fear for their hunting dogs and pets. Hikers testified they are already forced to walk with cable cutters in case their dog accidentally walks into a snare set for another species. They also testified they were worried about being severely maimed themselves while trying to free their dogs from these devices. Those dangers would be further amplified if wolf snares were allowed.
Mountain lion hunters and game bird hunters were among those who complained that expanded wolf snaring would also endanger their working dogs.
As bad as this bill is, it is not the only one now in play in Montana that mounts a cruel attack on native carnivores. Four other bills already introduced in the state legislature would:
- Extend wolf trapping season to start 15 days earlier and end 15 days later (HB 225).
- Allow dogs to be used to chase down and corner black bears for an easy kill (HB 468).
- Expand the state law allowance for killing grizzly bears (SB 98),
- Bring back a wolf bounty system by reimbursing wolf hunters and trappers for related expenses (SB 267).
Waiting in the wings are four more bills that would permit such cruelties as allowing wolf hunters to kill unlimited numbers of wolves, allowing wolf hunting at night, and even reclassifying wolves as predators (meaning they could be shot on sight year-round without so much as a hunting license).
These bills---all put forward by just three lawmakers, Rep. Paul Fielder, Sen. Bob Brown, and Sen. Bruce Gillespie---also seek to usurp biologists, including the state’s wildlife agency. Science is clear that using traps, snares and packs of dogs to chase starving black bears results in myriad welfare problems, including potential deadly encounters with grizzly bears.
Wolves, bears and other wildlife these bills target are far more valuable to Montana alive than dead because they bring valuable tourist revenue. They are beloved by many Montanans and by the majority of Americans who flock to Montana to see these animals in the wild. The bills pose a particular threat to beloved wolves from Yellowstone and Glacier national parks who might cross invisible park boundaries. A 2016 study found that killing wolves in areas adjacent to protected areas (such as Yellowstone and Glacier national parks) significantly reduces wolf sightings in those protected areas. We’ve already seen this happen at the Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, where a survey showed there were only 15 sightings of 25 wolves over a 75-day period between April and July 2019.
The bills in Montana are cruel and completely unnecessary and they benefit no one but a handful of trophy hunters and trappers. If you live in the state, please call your state legislators and ask them to oppose them unequivocally. If they pass, they would not only result in a bloody carnage of your state’s wildlife; they would very likely make it dangerous for you to take your dog out for a walk in the woods.