Residents learn how to rescue pets from traps
Chugach State Park Ranger Tom Crockett had a blunt warning to his audience at the Eagle River Nature Center:
“If your pet is caught in a trap or snare, the only person who is going to save it is you. You have seconds to minutes to make it happen,” he said at a program led by Sandy Halstaed and John Ferguson held this past Sunday, Jan 21 teaching how to remove pets from traps.
Halstaed taught numerous strategies to prevent dogs from being caught. Ferguson, a lifelong trapper, demonstrated methods for releasing pets from traps and snares.
“Educate yourself on where traps may be and if you see them, get your dog on a leash,” Holstaed said.
Traps are not allowed within half a mile of Chugach State Park facilities or within 50 yards of trails or roads. Nevertheless, some traps are set illegally. If tracks veer off suddenly from a trail, there is a chance a trapper set a trap nearby. Sometimes trappers indicate their traps’ locations with orange tape or flags from trees, but dog owners should not rely on these.
Legal or not, pet owners should redirect their dogs from potentially hazardous areas and should train their pets to return promptly when called.
Removing pets from traps
The Conibear trap
Designed to dispatch animals quickly and humanely, this is the worst trap for dogs to wander into. This trap is designed to snap on an animal’s neck and, according to Ferguson, trappers place it near water for beavers and otters.
A six-foot long rope leash is preferable for the following technique.
Step One: Sit down and take the rope in your hand. Keep the trap in a horizontal position. Do not try lifting the trap; doing so might add further pressure to the dog’s neck.
Step Two: Slip the rope through both spring eyes on the side of the trap.
Step Three: Slip the rope back through the spring eyes a second time. The loop should be at the end of the rope farthest from you.
Step Four: Place your shoe through the loop and pull on the rope to compress the spring arms to release pressure.
Step Five: Find the safety lock and latch it onto the opposite spring arm.
Step Six: Repeat steps 1-5 for the other spring arm.
Foothold traps will not likely kill a dog but they can break a dog’s toes and legs. To remove pets from these traps, step on the levers on either side of the trap simultaneously, forcing the trap’s jaws to open.
Snares are typically used for wolves, foxes, and lynxes and consist of a looped cable with a lock. As an animal resists, the cable tightens around its neck.
To remove, first locate the lock. It will usually be found behind the dog’s head and buried in its fur. Change the angle of the lock and pull the cable back through it to loosen.
In all situations involving a trapped or ensnared pet, attendees were reminded that dogs will be in pain and are likely to bite. Halstead recommended muzzling them with the owner’s coat.
Crockett spoke at the program offered his years’ worth of insights. Despite the occasional mishap with a pet stumbling into a trap, he defended legal trapping.
“When you say the word ‘trapper’ in many places, people say there’s something wrong with that and it’s cruel,” he said. “But it’s one of the basic human life skills like hunting, butchering meat or growing a garden.”
Crockett said trappers have been instrumental in reducing the number of pets caught in traps. In 2010 alone, he said five dogs were been caught in traps and snares along the Turnagain Arm. The Alaska Trappers Association sprang into action and aided in creating regulations for the Chugach State Park that reduced trapped dogs to two during the last eight years.
He also strongly urged attendees not to tamper with traps, because doing so is illegal if the trappers are following state laws and regulations. If residents suspect a trap is illegal, they should contact Park Rangers, the Alaska Department Fish and Game or the Alaska Wildlife Troopers.
After guiding attendees through the methods, Ferguson said, “You can get your dog out of a trap if you know what you’re doing,” but that experience gained from programs like Sunday’s will make performing the act easier.
For videos explaining the above techniques, visit the Alaska Fish and Game website and search for “Learn to Release your Pet from Traps and Snares.”