TWIN FALLS, Idaho – The photo caused an uproar in the online community: a wolf, its leg caught in a trap, standing in a ring of bloody snow, as Nez Perce National Forest employee Josh Bransford posed with a grin in the foreground.
Critics contended posing for the photo before killing the wolf was inhumane. Defenders said the blood came from other injuries, not the trap, which was set correctly and legally.
In the last several months, coverage of the controversy is the most press the practice has received in Idaho. But trapping is about to hit the spotlight again, as part of a proposed amendment to add the right to hunt, fish and trap into Idaho’s constitution.
The measure is on the ballots this November, but animal rights activists are unhappy about including trapping in the amendment.
Idahoans Against Trapping chairman Greg Moore said his group feels trapping is an unnecessarily cruel and prolonged way of killing animals.
“Due to the inclusion of trapping in the amendment, if it passes, then torturing wild animals to death will have been declared legal in Idaho forever,” Moore said. And if it’s protected in the constitution, potential changes to trapping-related laws may have to go through the courts, not the Legislature.
Moore also said the constitution should be for fundamental human rights, like freedom of speech and religion.
“Trapping does not fall into that category,” Moore said.
Twin Falls Sen. Lee Heider, author of the Right to Hunt amendment, dismissed those concerns, saying trappers check their traps often.
“I don’t think anybody delights in being cruel,” Heider said. “To make an animal suffer, that’s just not something we do.”
In Idaho, trappers are required to check traps once every 72 hours. But most check once every 24 hours, said Andy White of the Idaho Trappers Association.
Heider also said trapping is as much a part of Idaho’s tradition as hunting and fishing.
“The original mountain men, the original Idahoans, were much more involved in trapping, and that’s why they came out here,” Heider said.
And the reality of trapping isn’t as inhumane as opponents say, White said. Foot hold traps aren’t designed to injure the animal, he claimed. The idea is to hold the game in place, allowing the trapper to release the animal if they decide not to harvest.
That way, “the animal doesn’t suffer and continue to fight the trap,” White said, adding that today’s trap designs are different than those from 50 years ago.
Foot holds and other forms of live traps allow for valuable wildlife management, like relocating species to other areas, White said.
Heider is confident the amendment will pass.
“I’ve never trapped anything in my whole life,” Heider said. “But I believe just as strongly that it should be a right that’s protected for those who do.”