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Killing more otters would be a waste of wildlife
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Killing more otters would be a waste of wildlife

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The Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission will meet Friday in Helena to likely rubber stamp some more of Gov. Gianforte's War on Wildlife.

Besides the obvious effort to destroy wolves, remove setbacks for trapping on trails on a large swath of public lands in Western Montana, they seem fixated on killing more river otters.

River otters remain to many a very special animal to observe in the wild. Otters are playful, fast in the water and social animals, trapping them may, at best, bring an individual about 20 bucks. Not really worth the cost of trapping.

So why does the agency feel such a need to up the killing of otters?

The answer seems to be in the usual tone of allowing more recreation for citizens.

Recreation? It seems to most normal people in our state that killing wildlife, in a trap, that crushes the skull of such a vibrant animal, one that enjoys a very social existence, is not recreation. It is sickness. The concept that this agency is here to conserve wildlife continues to be shattered daily by their gross indifference to life. Trapping is not a sport, it is certainly not recreation, but yet the agency, by its actions, allows trapping not to continue, but to grow.

Who is pushing to expand such wanton waste of wildlife? Again it falls to our Legislature and their push to influence and control FWP. They are literally running the agency with a slew of bills designed to privatize wildlife in our state. Outfitters, trappers and those that want to profit from the killing of wolves are the winners; people who enjoy viewing wildlife on our public lands are now straddled with far more risk to personal safety from traps and less wildlife to see.

This gets back to river otters, once a species in serious decline and still a species that is classified as Endangered by CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) appendix II. River otters do not mate until their second year of life; they also have a delayed gestation period, often up to a year. They usually have one to three kits at birth. They reproduce every two to three years, so they have slow reproduction rates.

They are often caught in beaver sets, so they are already bycatch and trappers do not have to report such incidents. They give birth from February to April, meaning during a part of the trapping season. Young kits are blind at birth and need more than three months to learn to swim.

So a beautiful and sensitive animal, one that can be impacted by water quality, is allowed to be trapped. Not only that, but we are going to expand the number to provide “recreation” for a handful of people that do not care about the animal, its life or its social interactions. No, this is about bragging rights, an ability to kill an animal that brings joy and surprise to so many. One that is not territorial or harmful to the waters or lands.

The FWP Commission will vote as to whether to raise the limits on the killing of river otters. The question remains why? With this governor, this commission and Legislature, we continue to turn back the clock on wildlife management and our understanding of wildlife and the pain they can feel. We need a new agency, one that is driven by science and respect for wildlife.

Trapping is not harvesting, let’s be clear; it is willful wildlife destruction and torture.

The time has come for it to end.

Stephen Capra is executive director of Footloose Montana.

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