TWISP, Wash. – A week after getting caught in wolf traps near their homes west of Twisp, Neko and Brindle both still have a swollen paw and are limping but expected to recover.
Neko’s owner, Andy Floyd, expects to recover, too. He was bitten by both his dog and his neighbor’s dog on Aug. 1, trying to get them out of the leg-hold traps set by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in an attempt to radio collar a member of the Lookout Pack.
Both Floyd and Brindle’s owner, Carolyn Schmekel, say they have no problem with the state’s efforts to capture and collar the wild animals that roam near their homes on Second Mile Road, just off Poorman Creek.
But, the neighbors say, the state agency should be notifying people who live near the traps they’re setting so they can keep a closer eye on their pets and children.
Aug. 1 was a traumatic morning for everyone involved, Floyd said.
The dogs had followed his wife on her morning jog, and when his dog didn’t come back with her, he went out looking.
A neighbor told him he heard a dog yelping, and when he investigated, he found Brindle.
He had to solicit help from that neighbor to open the trap, getting nipped on his right hand in the process.
“We had to push down on the trap with all our strength and pull her paw out,” Floyd said. Brindle had blood on her mouth, probably from chewing on her paw, he said.
They brought Brindle and the trap to the Schmekels, who took their dog to the vet.
Floyd said it took him another 45 minutes to find his dog in a second trap about 200 yards down the same Forest Service road. Neko was new to his household, so Floyd said he wasn’t surprised when his own dog bit him, this time on his left hand. And while Brindle had just given him a warning nip, Neko was so freaked out he bit him pretty hard, Floyd said, adding, “It broke the skin and bruised it.”
Schmekel said the trap looked lethal to her, but she later saw the rubber inside the area that held her dog’s leg.
“I thought it was a bear trap,” she said. “It took two strong young men to open it.”
Scott Becker, the Fish and Wildlife biologist who’s in charge of the wolf trapping program, said they generally don’t publicize where they put out traps because that tends to attract people hoping to catch a glimpse of a wolf.
“It doesn’t matter what side they’re on. If we do end up announcing it, we get a lot of looky-loos,” he said.
Biologists sometimes warn neighbors, he said. “But in this instance, we did not know there were going to be dogs out there,” he said.
He said there were signs near the traps to warn people that their dogs could be lured to them. They thought people would be walking with their dogs, he said.
“We did end up pulling those traps that were relatively close to those people’s homes,” he said. They still had about a dozen traps out Thursday but planned to discontinue trapping this weekend, he added.
“And we’re still in the process of re-evaluating how we do this, especially whether it’s worth laying traps within a quarter mile or a half mile from a home, which is about the distance these critters were from their home,” he said.
It’s not surprising that a wolf trap would catch a dog, Becker said.
“They are just like dogs, so you’d use the same techniques to capture dogs as well,” he said.
A veteran wolf trapper, he said this isn’t the first time a dog has gotten a leg caught in one of his traps meant for wolves. Usually, however, the dog is with a person who had just gone past a warning sign.
“It talks a little about what we’re trying to accomplish and warns them that dogs will be attracted to them because of lures,” he said.