#JustAnOutdoorGal: Meet Trapping Expert Caitlin Knutson

By: Anagha Bharadwaj

Hey everyone! Welcome to November. {Seriously?!} For this month’s #JustAnOutdoorGal feature, we were psyched to get an opportunity to talk to Caitlin Knutson, part owner of a trapping supply company in Iowa. She and her partner, Kylee, own Funke Trap Tags and Supplies, Inc.


Caitlin and her dog Liz after a pheasant hunt.

Caitlin first started trapping when she was around 14. At the time, she had a neighbor who was willing to teach her, and it was simply an exciting new thing to be doing. She continued to trap as a hobby for the next several years. For awhile, Caitlin was teaching in Montana and was able to trap in the mountains there. Over time, her appreciation for trapping grew and evolved.

Today, Caitlin traps because she likes it, and often in response to a local need. For example, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, and other wild animals can pose a danger to communities of people. Sometimes predator-prey populations can fall out of balance. In those situations, it’s important to know how to trap responsibly: to set traps far enough from humans to ensure they don’t cause harm and to check them daily.


Caitlin and Kylee after they decided to go into business together

In addition to getting her outside, trapping also enables Caitlin to learn more about the local fauna. Every time she traps an animal, she knows more about its habits. Trapping is an activity that combines an active knowledge of biology and ecology with plenty of time spent outdoors in nature. It can also be rewarding extrinsically!


Many trappers pay attention to the details of an animal to avoid decimating a local population. This ensures a future for the targeted species.

These two coyotes were part of a population in Montana that were posing a threat to cattle and other livestock on the ranch. Caitlin taught herself to skin the coyotes so she could better understand the process of harvesting the animal. Additionally, money from the sale of the coyotes went towards a girls’ night out with Kylee so they also supported the local economy.

Given her appreciation for and knowledge of trapping, it was no wonder she decided to purchase Funke Trap Tags and Supplies, Inc., when she got the chance. As a young, female owner in an industry and hobby dominated by older men, Caitlin has faced her fair share of doubt. People looking to buy traps, and they want to speak to someone who knows them. Unfortunately, many doubt Caitlin’s knowledge at first glance; but usually, once Caitlin starts talking, people realize that she’s a person they can trust for their trapping information.

If you’re interested in learning more about trapping, Caitlin recommends finding your state or local trapping association and giving them a call. They usually have courses available!

Looking forward, Caitlin and Kylee are interested in teaching more people about trapping, and bringing the trade (or art, depending on your perspective) to a younger generation.


Teaching an 11-year-old boy about trapping in Montana

They have an education station in their store, where they teach people to recognize tracks, and set traps safely. They’ve updated their website, which you can check out here if you’re interested, and they’re also interested in reaching out to local schools, and working with classrooms in the area.



  • Reply Alyssa at

    OK – I love, love, love the #JustAnOutdoorGirl series, and Will is telling me not to get into it – but I can’t let this one slide. I’m surprised to see a trapper featured on this blog.

    Trapping is indiscriminate. Traps set for one species inevitably end up catching others, including endangered and threatened species like wolverines and otters. Even animals you wouldn’t expect to be affected by traps like grizzly bears and bald eagles can get caught in them. Colorado, for example, doesn’t even require trappers to record non-target animals that they’ve trapped.

    Sometimes the trapper checks their traps daily, sometimes not – but even if it’s only a few hours of suffering, is that ok? Of course, in many states (including Montana) 24 hour trap checks are not required, so it’s entirely likely that a trapped-but-still-living-and-terrified animal could be stuck, starving and in pain, for days.

    I know that the post says Caitlin takes care to put her traps “far enough away” from humans and pets to be safe, but what does that mean to her? 5 miles, 10 miles, 20 miles from the nearest trail? Because we run all of those distances with Hilde on a regular basis. Every time we venture into the public lands adjacent to our property in Montana (which is every day) I double check to make sure I have a pair of wire cutters in my pack, in case Hilde gets caught in a trap. I make her wear a bell partially for bear protection, but more so that I can hear where she is in the event that she gets caught in a trap.

    This family (http://trib.com/lifestyles/recreation/traps-that-killed-three-st-bernard-dogs-near-casper-were/article_3f3e1256-1a7b-5a42-bfd6-22dc0a33c569.html) in Casper, WY lost three St. Bernards to legal traps in one weekend. Two of the dogs were killed in front of their children. I hate knowing that letting my dog do the thing she enjoys most in the world means that someday, I might have to deal with the pain of watching her die this way.

    We currently have an initiative on the ballot in Montana to prohibit trapping on public lands, and the supporters have said it well:

    “[…] Unlike 19th Century mountain men, trappers today drive trucks, ATV’s and snowmobiles along routes many people use. Traps can be set 50 feet from trails, 30 feet from roads, and on river and creek banks. Traps are not signed. No public trails, roads or waterways are safe for a wandering child or dog.

    Trapping is no longer a primary income source, yet our publicly owned animals are disappearing for markets like China and Russia. Quotas are set for Montana’s bobcat, otter, fisher and swift fox, but trapping is unlimited for all other species. Killing an animal for its hide—market hunting—is what nearly exterminated the buffalo and is as unacceptable today as killing an elephant for its tusks, a bear for its gallbladder or a rhino for its horn.

    Montana’s tradition calls for “Fair Chase” and respect for animals, the core ethics of hunting. Trapping has no fair chase. The trapper does not see his target, the kill is far too often not quick or efficient. The suffering of the trapped animal is enormous, and can last for days. One out of four animals chews its leg off in panic and pain. Montana law is that no game animal be wasted. For every targeted fur bearer caught, an average of two more are killed and discarded. Baited traps attract any animal, including rare and protected species like eagles, owls, wolverine, lynx and fisher. […] ”

    I get it – it’s hunting season. But trapping isn’t hunting. I would far, far rather read a story about someone who put in the time and effort to ethically harvest an elk or deer than promote trapping.


