I am reprinting this from an informative email sent out by an official. I’ve stripped out all the identifying information that I could. I just wanted to put the information out there, especially for Alaskans who aren’t aware of the brazen habits of trappers.
Our dog, Taylor, was caught in a Conibear trap on a popular trail yesterday. It was set less than six feet from the trail with no flagging, other human discernable indications or notification of trapping taking place nearby on this frequently travelled trail.
Three of the four people in our party knew how to release it in a classroom setting but please understand that this is not the experience you will have if your pet ends up in a trap. Whatever knowledge you have will likely be blinded by emotion at least for a moment and you may not have many of those to spare.
All of us immediately lost and attempted to regain our composure long enough to remember what to do. All of us screamed. First in horror and more again in anger while we fruitlessly tried to squeeze the arms together with our hands as fear overpowered our rational thoughts that would eventually lead us to cinching together the arms with her leash as we had so unemotionally seen on a video or done ourselves in a warm room during an emotionally dry demonstration.
Meanwhile Taylor’s tongue, grossly forced from her mouth, was turning blue in front of our eyes and she defecated on us.
The trap will be anchored to something. You rarely see a release demonstration explaining how difficult it can be to gain access to the arms on both sides of the trap when the trap is anchored in a tight area. No demonstration will prepare you for accessing the arms when your trapped pet is the obstruction to their own release.
Taylor kept remarkably calm during the struggle. Her reaction was almost certainly atypical. Other animals might lash out or strain against the trap and their rescuers throughout the process.
The video demonstrations almost always take a couple minutes. It took us at least five. Five minutes can seem like forever. Five minutes might be too long. Taylor was fortunate that it was not too long. She was fortunate that we had knowledge and were able to access it through the fever of the moment. She was fortunate and she will probably be fine. I would not, however, wish the experience on anyone.
While this trap was almost certainly a legal set, legal and ethical are not always the same. It was less than a leash length from a regularly traveled trail and placed in a narrowing of the trail that made non-target species encounters more likely.
You may never encounter an ethically set trap. There are, however, no shortage of traps set by the unethical or uneducated.
If you trap, please educate yourself about how to do so to minimize non-target species and user conflicts.
If you live or play in Alaska with your pets, please educate yourself about how to release traps and snares. Your pet’s life may depend on it.
You can find more information at the ADF&G’s page linked below or borrow the Alaska Trappers Association video from the local Library.
This type of story is depressingly common. Every time I venture into the woods I worry about my dog. Every time I go on a SAR mission with my trained and certified search and rescue dog who works off-leash and out of my sight, I worry that he will blunder into a trap and that will be the end of him, and it’s all perfectly legal. When I step off a trail to pee, I might myself step into a trap and I’ll probably then get ticketed by the Alaska State Troopers. I also like to explore and navigate off-trail, which could prove deadly to me or any of my canine companions. I wanted to pass up the “what if that were a CHILD” hysteria, but it’s completely plausible given the story below that a toddler could be an easy victim of a killing trap set like this, and the trapper wouldn’t be held at all responsible because his actions would be legal. I find this to be a completely insane state of affairs. There’s no leash law on toddlers (or dogs, even) on National Forest lands so to me setting a trap on or near a trail or baiting it odiferously in a way that attracts dogs is completely mental and sociopathic.
Personally, I can give some (not much) leeway to subsistence trappers who run traplines to survive the winter. These people are VERY few, because I don’t count torturing animals to sell their furs for money to buy oil as “subsistence.” Trapping animals to use their fur to not freeze to death, I can sort of live with depending on how ethical the trapper is in how he runs his traplines. However, I give zero leeway to recreational trappers who do it just because they enjoy slowly splintering an animal’s head or limb until it dies. I made the mistake of going on a trapping message board to try to understand their mindset a little more, but immediately stopped doing that because of the gleeful way recreational trappers went about their hobby, with message board handles like “AK Paw Pincher” and “Skullcrusher.”
A recreational trapper is suing a Juneau, Alaska woman for rescuing a bald eagle she found caught in one of his traps. I’ll link to the pictures here instead of embedding them, and will present you with the following story and thus allow you to draw your own conclusions about this issue. If you don’t like the above story(except for the fact that the dog is OK), please notify the Alaska Board of Game at this link, not that it will do much good as the BOG is heavily pro-trapper. Please, though, at least try. Put some pressure on these people to finally conclude that someone who nicknames himself “paw pincher” is not someone who can be trusted with the lives of family members of Alaskans.