What makes a person incapable of humane thought and feelings? What makes a person blind to the agony and suffering caused by their own doing? Where does empathy and compassion hide while someone calmly sets their indiscriminate traps? Everyone should be appalled and outraged that trapping is still legal in civilized society. The continuation of this horrendous, archaic, useless practice in a state that prides itself on hiking trails and recreation suggests that most people haven’t had to witness what we witnessed this Saturday. If they did, their voices would be raised in protest and anger.
After a wonderful, joyful hike up the Two Good Trail off of Warm Springs Road northeast of Sula, we were loading our two dogs up in the car when our lab Tillie took off at a trot up a small path in the campground. She always comes back when called, so we started to load up the other dog when we heard a pitiful yelp of pain, then more anguished cries. We ran up the path in a panic. As I got near to Tillie I could see her leg was caught in a trap. Just that moment my dog Huckleberry, who was running by my side, yelped and was caught in a wire snare around her neck.
Two dogs trapped, one dying from lack of air, one in severe pain. Luckily we keep wire cutters in our car. My partner ran back to the car and got them, while I held one finger between the wire snare and my dog’s windpipe, hoping against hope that was enough to keep her airway open. She held stock still, thankfully or the snare would have tightened as they are designed to do and nothing I could have done would have saved her. As I knelt there, holding one suffering animal, impotent to reach my other suffering animal, I had to watch her big lab eyes looking at me with confusion, pain and fear from 10 feet away.
My partner was back quickly and she was able to free the leg trap from Tillie’s leg. It took about 10 minutes to cut through the snare wire on Huckleberry’s neck. Luckily we were very near to our dogs; horrifically these traps were set less than 25 yards away from the campground. That is right, the campground where your children play and explore and run the paths. Imagine watching your child caught in a snare or leg trap. What if I had been alone? I would have had to sacrifice one dog to save the other. There was another leg trap nearby, I could have easily tripped it myself while trying to save my dogs.
Can a trapper really be unaware of the terrible anguish and desperation a trapped animal goes through? Have they never have heard the cries of shock and pain when an animal first feels the steel jaws of a trap lock down onto his leg? How do they look into the weary eyes of a helpless victim who has been caught in a trap for days and nights on end? Have they never come across a leg that an animal had chewed off in order to escape a deadly fate, nor stopped to think how tormented and hopeless one must be to decide to take that desperate action?
Many Montanans don’t see why they, when on public land, should be subject to the kind of horror that some have experienced, helpless to save their dog as it struggles and dies in a snare or a Conibear trap. No animal, wild or domesticated, should have to suffer such a death, or experience such agony, terror and despair for a day, or two, or however long it takes for death or the trapper to come along. No one has the right to endanger other citizens like trapping does. It angers me that it is unsafe to go on our trails, into our mountains or walk along our streams without fear for the safety of our children, dogs and ourselves. That we are essentially “locked-out” of nature during the winter is just plain wrong. That animals needlessly suffer is just plain wrong, that trapping is still allowed is just plain wrong! Leg-hold traps are now banned in 88 countries. The western states of Arizona, California, Colorado, and Washington have severely restricted or banned the use of leg- and body-hold traps by voter initiative. But in many U.S. states, as in Canada, this insane tradition is not only legal, it is sanctified. Montana should not allow our wildlife and pets to be so brutally slaughtered for sport or for profit by fur trappers.
Compassionate people everywhere must add their voice to the rising call to end this insanity once and for all. Please consider joining Footloose Montana (http://www.footloosemontana.org/) to add your voice to the outcry.
Cathy Scholtens & Becky Howard