    • Reply laura at

      thank you. this articulates so many reasons why trapping leaves a bad taste in my mouth (i have no problems with hunting).

    • Reply Caitlin at

      Hello, Caitlin here. Just wanted to respond to your comment as best as I can in order to address a few issues. I don’t want to come across as argumentative, as I know this can be a hot topic for debate. I just thought you had some good points that I thought could lead to an educational discussion or to at least elaborate my side of the trapping aspect.

      1. “Trapping is indiscriminate…” – Traps are often required to be set at certain pan/dog strengths in order to lessen the possibility of catching non-target species, especially if that trap is being set in an area where there is a risk of non-target species. I sell trap pan weight testers for this purpose. In the occasion a non-target species is caught, they can often be released. Trappers try their best to avoid non-target species, because they are in fact not the target and an “undesirable” catch. It is not in their best interest. Just to quickly cover the case of the Bald Eagles, baits at a trap are not usually permitted (I’m not sure about all states’ rules here) to be visible to the eye (so, buried or well-covered). This greatly reduces the risk of having a bird of any kind bother the trap area or get caught on accident.
      To maybe bring in hunting to this, since you enjoy hunting, I want to say that non-target species are often killed by hunters. Accident or not, it happens. My friend’s dog was shot in their own yard last week by bird shot. (the neighbor has a fence and the dog was an old, lazy Labrador). I also saw an article while living in Montana about someone’s horses being shot and left for dead, one still struggling to breathe when it was found. I just wanted to point out here, that non-target animals sometimes get injured or killed in hunting/trapping “sports.” It’s not pleasant in either case, and most of the time it’s an accident. I do know that both hunters and trappers try their very best to not have this happen. There are though, the “bad apples that spoil the whole bunch” by either being downright irresponsible or by being what I might as well call sadistic.

      2. In Iowa, we don’t have the large chunks of public lands and trails in Montana. I don’t think I could get 10 miles from anywhere here. 🙂 However, I do talk to the land-owners and nearby home owners/dwellers and discuss the range of their pets and livestock (if applicable). I let them know where I’m setting, and when I will be out to check the traps. I do everything in my power to be open with the landowners, and be safe both for them and their animals (and any visiting people they can notify). If there is a roaming stray, that can’t really be helped and that issue is addressed when presented.
      In Montana, I know it is highly recommended to keep your dog on a leash when on public trails and land during hunting and trapping seasons. To me, that would make sense as it is public, and there is a risk of traps or hunters. I know one story where a man’s husky was shot in Montana during the hunting season because someone thought it was a wolf (why would they just pull the trigger like that without being sure, I have no idea). The best I can say is be cautious when not on your own property both for yourself and your pets. It is public land and others do use it. The reason behind the no signs at each trap is that there because people who often damage or steal the traps, or even harass the owners of the traps. Traps are not cheap or easy to prepare, and I don’t think anyone wants someone else coming on to their property to harass them.
      I always put an orange vest or collar on my dog when we were up in the mountains during the seasons to be safe. I would also wear a bright colored shirt and make plenty of noise.

      3. Trapping is still a primary source of income for a number of my customers, and to be honest, my primary source of income as I am the part-owner of a supply business. As for a comment below about “promoting it as a hobby,” it’s more listed as a “hobby” when someone doesn’t have it as a primary source of income, yet they still find the challenge enjoyable. Much like hunting can be considered a hobby or a “thing someone likes to do.”
      Trapping also isn’t limited to just harvesting the hide. Many other parts of the animals are used again within the trade. I won’t get gross, but the glands, meat, and other parts are used. Trappers aren’t out there leaving the bodies to rot or making body piles like hunters did with the American Bison. Some trappers, thought not the majority, also eat their catch. Makes me a little squeamish to eat a raccoon, but I’m told they taste like pork. I was even given a recipe for “crockpot raccoon” by a customer.
      Quotas are set in place for many states, and there are also many animals that are illegal to trap. There are also regulated seasons in which you are able to trap the allowed species. For Montana hunters, coyotes are unlimited in the bag-limit and able to be hunted year-round (I believe this is the same in many other states as well).

      4. “Fair chase…” As a trapper, I have nothing but respect for the animals I target. It’s very difficult for one to trap coyotes, as they are very crafty and clever. It is much easier to hunt and shoot one. To me, I think trapping is much more challenging in some aspects than hunting can be. I have to start thinking like a coyote, know its habits and travel patterns, and then set a trap so well that it can’t tell that I’ve been there. Anything out of place will scare it off.
      Like you mentioned earlier, trappers are no longer 19th century mountain men. Collectively, we have evolved our methods. We no longer use the scary, sharp-tooth jawed traps, or crazy cyanide guns, or other strange, terribly unethical practices used long ago. Many states have regulations on rubber jawed traps, or off-set sawed traps (which are gapped jawed traps). Iowa doesn’t have a requirement for off-set jaws, but many trappers use them here. The purpose of these traps are to allow non-target species to not be caught (they slip out of the trap jaws and go on about their lives) and the targeted species have little to no risk of great injury, such as a broken leg or foot for example. This greatly reduces the pain an animal may experience, and the action of the trap is that of a strong hand-grip on their foot instead and they are held there. Not only are broken legs/feet or chewing of the leg unethical, but also not good for a trapper who wants to have a high quality pelt (or other product). The industry has made a great number of changes in products and methods in order to be more ethical and respecting of the animals. I’m not sure where you got your statistic of the one-in-four animals chewing off their legs in panic. I have trapped since I was 14 and have never had an animal chew off it’s leg. I have also never had an animal break a leg or foot. This is not the goal of trapping. I also know that even though in Montana it’s not ‘required’ to check your trap every 24 hours, many trappers do, or at least as close to that as possible (depends if their trapline is 2 miles long or 200 miles). Thanks to the modern vehicles we have, we can check traps quickly and retrieve catches. No trapper wants their catch “stuck, starving and in pain for days.”
      Also, I am not sure of where your statistic came from for the “for every fur-bearer caught, an average of two or more are killed and discarded.” In my years of trapping, I have never just thrown away a catch. There is no point in that.

