Why Are There Traps in Bitterroot and Clark Fork River Drainages?
For those of you looking at the headline and thinking, "Awesome! A cool place to stash my beer while I'm on the river," uh, sorry.
With all due respect to your toes and fingers cooling in the water during a leisurely float on your inner tube, their safety is not the biggest concern to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. No, that would be many of the creatures that make their homes there, possibly threatened by a nasty critter that does not belong west of the Continental Divide.
Through October 1st, FWP is setting “hoop traps” in local ponds, sloughs, backwaters, and other waterways in an attempt to capture and remove invasive snapping turtles. These traps will mostly be set in the Clark Fork and Bitterroot River drainages. The hoop traps are not dangerous to people or pets and rarely result in unintended catches of non-target species.
In Montana, snapping turtles are a native species east of the Continental Divide, but they are non-native west of the divide and can cause significant harm to native populations of pond-dwelling species like frogs, turtles, snakes, ducks, and fish. The only turtle native to western Montana waters is the Chrysemys Picta Bellii. Impress all your friends with that factoid after a few beers.
Montana FWP would also like to ask those of you who see these traps that you please not disturb them. Something tells me that is going to be a tall order, but here's hoping the spirit of cooperation will prevail.
Also, if you see or hear of a snapping turtle anywhere in the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, or Clearwater River drainages, or in the Clark Fork River drainage upstream from St. Regis, please call Torrey Ritter, FWP Nongame Wildlife Biologist for Region 2, at 406-542-5551.
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