Is trapping doomed?

Tom Reed
High Country Times, April 12, 1999

The day after Christmas 1997 is a day that Liz Kehr shudders to remember.

Kehr and her husband, Kevin Feist, live in the Flathead Valley in northwestern Montana, snug against Glacier National Park. It’s a place where publicly owned land stretches for miles in all directions, though in the past 10 years the valley has boomed with more and more people moving in. Flathead County swelled from 59,218 people in 1990, to an estimated 71,707 in 1997.

It’s an outdoor community where many people enjoy hunting and fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling – and trapping.

Kehr chokes up when she recalls Dec. 26, 1997, an overcast day with snow threatening and everything washed in the gray of a northwestern Montana winter. Kehr was out for a little afternoon skiing, a chance to burn off some holiday sloth and exercise her two dogs. She chose the Trail Creek road, which is often impassable to even four-wheel drive vehicles but still sees heavy use from snowmobilers and cross-country skiers. Near Kalispell, the road is on public land – the Flathead National Forest.

With her were Tara and Buddy, the family’s two mutts. A year before, Buddy, a good-natured dog with a seemingly perpetual grin, had come to Kevin and Liz’s house, a stray looking for a home.

“It was like he picked us,” remembers Kehr.

Now, Buddy was part of the family. Leaving her car parked beside a few others, Kehr moved up the road, following the ruts made by other skiers and enjoying the rhythmic squeak of the snow beneath her skis. Two miles up the trail, Buddy peeled off to investigate some smells. He had moved just out of sight behind a snow berm, less than 50 feet from Kehr, when “there was this horrible screaming sound,” she says. “It was Buddy, and he had this thing around his neck. I didn’t even know what it was.”

The dog had come across some raw chicken parts in a white bucket. At the mouth of the bucket was a Conibear 220, a steel trap designed primarily to catch and kill beaver, otter and raccoon. Buddy had gone for the chicken and gotten the trap.

When new, a Conibear 220 exerts an impressive 90 pounds of pressure per square inch. It can break a human hand, and it is designed to quickly kill whatever it catches. It is among a family of so-called humane traps that dispatch an animal rather than hold it by a foot or leg.

It also requires some knowledge to use. Springs line the sides of the trap and must be squeezed in order to release or unspring the trap. It usually takes a strong person using both hands to squeeze each spring. If you know how to open it, you have between three and eight minutes to save an animal from suffocation.

This was the contraption that Kehr was faced with, a trap she had never seen or even heard of. A high-pitched scream came from Buddy as the Conibear clamped around his throat. Her other dog barked frantically, running in circles. Kehr wrenched off her skis and threw aside her ski poles, screaming for help. She struggled to figure out how to release Buddy as the dog thrashed in pain. Kehr is a small woman, barely five foot three.

“I was just pouring sweat, trying to figure this thing out,” remembers Kehr, her voice trembling. “Then I finally figured out how to release it and I couldn’t. I didn’t have enough strength. I worked and worked on it and I moved it, but it only made it worse for Buddy. Cut off more air. Which was probably good. He was really suffering.”

She squeezed the springs to no avail and called for help for what seemed like a long time. Finally, Buddy’s howls of pain quieted, though Kehr still tried to free him. “I heard voices and Bob and Laurie showed up.”

Bob and Laurie Muth were neighbors out for an afternoon ski. Bob helped pry Buddy out of the trap. “But he was gone,” says Kehr.

“I’ve never seen anything as traumatic as this girl trying to raise the dog from the trap,” Bob Muth later told a local newspaper.
The fight to ban it all

But is there a “need to trap’? No, say a half-dozen animal-rights groups around the country.

“We’re not going to rest until body-gripping traps are banned from all of the states,” says Wayne Pacelle, vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States. With 6.7 million members, the Humane Society is the largest animal protection group in the world.

“There’s this stubborn attitude among trappers that “By God, this is my lifestyle, and I’m not going to change,” “””says Pacelle. “Trappers have been coddled by the state agencies for so long, and the state agencies have been controlled by hunters and trappers for so long, that trappers haven’t been held accountable until recent years.”

It is in the 1990s that animal-rights groups have made significant inroads in the fight to ban commercial and recreational trapping. In 1992, voters in Arizona were asked to vote on Proposition 200, which proposed a ban on leghold, instant kill, and snare traps on public lands. That measure was rejected, only to reappear in 1994 as Proposition 201. It passed.

In 1996, voters in Colorado and Massachusetts approved similar laws that included both public and private lands.

This spring, state lawmakers in Oregon are debating Senate Bill 599, which would prohibit the trapping of wildlife for recreation or commerce. Trapping is on its way out, maintains Pacelle.

“We’re taking it to the next tier,” he says, noting that states such as Nevada, Washington and Maine could pass similar laws in the coming years.

Click HERE for the full article.