      Finally, your closing statement. For me this post was important to get public about the ethical advances of trapping and that it’s not some blood-thirsty “sport” of hillbillies and crazy people who don’t care about or respect animals.”
      More often anymore these days, trapping is typically done for biological and ecological purposes, as the fur trade isn’t what it was in the 19th century. People do still trap for the fur trade though, as furs are necessary in some areas, not just fashion accessories.
      One final thing on ethics; wolves in Montana are caught using the same methods I use for coyotes (only much larger traps are used for the wolves). The wolves are then collared, data and samples are collected from them, and then the wolves are released. If the wolves can be released to go on about their lives using the same methods I use for coyotes (which are leg-hold traps), then one must gather than the methods used are not ones that cause “enormous suffering, panic, and pain.” My source for the wolf trapping knowledge comes from a class I took from a Montana FWP biologist who taught me how she trapped wolves around the Bozeman area.
      Trapping takes large amounts of time and effort in order to have successful results. Sure, some Random Joe can go out and set some weird, barbaric trap and catch who-knows-what, but Random Joe can also go out and illegally poach (hunt) deer, elk, bears, mountain lions, otters, etc. Hunters also don’t often kill an animal in their tracks, but often have to track a bleeding, suffering animal to then find it and end its life. I enjoy hunting as much as any other hunter, but I don’t really think it’s fair to come across as highlighting that hunting is ethical whereas trapping is horrible. I also want to add that I dislike unethical trappers more than most, as it throws a bad light on the industry from which I make a living.

      Anyway, I really hope I responded well and in a way that is understandable, reasonable, and not aggressive. I just want to clear things up and maybe open more discussion if anyone wants to take part. I do ask that everyone keeps it civil though, as there is no discussion that can reasonably take place when anger is the fueling emotion. Thank you all for your comments.

      • Reply Alyssa at


        I appreciate your response. It seems like you personally do a great job of trying to mitigate the risks. To set the record straight – I am not a hunting aficionado, myself – I just have fewer problems with hunting than I do with trapping. I have a few questions for you:

        1. In the Montana 2014/2015 season it was reported that two wolverine, one fisher, and nine mountain lions were killed in traps that were not set for them. Is this acceptable to you? Do you believe that “accidental shooting” by hunters has the same effect? I, for one, am very concerned about losing our wolverine completely. Is there anything that can be done to decrease these numbers?

        2. Can you explain why you have a section on your site labeled Bobcat / Lynx when Lynx are currently on the endangered species list? Does one use the same equipment to trap both cats? Do you provide your customers with literature on how to avoid trapping lynx?

        Also, for reference:

        – The “two for one” statistic comes from a statement from former government trapper Dick Randall – “My trapping records show that for each target animal I trapped, about two unwanted individuals were caught.” (D. Randall. Hearings before the Ninety-Fourth Congress to Discourage the Use of Painful Devices in the Trapping of Animals and Birds. Washington, D.C. U.S. Govt. Printing Office)

        I know that this is anecdotal, but it’s just as admissable as your claim that you’ve never thrown away a catch.

        – Regarding I177: I-177 allows the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to use certain traps on public land when necessary if nonlethal methods have been tried and found ineffective. I-177 allows trapping by public employees and their agents to protect public health and safety, protect livestock and property, or conduct specified scientific and wildlife management activities.

        • Reply Caitlin at

          Not a problem. I think this is great discussion and educational for anyone who reads the blog and comments. I hope to be able to answer the questions and comments well!

          1. I would first like to see this report. Not to see if it’s real, but to see what type of traps in which the animals were caught and if they were killed by the trap, or by the trapper/FWP officer. There are a number of methods, including snares, foot-holds, grips, and live. They are all very different. Anyway, in order for me to respond better that would help me.
          I don’t think non-target catches are a good thing, especially when they have closed seasons. I do think it was good to have them reported though, as then trappers can change their methods in order to avoid such catches, and the state can close the season if needed. Colorado doesn’t require the reporting of a live, non-target catch, but does require the person release them. They also require that if the animal is dead, to report it to officials. If they don’t they can be charged for unlawful possession. Integrity plays a key part in this, as a responsible and ethical trapper will report when needed, release when needed, and follow the set rules and regulations. There is a reason we have the regulations. However, not reporting the catches can be done by the cowardly or unlawful, just as a candy bar can be stolen from a store, a trap can be taken from it’s owner, or a dented fender on a car can be left without notifying the owner. Those are all cowardly or unlawful acts and things like that happen in any state, and in any activity. Most trappers are not cowards, and follow the rules. They do everything they can to avoid non-target catches and will modify or “evolve” to their methods in order to reduce those catches.
          I do believe “accidental” or I daresay sometimes purposeful, yet “secretive” shooting by hunters has the same effect on populations, especially for the larger animals such as wolves and mountain lions. People will shoot because they think it’s a “score” or a “trophy” and will poach for the sake of the “prize.” Most people will pass the gunshot they hear as a successful kill, but if they don’t see the animal, they don’t actually know what was shot.
          I am concerned about low populations of certain species as well. It’s not in anyone’s best interest to wipe them out, and is important to be careful about the animals themselves, and their habitat. Many steps are being taken to reduce the numbers of non-target species caught in traps, including pets. I would venture to guess that if one could find a report of 20 years ago, the non-target species catches were much higher. There are also strict quotas in place for some species. In Iowa, we have a quota on bobcats. If you catch one (which is your individual limit) you must report it and have the DNR come out and tag it, as well as take the lower jaw and some hair for sampling and testing. They use the tests to study the population, and can also match the DNA of the animal to ensure it was taken within the range of other bobcats with similar DNA. This reduces the chance of someone lying about where they caught the animal. There is also a live tally online that you can check to make sure that the season hasn’t been closed due to the quota being filled. Once it has been filled, the season is over, no matter how soon or late in the general trapping season that may be. With these limits in place and the studies taking place, we have seen a population surge of bobcats in Iowa, and an expansion of their range. It’s very nice to see the bobcat population doing well.

