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Cathy Scholtens and Becky Howard

Cathy Scholtens and Becky Howard pose with the dogs, Huckleberry and Tillie Faye, following a frightful experience at Bitterroot National Forest campground over the weekend. Both dogs were caught in traps set near the Crazy Creek Campground near Sula.

HAMILTON - A trapper whose traps caught two dogs near the Crazy Creek Campground near Sula will be cited for having his traps too close to a campground.

The pet owners could also face charges for removing the traps.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden Doug Johnson completed his investigation Saturday with an interview of the two women who owned the dogs caught in a leg hold trap and a wire snare on Dec. 17.

"The owners of the dogs were just back from Christmas break," Johnson said. "I have not had a chance to talk with them before then."

Johnson said he will turn over his investigative material to the Ravalli County Attorney's Office, which will then make the determination if charges are warranted against the pet owners.

Montana law requires that traps be set at least 50 feet off a designated trail and 1,000 feet from a campground or trailhead. It is also against the law for the public to tamper with traps.

Becky Howard and Cathy Sholtens said their dogs were caught in traps a few hundred feet from the campground. The dogs were attracted by meat hanging in nearby trees.

They reported the incident to FWP officials and removed the traps from the scene.

Johnson said he could not go into the details of his investigation, nor reveal the name of the trapper at this point.

In a posting on the anti-trapping Footloose Montana Facebook page, the women wrote that they expect to be charged for tampering with evidence and taking the traps.

"Our voice is strong," the women wrote. "We will continue to protest traps and trapping on public lands."

Johnson said FWP plans to release a statement later this week in hopes of providing some educational material to trappers and general recreationists.

"With the warmer weather that we've been experiencing this winter, folks are venturing out to trailheads and areas where they normally don't go because they normally simply can't get there," Johnson said.

On top of that, Johnson said there are more people living in the Bitterroot Valley and the surrounding area than there were 10 years ago.

"There are more folks trying to use the same amount of space," he said. "In the winter, those people aren't just walking up a hillside. They're funneled into trailheads and campgrounds, where there is more opportunity for a conflict to occur."

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