Martha Williams, Director
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks
1420 East 6th Ave
PO Box 200701
Helena, Montana 59620
We would like to respond to the recent beaver trapping regulation proposal for the 2018-2019 trapping season. The season as proposed, with few exceptions, provides for unlimited beaver trapping for 5 ½ months out of the year on the west side of the state, and 9 months of the year on the east side of the state.
Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers includes nearly 2,500 hunters and anglers across the state. Some of our members are trappers and our organization is supportive of well-regulated trapping.
We are commenting on beaver trapping regulations because beaver are an important component of aquatic and riparian habitats where they historically occurred. Since glaciers receded, beaver have been responsible for the formation and function of low gradient stream and riparian areas across Montana. As such, they are a “keystone species”. Their presence and activities foster habitat for many other aquatic and terrestrial species. The wetlands they create can be a deterrent to cattle grazing streambanks, and thus prevent damage to both riparian areas and stream channel structure.
Our organization focuses on public lands issues, including health of fish and wildlife habitat. In our opinion and observations, the current very liberal beaver trapping has led to hundreds of miles of public streams to be now without beaver where they formerly occurred. As a result, streams are often functioning at far less than their potential, and reduced riparian areas support less wildlife, both in species diversity and numbers. Loss of beaver has resulted in such damage to streams and water tables that recovery will be difficult at best. The proposed trapping regulations will not correct this situation.
In light of climate change, beavers have been well documented as a benefit to upland water storage and relief to late season low stream flows. Also our hunting and fishing public are ever more reliant on public lands for our hunting and fishing opportunities. Beaver, if properly managed, are an asset to actually increase populations of other species of fish and wildlife which Montana sportsmen appreciate. Trappers benefit when beaver populations are managed over a larger area and other furbearers such as otter, mink, and muskrats benefit from beaver activity.
Therefore we request that the Department take immediate action to revise beaver trapping regulations to new regulations that will ensure our public land streams are fully occupied by beaver where they historically occurred.
The beaver trapping regulations are currently being considered by the Commission. We appreciate your consideration.
Greg Munther, Montana Conservation Coordinator
Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers