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Bill seeks to make trapping a legal hunt

If you enjoy hiking, camping or wildlife watching on our public lands – and particularly if you like to bring your four-legged friend along for the journey, as I do – then you need to know about an extreme piece of legislation pending in Congress.

S. 405, misleadingly called the “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015,” contains a slew of harmful measures for wildlife, pets and all of us who want to enjoy our public lands.

This innocuous sounding bill takes an unprecedented step in federal law by including the cruel and archaic practice of trapping in its definition of hunting. If enacted, the bill would open millions of acres of federal lands to trapping by default – and land managers would have to jump through bureaucratic hoops just to close areas to trapping for safety reasons or to protect critical habitat.

Just last fall, a Wyoming family’s Saint Bernard, Brooklyn, went missing near public lands open to hiking outside of Casper. Desperate to find him, the family’s children set out on a search mission with their two other Saint Bernards, Jax and Barkley. Less than a mile away from their home, one of the dogs ran down a hill and suddenly went silent. The children ran after him. One of the children recounted what happened next:

“[The younger child] got a closer look at him and started screaming, ‘it’s a trap.’ And there was a snare trap that was tied around his neck that had suffocated them. My other St. Bernard, 10 feet away, we look at him and he’s caught in another trap. And so we both rush over there to try to break the wire free that was tied around his neck, but he was fighting us and was trying to fight to get loose, and the wire just got too tight; and we both, there was nothing we could do … . Later that night, we found Brooklyn, the dog who originally went missing, and we found her in a trap as well.”

Sadly Brooklyn, Jax and Barkley’s story is far from unique. Every year, trappers kill at least six million target animals and millions more non-target animals, including family pets, and threatened and endangered species. By including trapping in its definition of hunting, the Sportsmen’s Act would dramatically expand this cruel practice. Whether it’s a steel-jawed leghold trap, a Conibear trap or a cable snare, these traps are simply inhumane.

These indiscriminate traps ensnare pets like Cub, a dog found limping along a New Mexico road earlier this year with one back leg missing and the other leg barely hanging on. Cub had been caught in a steel-jawed leghold trap and bullet pallets in his fur suggested that a trapper had later tried, but failed, to kill him. Thanks to the rescue efforts of a passerby, Cub got veterinary care and is now adjusting to life on two legs.

But most animals caught in traps are not as lucky. A beaver, bobcat, wolf or pet dog will try desperately to break free from the painful contraption for hours or days – sometimes resorting to chewing off their own limbs to escape. Trap-check times can range from 24 hours to an entire week, and the trapped animals are left languishing in pain and terror before dying from dehydration, predators or by a trapper’s hands.

Simply put, this legislation is unnecessary – there’s no shortage of places to trap already. In fact, trapping is already allowed on many public lands, despite the fact that the vast majority of visitors to federal lands do not participate in trapping. By catering to a small subset of the population, the Sportsmen’s Act would roll back longstanding federal environmental and public land laws, eliminating important protections that have been in place for decades.

This legislation is bad for public lands, bad for wildlife and bad for the American people. Please contact your U.S. senators and let them know that the Sportsmen’s Act is not sporting at all.

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