          2. As for the bobcat/lynx questions: Lynx seasons do exist in our customer base (we range into Canada and Alaska), as well as “lower 48” government agencies conducting studies. For such, the traps are either foothold or live, and they can use a bait others use for bobcats, as they are both in the cat family. When setting specifically for lynx and using a leg-hold, the pan tension is set higher, so that bobcats are less likely to set off the trap (unless it’s a big bobcat). The trap is often bigger, as well, to ensure if a lynx is caught, it can be properly held without unethical suffering until the trapper arrives. However, even if a bobcat is caught, it can be released to go about its life. A properly set trap allows that. Same concepts with a live trap.
          This also goes for wolf traps accidentally catching Mountain Lions. However, in that case, usually the wildlife agency is called to assist letting the Mountain Lion go, as trying to do that alone is, as you can imagine, terrifying. The FWP agent I talked to said this has happened around Bozeman, as well as catching a bear on accident, and the trappers in both cases were pretty freaked out, but the FWP helped release the animal and all was well.
          As for providing literature on avoiding lynx catches, that is the individual state’s job in their trapping regulations booklet that each trapper has access to both physically as a book and online. Each state has different and very specific regulations. I try my best to answer their questions, and I do a lot of research, but sometimes I have to direct them to either talk to a state wildlife officer or grab a regulations booklet.
          I took a wolf class in Bozeman and part of the class was teaching trappers on avoiding non-target catches, especially for lynx. Some states also require classes to be taken in order to get licenses, which I think is great.
          We also work with the USDA for their work in beaver and otter population studies or control.

          2a. Thank you for the reference. I appreciate you taking the time. It also helped me look around on what date Mr. Randall made his statement and found it was given in the year 1975. That was 41 years ago. The trapping methods have greatly changed since then, and are much more specific, ethical, and responsible. Even today, people are continuing to improve trapping methods in order to reduce non-target catches.

          2b. I would have to do a bit more research on I-177, but so far I have found that many of the issues being put forth in support come across as emotionally charged, and not based entirely on biological and ecological evaluation. I also see that Montana would lose an estimated $61,380 from the reduced amount of trapping licenses sold alone, and the state would then have to increase the amount spent on public/government employees to try and maintain populations in those public areas. In one of the official arguments I read on the pamphlet, it was claimed “I-177 will cost at least $422,000 in taxpayer money every year for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to do the same things that trappers currently buy a license to do.” After reading more, it seems that instead of banning trapping as a whole, they need to focus on setting up better balances to create an environment that the public can utilize and eliminate irresponsibilities on both sides of the issue. When on public lands in Montana (or in any state, really) during hunting and trapping seasons, one needs to exercise caution and be visible/heard (also to avoid bear encounters, etc.). I believe that a middle ground could be reached, but to me the main goal of the initiative seems to be to wipe out trapping completely. This is an interesting and important ballot initiative, and I would like to do more research on this to learn more.

          I hope that I answered the questions you had. If you want more information or have more questions, let me know. This is good discussion.

          • Alyssa at

            Hey Caitlin,

            Thanks again for another detailed response. This conversation has been very educational for me, and I really appreciate you taking the time to respond in such a pleasant way. You have raised some interesting arguments that have encouraged me to think about the reasons that I oppose trapping so vehemently.

            With regards to your perspective on modern trapping, as you’ve set forth above:

            Animal suffering is unacceptable to me in any form (which is a value that informs many other life choices for me, including diet.) Whether it’s a hunter taking a bad shot, a bobcat struggling against a snare, or a wolf desperately trying to escape a leg hold trap – for any amount of time – I would rather it not occur. I understand that our world is complicated, and sometimes suffering cannot be avoided, but in the case of trapping furbearers for their fur, it most certainly can. I view trapping for fur in the same light as trophy hunting, and find both to be an appalling, short-sighted way to treat our wildlife, especially when many of those furs are exported to other countries.

            With regards to trapping for predator management: I reject the notion that lethal force, executed by citizens, is the best way to manage our predators. I value healthy wolf populations and know that there are ways for ranchers to run cattle in wolf-friendly ways. I don’t believe that killing coyotes en masse is a good strategy. (have you seen the research showing that coyotes produce larger litters when they’re feeling pressure from hunting and trapping?) Controlling raccoon populations in urban areas does seem to be a valid use, but I would hope that the raccoons are being treated as humanely as possible.

            My original comment ended with a statement that I would rather see a story about an elk or deer hunter. Your comments have shown me that I need to do some more research on subsistence hunting, as well.

            With regards to trappers who are not as ethical as you:

            You have made it clear that there is a subset of trappers who approach their hobby differently than I have seen in the past. I appreciate that you take the time to do things “right” and I am sure there are many like you. However, I also know that there are trappers who take selfies with trapped, terrified living animals before they kill them. There are trappers who don’t check their traps for days, causing animals to gnaw off their own legs or die of starvation. There are trappers that set snares close to homes and don’t warn the homeowners, causing pets to be strangled just feet from their own yards. I know not every trapper does these things, but it sickens me to know that under our current regulations, all of the above are legal in Montana.

            If there are as many ethical, modern trappers as you say there are, I don’t understand why the trapping community as a whole doesn’t support enacting common-sense regulation like daily trap checks, requirements to report what / how many animals you’ve trapped, or required trapper education courses.

            At the end of the day I recognize that your view, though different from mine, is equally valid. While I will never be comfortable with trapping and will continue to voice my concerns, it is encouraging to see people like you who seem to be bringing a more ethical approach to the hobby.

          • Caitlin at

            Hey, Alyssa.

