Tougher enforcement of trapping ban adopted by Missoula City Council

Betsy was caught in an illegal trap and died while a Missoula couple was out for an evening walk in 2019. The City of Missoula on Monday adopted tougher penalties on the city’s trapping ban. (Rachel Luger photo)

The Missoula City Council approved an ordinance reinforcing the enforcement of the city’s trapping ban on Monday evening.

The ordinance offers more flexibility for greater penalties beyond the $25 to $500 fine previously in place. It also enables Parks and Recreation staff to spring, release and confiscate any traps found in the city.

Council member Julie Merritt spent the past few months working on the proposal with Footloose Montana, an organization that promotes trap-free lands. Stephen Capra, the executive director of Footloose Montana, thanked council members for the ordinance and support.

“These are great efforts, and I think what we have to look at is that it’s an issue of public safety, but it’s also a recognition that things have evolved in Missoula in the last 25 years, and public recreation is really the cornerstone of why people moved to this community,” Capra said.

According to Merritt in a committee meeting discussing the ordinance, it was inspired after an incident last December, when a 17-month-old dog died after getting caught in a trap illegally set in city limits near the Clark Fork River and the Orchard Homes area.

The ordinance also clarifies language and creates a new subsection for trapping. Merritt said previously that the former language raised difficulty in sufficiently charging people responsible for the December incident.

With trapping season just starting up Nov. 1, the ordinance’s approval comes at an opportune time, according to Capra.

“I can tell you that when trapping season began yesterday, I’m getting emails non-stop from people who are very worried about where they can go safely with their pets and where they can recreate without fear of their animals,” Capra said. “I think this is a very important ordinance, and I want to thank all of you involved for your efforts on this. I think this is something the whole community can understand.”