A baited conibear trap near trail killed my dog

Valerie Strain
Pet owner, outdoor enthusiast and founder of No Traps on Trails
20 February 2015

It started out as a normal afternoon walk through the woods near our home in the Kawarthas; cottage country near Peterborough, Ontario. It was a beautiful December day. My friend and I set out with my two yellow labs, George and Gracie, on a well-used snowmobile trail on Crown Land. The dogs were a bit ahead of us but within sight. Suddenly, George yelped and I knew he was in trouble. The dogs had been lured to a baited kill-trap and George’s head was caught. He died a slow death while I struggled unsuccessfully to free him.

The dangerous “conibear” trap that killed George was set within a few feet of the trail. We were shocked to learn from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry that there are no rules in Ontario about how close to trails traps can be set and no requirement to notify the public that they are there. There does not seem to be any way for the public to find out where traplines are — they could be anywhere on Crown Land, on your neighbour’s property, even in Provincial Parks and you wouldn’t know. Tourism groups promote our great outdoor spaces and show families cross-country skiing or hiking with their dogs running beside them off-leash. I’d like to know where it’s safe to do that.

The reality is that it’s not only pets that are at risk. Anyone using a trail could easily stumble upon an unmarked hunting trap. While leashes are one way to keep dogs close, many pet owners use extendable leashes that can reach up to 20 feet. And there’s nothing to prevent someone from setting a trap closer than that to a trail.

My husband and I both grew up in rural areas and we thought we knew all the potential hazards of the woods. But we had no idea the risk we were taking every time we took our dogs out on this trail. One of our responsibilities as pet owners is to keep them safe. We failed George in that regard.

We don’t want this to happen to another family pet, or worse, a curious child. That’s why my family started the No Traps on Trails Campaign including a petition. In just over a week, more than 43,000 people signed their names and lent their support. Many have shared their own experiences with encountering baited traps. Unfortunately, we are not the only family to experience a traumatic loss because of an unmarked trap.

We’re gratified that our petition has caught the attention of MPP Bill Mauro, Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources, who has asked his staff to review current trapping regulations. Mauro told the CBC, “…it’s also about young children that could be walking with their families on the trails. I just want to look into it. I think it’s a legitimate issue.”

Here are our recommendations to Minister Mauro:

1. Improve trapping practices and regulations by setting a minimum trapping distance from public trails and roadways, and marking trails that run near traplines.

2. Launch a public awareness initiative to promote safe practices, including an online map showing where registered traplines are.

Our goal is to enable the public to avoid traps and traplines; a goal that we hope everyone, including trappers, can support. Other jurisdictions have already successfully addressed this issue.

We are still struggling with the experience of losing George in such a horrific way. My family hopes we can turn this terrible tragedy into a positive force for change. More than 43,000 Canadians — and counting — are insisting on it.

Facebook: notrapsontrails
twitter: @notrapsontrails

See the full article here

A brief history of trapping in America

1851 Steel traps are mass-produced.

1900 The Oneida Community trap company receives a letter from a veteran trapper decrying the cruelty of traps.

1909 Beaver populations in Washington are so threatened by trapping that the state bans trapping beavers.

1925 The National Association of the Fur Industry offers a $10,000 prize for the invention of a “truly humane trap.” No one collects the money.

1925 National Anti-Steel-Trap League is formed.

1930 Massachusetts bans traps that cause “continued suffering and (are) not designed to kill the animals at once.”

1930s Author and ex-trapper Archibald S. Belaney writes about the cruelty of trapping.

1949 The American Humane Association offers $10,000 reward for the development of a humane trap. Offer stands until 1979. NO ONE COLLECTS THE MONEY.

1950-1960s Animal-rights groups, including the Animal Protection Institute, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Committee for Humane Legislation, the Friends of Animals, the Fund for Animals, and the Humane Society of the United States, are formed.

1958 The Conibear trap is manufactured.

1960 A large male wolf is trapped on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, Ariz. It is the last wolf trapped by a federal agent in that state.

1973 Florida bans steel traps except for damage control.

1977 Rhode Island bans steel traps except for damage control.

1984 New Jersey bans use, sale, manufacture, possession, import and transport of steel-jaw leghold traps.

1986 British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia ban steel-toothed leghold traps.

1994-1996 Arizona, Colorado and Massachusetts voters ban trapping.

1998 California voters bans trapping.

1998 Woodstream Corp., the nation’s largest manufacturer of steel-jawed leghold traps, announces that it will discontinue making leghold traps.

2000 Washington bans body-gripping and unpadded leghold traps.

2007 Trailsafe Nevada formed.

2912 State of Nevada sued for failure to manage wildlife for the benefit of all Nevadans.

2014 State of Nevada sued for failure to properly regulate trapping.

2016 Oregon trapping ban to be on the ballot.