            I want to thank you as well for your responses. There are always two side to an issue, and both often have valid points.
            Just to meet your comments again with my thoughts:
            1. I think that in the past, trapping has often been overlooked and passed off as something back-woodsy folk do, and do without care. The goal Kylee and I have is to not only show the rest of the world that trapping has drastically changed over time for the better, but to continuously encourage current and future trappers to use ethical and humane practices, and trap responsibly.
            As for trapping and trophy hunting being along the same lines, I respectfully disagree. A trophy hunts for just that, a trophy, often to hang on the wall and use as a bragging point. They may or may not throw away the rest of the animal, depending upon the hunter. I don’t like the waste of an animal any more than you do, and I also greatly enjoy seeing wildlife in abundance. I also think that many trophy hunters have the financial capacity to not worry about wasting an animal, or paying to hunt in areas that guarantee a trophy. Granted, this isn’t always the case.
            Most (I say this to not encompass all) trappers, however, will not display just a head (or whatever else) of an animal and toss the rest of the body into the ditch. Instead, they put the animal to use, selling or using the fur, glands, meat, etc. and therefore not waste the animal. It wouldn’t make sense to the trapper to waste an animal, as they are often trapping to support themselves and/or their family in one way or another. The typical, real trapper isn’t “rich” financially, so to waste an animal would be preposterous. There are probably “trophy trappers” out there though, just like in hunting.
            2. I believe the wolf populations are doing very well where they have been reintroduced. They (the wolves) have done an excellent job balancing the ecosystems, especially around Yellowstone (which makes total sense). They are also expanding their territory, which is a great sign, although it is causing some concern to ranchers. Of course, that is also totally expected as a rancher does not want to lose livestock to any predator, or any other reason. I don’t think that when a rancher has to choose between a wolf and their calves (which provide for their families and for many other families across the U.S.), that they should be forced to leave the wolf alone. This can happen even with “wolf-friendly” management practices. And when you compare the Canadian wolves they reintroduced to other wolves found in the U.S., they are much, much bigger, and can cause a lot more damage to livelihoods. However, I think the methods to reduce wolf/ranch conflicts are a great method, especially when it comes to peoples’ mindsets towards wolves.
            As for citizens trapping, I don’t think the government can afford to pay the number of state or federal employees for the hours and work it takes, and if they could afford it, I don’t think they’d choose to anyway, but rather use it elsewhere (yay, government *sarcasm*).
            3. The subset of trappers: There are always, in any group, going to be those who get the publicity for doing really dumb, irresponsible things. This last year, there was a group of young people, who claimed to love nature and it’s grandeur, who blatantly broke regulations and rules and walked onto a hot spring in Yellowstone to take a selfie. Not only was this dangerous for them, but also potentially harmful to the spring. Someone also loaded a bison calf into a vehicle in Yellowstone, claiming it was needing help. The bison calf had to later be put down because they had interfered and the cow bison wouldn’t take the calf back and it was either going to get hit on the road or die of starvation. However, I don’t lump these people into the group of “nature-lovers” and therefore have a bad taste for nature-lovers. I just know that these are the ones who don’t use their brains. There are trappers, and hunters, who don’t use their brains, or have ethics. However, these are not the majority of “us” out there. They just happen to get the publicity.
            4. The reason I think there is a lot of push-back against the “anti-trappers” out there who want 24 hour checks, etc. is because the typical discussion about trapping isn’t like the one we are having. There is a lot more yelling involved and people feel threatened. Nothing good happens doing that and when someone feels threatened they usually respond with opposing everything on the list publicly. People can get pretty ridiculous. I also think that many ethical trappers don’t want to get into arguments, be threatened, or have people throw shade at something they do. That’s why they aren’t more known. It took a lot of thought on my part to partake in this article before I finally decided it might be a good educational opportunity.
            There are states that have required courses, classes, etc. It is just taking time. Stuff like this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes people working and chipping off past-thoughts and habits (on both sides) to bring about a brighter future. It also takes a younger generation to bring about change (as older generations usually balk at change). Trapping isn’t what it used to be, but it’s not quite to the level that is possible. However, people like me (trapping organizations as well) are working at positive change!

            Thank you for your thoughts and discussion. I think this is a great model for future debate/discussion all around the U.S. regarding trapping.

    • Reply Anne at

      The post left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, and I think Alyssa summed up some reasons why many of your readers might not appreciate a profile of someone who traps as a hobby. I also echo some of the thoughts of another comment below, about appreciating hunting as a way to provide for your family in place of unethical grocery store meat. It’s unclear in the post if Caitlin traps to hunt and eat, or as a hobby/prize/showcase kind of thing.

      I’m not saying it’s a bad post, but it sounds like lots of readers have questions about trapping and it’s purpose and safety, so maybe this is a good topic that Caitlin could expand on for us.

