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Wolf trapping classes controversial

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BOZEMAN -

FWP will hold two wolf trapping classes next month, but the certificates they give out could soon be useless. Controversy over trapping practices has opponents pushing for a ballot initiative that would ban the practice for commercial and recreational trapping.

Officials here at FWP say the classes only run about four hours.  In the class students learn trapping techniques and history, but most importantly FWP officials say the classes teach ethical trapping practices. While the class is required for anyone who wants to trap wolves in Montana-- opponents of trapping say a class is not enough.

As these wolves run through the woods this winter they face a threat from not only hunters, but also trappers. Montana lawmakers legalized wolf trapping back in 2012 to better control the growing population.

"From a standpoint of managing the population it has helped," said Howard Burt, FWP Wildlife Manager.   

FWP reports since trapping was implemented, population numbers are beginning to plateau, helping to solve problems of livestock loss and wildlife herd depletion.  But before anyone can begin trapping wolves, they must first take an FWP class to get certified.

"Typically it's intended to teach a lot of ethics. Some history about wild biology and then a little basic trapping techniques, and those type of things," said Burt.     

Opponents of trapping say a class is simply not enough.

"We're opposed to trapping in general. Honestly there is no such thing as wolf trapping. Which is part of the whole problem. It's indiscriminate," said K.C. York with Trap Free Montana Public Lands.     

Opponents say a trap can catch a variety of animals aside from its intended targets, leaving many animals to suffer if the trap is not checked regularly.  Which is why activists with Trap Free Montana are busy gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would ban the practice.

But if outlawing the practice isn't possible, opponents are calling for policy changes.

"I would at least hope that they would tighten up these classes and require like they do, with hunter education where there's field work involved and you have to pass a test," said York.   

Despite controversy over trapping, FWP officials say it is not as harmful to the animal as many people think. The next trapping classes will be held in Missoula and Kalispell on December 5th. Wolf trapping season officially starts on December 15th.

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