Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King will sign an order to require 150 foot setbacks from cross-country ski trails around Lake Como.
The Forest was advised last week that a local trapper had set numerous wolf traps near popular ski trails groomed by the Como Trails Club, raising concern from winter recreationists. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) interviewed the man on Thursday who posted signs saying that wolf traps may be set along heavily used ski trails near Lake Como.
“It appears that only one trap was actually set, and that it was placed far away from the ski trails,” said Mike Thompson, FWP Regional Wildlife Manager.
Regardless, the potential exists for traps to be set in this area, and the cross country ski trails are not an officially designated trail system and so were not subject to the 150-foot setback from roads and trails required for wolf trappers. The new Forest order will place setback requirements on the ski trails.
“We were notified by members of the Como Trails Club that there may have been traps set in the area, near some popular trails,” said Supervisor King. “We’ve been working closely with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and have talked with representatives of the trapping community. We’re all concerned because the Como ski area is a high-use, very popular area, and it’s a public safety issue if we have people setting these traps in such high-traffic areas.”
The order will require a minimum 150-foot setback for all traps set along roads and trails within the Como ski area. This is the same setback that’s required along all roads/trails on federal and state lands under the Montana wolf trapping regulations. Even though trappers can legally set their traps 150 feet off the Como ski trails, the Forest Service and FWP are asking them to “voluntarily” select a different location.
Toby Walrath, District Two Director of the Montana Trappers Association, says that he doesn’t know of any responsible trapper who would set traps in that area.
“The Montana Trappers Association advocates that trappers avoid high use areas,” said Walrath.
“We have more than 250,000 people visit the Lake Como Recreation Area annually,” said Supervisor King. “It’s very popular in the wintertime for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. We think there are much better areas on the Forest for trappers to have success, than the highly-populated ski trails around Lake Como.”
“We taught wolf trappers to do the right thing, even when the wrong thing is legal,” Thompson said. “I think every graduate of our wolf trapping class would agree that the Lake Como ski trails are a poor place to trap wolves. Apparently, even the person who posted the signs did not set a trap there.”
For more information contact Tod McKay, Bitterroot National Forest at 363-7122 or Vivaca Crowser, FWP Information Officer at 542-5518.