      • Reply Caitlin at

        I hope you revisit this blog and come back to read my responses. I’m trying to keep up with them. 🙂
        To respond to the “hobby” aspect, I trap in my leisure time, as I don’t believe I’m good enough to make a living solely from trapping where I currently reside, and the prices of furs are very low. The lowest they’ve been, I daresay and the cost of living is pretty high. However, other trappers can and do make a living in other locations. I also don’t eat all of my catches, but rather I usually harvest the fur and other parts that can be reused. I don’t like to waste things, so I don’t shoot an animal and then toss it in a ditch. If I don’t harvest the fur, then I’m moving the animal to another location where it can not cause issues with people, pets, and livestock. Trapping seasons don’t go year-round, so harvesting for fur only occurs for a few months each year. The rest of the year, if I do need to trap, it’s to relocate or remove problematic or dangerous animals. Trapping seasons are also mindful of the reproductive cycles of the animals. There is no harvest during the time they have young ones (which also means their fur is in terrible condition anyway) or when they are teaching their young skills to grow and live in the wild (spring and summer moths).
        While I consider it a “hobby,” as it is not my full-time job, I take it very seriously and see it as a necessity more than what people often deem as a “sport.” Often times, populations get way out of control and harm the ecosystem in which they reside, and leave it unbalanced. With responsible trapping, I can help protect not only people and livestock, but also wild prey species and other non-typical prey species in the same ecosystem. In Iowa, there are a lot of houses in the country. Hunters can’t just go out and take care of problem species by shooting all the time, or by shooting at night when most of the fur-bearers are active. People also don’t like hunters running amuck on their land. Trapping provides the solution in this situation, as well as urban population control. Coyotes cause many problems in towns and cities by causing harm to pets, children, and sometimes even adults. Hunting is not allowed in towns (in the vast majority of cases), so trapping provides in that area as well. (I talk about coyotes a lot because that is the species I usually work with). Raccoons and beavers can also cause problems in cities and towns, as well as rural areas.
        As for the trapping for a trophy comment, I don’t really think there is such a thing. Maybe an oversized animal, or one with strange genetics (or some other furbearer that is memorable), but the trophy aspect is nothing compared to the hunting world. People trap for population control as well as for the hides to sell to provide for their families. Many also send in their hides to make clothing. I kept the first Montana coyote I ever trapped to skin and tan on my own, as I felt it was an important thing for me to do personally. Trapping for the fur isn’t actually as common as it used to be, since the markets are down. No one is out there plundering and pillaging fur-bearing populations for the sake of getting rich. It wouldn’t make any sense. Fur also isn’t a major fashion item, but is still used for necessary clothing to provide warmth, as it is warmer than faux fur. I would also like to mention that fur is a natural resource, and when harvested responsibly and ethically, can provide natural products continuously, since populations can remain balanced and able to provide. If the trappers were out plundering the populations, they couldn’t expect to trap each year, as the populations would be decimated and not bounce back. Same with hunters or fisherman. There is a balance and a respect for the animals and their populations.
        I’m not sure about coyotes, but other animals can be eaten. Coyotes probably are a little sketchy to be eaten and have a person expect to remain healthy, but I’m sure it can be and has been done.
        I believe I covered the purpose in this reply as well as another, and also the safety involved when done responsibly and ethically. If you would like me to expand, just let me know. I hope this response helps clear things up some more about modern trapping.

        • Reply Anne at

          Hi Caitlin, thanks so much for taking the time to respond to all these comments. Considering that your comments are even longer than the post itself it seems that a lot of readers would have been interested in more of the educational aspect of trapping in the first place. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on this topic.

          • Caitlin at

            Not a problem! This is a great educational opportunity and I think the post served as a good spark. Thanks for your comments 🙂

    • Reply Felix at

      It sounds like many of your issues are with government policy regarding trapping in public lands, and not with the actual practice of trapping. I would imagine Caitlin, as a dog owner, is probably on your side with this. You can be supportive of trapping and also be critical of people who trap in a careless manner and be critical of governments who fail to protect the property and rights of other citizens.

      Also, I’m no expert on this, but I’m fairly confident trapping IS discriminate. Traps aren’t just scattered willy nilly, but are placed intentionally near animal burrows and are always baited with a scent that will attract a certain type of animal (fox urine is a popular bait, for instance).

      Your other comment regarding trappers not checking their traps seems a little extreme. Sure, that could happen, but who in their right mind would do that? Animals can escape from traps, as you mentioned. There is literally no incentive to just set and forget your traps. This would be like criticizing hunters because some people spotlight animals at night or kill them in other illegal or unethical ways. YES, that is a legitimate point and that should not be done, but NO, you cannot blanket criticize all hunters (and in this case, ALL trappers) simply because a few people do stupid things.

      And, yes, some animals do suffer and feel pain in traps. But there are also live traps and instant kill traps too! Tons of ethical options. Actually, it’s funny that you mention elk hunting as some ethical alternative, when oftentimes deer and elk can run off after they’ve been shot and they slowly suffer and die in some far off spot, sometimes where the hunter will never find them! Again, not a reason to shun hunters, but it’s worth mentioning that there is no 100% perfectly gentle way to kill a wild animal. It’s very tough and sometimes very messy to kill animals when you leave the industrial precision of a slaughterhouse. But honestly, I think meat that is gained from hunting and trapping is probably much better for the animals in question rather than having them raised in crowded conditions in a factory farm, which you probably (perhaps not you specifically, but “you” to anyone reading this) eat meat from these farms.

      Oh, and I would be interested in hearing the numbers on how many Eagles, and, oh my goodness, FISHERS that have been caught in traps. That has to be SO rare. It’s so difficult to even find a fisher in the wild, let alone accidentally catch one?! And Ive never heard of eagles getting caught in traps, but I have heard of them getting killed by wind turbines. But guess what? It’s incredibly rare and it would be ridiculous of me to attack an entire industry because of occasional accidents that do nothing to harm the eagle population at large.

      • Reply Alyssa at

        Felix – I would love for furbearer trapping to go away entirely but at the current moment, in my state, my best chance for progress forward is to support ballot initiative 177. To respond to your questions:

        1. Traps do not have any way to tell whether the animal they are going to spring on is the intended species or not. That is, by definition, indiscriminate.

        2. In answer to your question about “who in their right mind would [not check their traps every 24 hours]?” – In a July 13, 2016 FWP public hearing, Toby Walrath, President of Montana Trapper’s Association, gave public comment opposing a 24 hour check requirement because “[his] trap line runs 120 miles round trip from his home and that he spends 12-16 hrs a day on trapping.” So… that guy would? Why would trappers oppose a 24 hour check if they are already doing it? Yet, so many states do not require a 24h check.

        3. I agree with you on the point about hunting – I myself am not a hunter. However, the fact that hunting isn’t perfect either does not mean that we shouldn’t try to move in the right direction with regards to trapping.

        4. In Montana in 2014 / 2015 it was reported that two wolverine, one fisher, and nine mountain lions were killed in traps not set for them. I agree with you that Wolverine and Fisher are too rare and so it is especially sad that Montana FWP has decided to deny (in the same public hearing as above) a proposal to actually reduce the Fisher quota to 0 – which will now have a quota of 5 males, 1 female, for each of the four districts they inhabit.

        5. I actually have heard that wind turbines are really impacting bird populations. Maybe there’s work to be done there, as well.

        So no, I’m not attacking an entire industry over a few bad apples – I’m trying to point out that trapping is an outdated practice that continually catches non-target species, some of whom are endangered, and puts my family at risk; which is definitely not something that belongs on my public lands.

