BOZEMAN—On May 6, 2024, the Montana Farm Bureau, along with the Montana Stockgrowers Association and the Montana Wool Growers Association, moved to intervene as defendants in Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizen Task Force v. State of Montana. In late November 2023 District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula issued a preliminary injunction requiring Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to limit all wolf trapping and snaring across thousands of miles in an area stretching from Billings west, and north to Phillips County, between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15, 2024. 

The lawsuit was brought by two wildlife groups who argued that the state's plan to allow wolf trapping when bears are active can cause harm to the Grizzly bears in violation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  Judge Molloy’s comments in the ruling suggested that coyote trapping and snaring could lead to illegal taking but did not include coyote trapping limitations in the remedy.  However, the most recent brief filed by the plaintiffs in mid-April included coyote trapping.  

MFBF is a statewide farm and ranch organization dedicated to protecting the interests and rights of farmers and ranchers across Montana.

According to Montana Farm Bureau Vice President Gary Heibertshausen, sheep and cattle rancher, the snaring and trapping of coyotes is an essential management tool for ranchers. Gary added, “Coyote predation is one of my greatest economic expenses and embodies the largest physical threat to my livestock. Coyotes attack calves, sheep, and lambs and cause mental distress, physical harm, and death to ranchers’ animals. Coyote predation strains an already challenging industry and contributes to the closure of many smaller farms and ranches.” 

MFBF State Governmental Affairs Coordinator Karli Johnson, who is a cattle rancher, noted, “MFBF members rely on traps and snares in conjunction with aerial hunting to keep their animals safe focusing on areas with known coyote activity and, working with the State or local agencies, set traps and snares specifically targeted to coyotes. Should the plaintiffs’ injunction regarding coyote trapping be granted, it would have an immediate impact on the MFBF members’ ongoing lambing and calving season, and potentially deal significant damage farms and ranches statewide.

Montana Farm Bureau Executive Vice President, Scott Kulbeck said farmers and ranchers rely on a variety of tools to protect their stock including foot traps and snares, along with non-lethal means such as guard dogs, animal husbandry or exclusion.  However, the traps are tailored for coyotes, not large animals.

“Due to the small scale of the traps, they could not catch or hold a Grizzly. MFBF does not believe that trapping or snaring for predator control purposes poses any danger to Grizzly bears,” Kulbeck concluded.