      • Reply Caitlin at

        Felix, thanks for your comments.

        1. As a dog (and cat) owner, I do share concern about my pets getting caught in a trap. However, I know that when set correctly and responsibly, most traps would cause little harm (other than a sore paw) to my dog. There are also dog-proof traps on the market as well for catching raccoons. Certain snares are different however as they aren’t foot hold traps, but there are regulations on those and where they can be set, etc.
        There are distances from public walkways, highways, homes, etc. During the trapping season, it is everyone’s responsibility to be aware of where they are (and their pet, if applicable), and to stay safe. Smaller traps and snares are not usually marked by a sign, due to many people stealing them or destroying them, which is a crime. Traps and snares are also not a cheap purchase. They all, however, are individually tagged with owner identification as required by law in each state. So, it is recommended to stay on or very near the public trails, or to use caution when walking off the path. Most incidents of pets in traps on public lands that I have read are from wandering animals that are not on leashes or from animals straying from their home or from the owner’s private land. I don’t believe there are any instances on pets in traps that are on their leashes, or on the designated trail. If there are, I would be interested in reading them.

        2. There are specific baits, lures, and attractants; you are correct. In fact, there are baits that are virtually dog and even cat “proof” so that pets are not tempted by the bait. This is especially important in urban trapping environments. Pretty great, I think.
        Fishers can be caught in traps, and there are seasons in some states and regions (U.S. and Canada included), but there are strict quotas on them that are enforced. Such quotas can actually be useful and beneficial for a population, as seen in the Iowa bobcat population. They really help studies, help population health, and still benefit the trapper. I made a comment above about how the quota works, if you are interested.

        3. As for non-target Fisher catches, another poster and I both made comments about how that does happen at times, and how trappers are working to reduce those catches, as they are highly undesirable by trapper and non-trapper alike. I would like to add that possessing a non-target animal that is not up for the season or that is protected is unlawful, that killing and ditching the body of such an animal is also unlawful and that fur-buyers will also refuse to buy such an animal and then report the seller to the proper authorities, as selling such an animal is unlawful. There are very specific laws and regulations in each state regarding trapping that trappers must follow.

        4. As for the number of eagles I don’t have any data on that, but I don’t personally know anyone who has caught a Bald Eagle.

        Hope this expands a little on your comments. Thanks again.

    • Reply Caitlin at

      I also wanted to thank you, Alyssa, for being open to discussion and not just leaving a comment and blowing me off (which is what typically happens). I have benefited from seeing your responses, and am glad you have taken the time to read mine.
      I hope that the good discussion here benefits many!

  • Reply Cora at

    I have to agree with Alyssa. I had to check twice if I opened the right website, I really don’t see how this fits with your blog. Trapping might be necessary in some cases (pest control, although I would hope as a last resort), but to promote it as a hobby?!

    • Reply Caitlin at


      I hope you stick around to read the discussion in the comments, as much is being explained. I don’t think the bloggers wanted a gigantic post about what I do, as other posts are similar lengths to this one. They also are not promoting anything, other than “outdoor gals.” Instead they left more of the details regarding what I do up to me in the comments if people had questions or concerns, which they have voiced. I also explain the use of the word “hobby,” but I can cover that again here. Since trapping is not a full-time job for me, I consider it a “hobby,” which is something one enjoys that is done in leisure time. It’s still physical labor and a challenge, but like I said, it’s not my full-time job. Saying hobby is accurate by definition, and much quicker than saying something like, “it’s what I do 2-3 months out of the year for a handful of hours each day when I’m not working at my business. I enjoy being challenged, and it’s a challenge. Since I don’t consider things that I enjoy to be work, I would then consider this to be something I enjoy in my leisure time.”
      Woodworking and bow-hunting are a challenging activities I do outside of my work environment, so those are also what I consider hobbies.

  • Reply Kendra at

    This profile and promotion of trapping does not fit your blog and I am extremely dissapointed. Did you look into trapping at all before posting?! This is a very unbalanced portrayal of trapping. Unlike hunting, where an individual must sight their intended target, trapping blindly injures and kills. Incidents of traps injuring or killing dogs are so common that our Idaho newspaper regularly runs articles on how to free your dog from different kinds of traps. Yes, some species need population control, but as Alyssa remarked, trapping unintended species is rarely reported, nor is trapping well controlled in many states. As injured dog owners often discover, many traps are not even properly marked to identify the trapper who set them. It’s cowardly.

    I understand trying to support a variety of outdoors women. If you wanted to stretch your audience, profile fly fishing or a woman who bow hunts for elk she’ll serve in place of mass-market meat, not this. I hope your sponsors take note of this post and decide it does not align with their values. It is certainly does not aligned with mine.

    • Reply Caitlin at


      I don’t believe this post was set to “promote trapping” as much as is it was maybe to support young women working in an industry full of older men and a commonly misunderstood reputation of “bad apples” that I mentioned in an above reply. It just so happens that I trap and chose this industry in which to work and make a living.
      As for your thoughts of this post being “unbalanced” in the its portrayal, I suggest you read my response above as well. I hope that I covered the “modern” industry to showcase the steps trappers have taken and are continuously taking to be more ethical and respectful of not only the animals, but of the general public. I also want to say that I work with trappers from all over the U.S. (and Alaska) on a daily basis and this is not an unbalanced portrayal. I also can attest that trapping is well-controlled and regulated in many states (I haven’t read the regulation booklets from all 50 yet). Traps are required by law to be marked in order for the wildlife officials or law enforcement to find the trap owner. This doesn’t mean that all states require the full name and address of the trapper on the trap, as many people would abuse that information and harass or even assault the trap owner. However, other forms of I.D. are required and used, such as the trapper’s license number or State I.D. number. Those are used by the proper officials to contact the owner. Part of my business is making the ID tags for the traps, and I do know they are required in each state. If the trapper doesn’t have them on, then they are the bad apple I was talking about and they are breaking the law! Also, to make a small note (as fishing and hunting are often supported here instead), hunters and fisherman can shoot/catch and waste certain species and not report them as well. There are many cases and news reports as such. However, trapping is easier to target to be the bad-guy as it’s not a major money making/trophy getting industry like hunting or fishing can be. Also, please note that I dearly love hunting (I bow hunt for deer and hunt pheasant if the populations are doing well) and fishing (I’m not the most successful at this). I support and take part in the ethical, fair-chase methods.
      I know that the last two points on being balanced and regulated may probably be seen as biased since I work in the industry and that you don’t know me in order to take me at my word, but that’s what I can say first-hand and honestly.

      With my position as a supplier and also as an educator, my aim is to encourage my customers, especially the younger generation to be ethical and responsible. Many people who are outside of the trapping industry often picture trappers as older generations of people (usually men) who are “set in their ways” and resemble the Hugh Glass era of “unlimited exterminating” of any species. This is definitely not the case of the present older generation nor any respectable trapper of any age, but rather the “bad apples” I mentioned earlier, who also are spotlighted, used to represent all other trappers, and fuel public outrage (note: I am outraged by irresponsible trappers, as well). One can’t slap a one-label-fits-all sticker on anyone, and that includes trappers.
      My goal in my position is to educate everyone about the modern advances (and ethical advances) in the trapping industry and show it’s not just a blood-sport for fiends. I also want to promote the future and continuance of ethical trapping, and educate many in the right methods.

      I understand your views, as they are popular stances that I hear often, but I hope that you can see my point of view, and the steps that have been are being taken in the industry to be ethical and responsible. It’s hard to clear up past mistakes and bad reputations of an entire industry, but I’m willing to give it a shot. I hope that this post is a good step in clearing up common misconceptions about trapping and trappers.

      I also want to encourage you (and other readers) to continue being against the unethical and irresponsible trappers, hunters, those who fish, etc. out there. It’s important to have reasonable “whistle-blowers” and “watch-dogs” reporting law-breakers and irresponsibilities. Without such, there would be no hope for positive changes, such as the ones I have mentioned, in our industry, while also allowing a future for our industry.

  • Reply Gray at

    For the people commenting about how trapping is cowardly and indiscriminate, and how two young women trying something new and running their own business is an unbalanced portrayal of trapping, I suggest that you do a little more research, or simply recall in your mind how many instances of poached animals there have been this year that were shot by cowardly and indiscriminate hunters. Bears, deer, antelope, horses, cows, dogs, people – it doesn’t matter – every year there are hunting ‘accidents’ if you would like to call them that. As an actual Montana native, the only instances of trapping causing issues that I can recall are when a person’s dog got caught in a foot-hold trap; which, if you did some research, are aimed to do the minimal amount of damage to the animal caught. Those reports don’t even compare to the number of pets that get shot or poisoned in people’s own yards. Trapping may not ‘sit well with you’ but hanging out of a pickup, driving down a back road, shooting whatever animal comes into your scope and leaving it to rot doesn’t ‘sit well’ with me, nor should it you. Shooting an animal doesn’t ensure an instant and humane death; animals can travel miles before finally bleeding out from a gunshot wound, so that argument is grasping at straws. Same for fishing – the fish typically die from stress. As for the whole ‘driving the bison nearly extinct for their pelts’ comment, please do some research in regards to early white Americans slaughtering herds of bison merely to eliminate the main food supply of any Native American tribe that was in the way of attaining more land. Also, the odds of catching a bald eagle in a trap are practically zero, and were that to actually happen, the person who set the trap would receive a fine ($100,000) just like anyone else who shot or poisoned a bald eagle (except with trapping, Fish Wildlife and Game can actually hold the person accountable as all traps are required by law to have identification attached to them, whereas hunters are anonymous).

    • Reply Caitlin at


      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      Any unethical behavior regarding animals should not be tolerated in any activity; hunting, trapping, fishing, etc. It is the duty of the people partaking in these activities to not only practice ethical behavior themselves, but to also teach others responsible and ethical techniques and behavior. Education is key.
      These practices are vital to keeping these activities part of the outdoor life, and also part of wildlife population control or supplying for one’s family or own well-being. It’s also important in the future of these industries, too.

      I’ll just throw this in here again to finish: The point of the blog post wasn’t for the blogger(s) to force support of the trapping industry, but rather to highlight a young, “outdoor gal” (two, counting my business partner) who happens to work in the trapping industry. It just so happened to spark some discussion from both sides. I’m glad that through the comments from you and others, I can share my experiences, the goals that Kylee and I have to share true information on ethical and responsible trapping, and show that a positive future of the industry is possible. It takes work and we are trying our best!

      Thank you, again, for the comments.

  • Reply Kate at

    I found this article enjoyable, possibly because I read it with the advantage of being interested in what strong, capable and knowledgeable women are doing to follow their passions and how they are able to contribute to the world. I have no preconceived bias towards hunting or trapping, but in my lack of understanding I don’t even know if I would favour one over the other. I find it fascinating to learn about how to live using our natural resources and to learn about the people where such activities are a big part of their lives, hobby or work. I see an article about a strong woman who traps, which makes me wonder at the details of trapping, and since I’m also getting consistently good vibes from the author of the articles, it leads me to reason that there is much I don’t understand about trapping and the trappers themselves. The comments have been most educational, and I appreciate Caitlin’s considerate and well-supported answers. I’ll consider these activities if ever get to move back to Colorado, and at the very least, I have a new appreciation for trappers.

    Thanks for the article!

    • Reply Caitlin at


      Thanks for your comment! I’m glad the article and responses have provided some food-for-thought. 🙂

  • Reply Lynn @ The Not Dead Yet Blog at

    Well. This was an interesting read. It’s always nice to learn something from the comments (on both sides) without finding yourself in a cage match.

    • Reply Caitlin at


      Cage matches are never fun for those in the cage! 🙂 Glad you found something of interest and that I could be part of something that provided good discussion and learning.


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