After two dogs were killed in traps while out on walks with their owners in North Idaho this winter – and amid increasing incidents of dogs being caught in traps statewide – Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission has agreed to look at new rules to restrict certain trapping practices.
“The tragedy of those two dogs is just that, an absolute tragedy,” said Brad Corkill, the Panhandle representative on the Fish and Game Commission.
Idaho won’t ban trapping – it’s enshrined in the state Constitution, thanks to a hunting rights amendment overwhelmingly approved by the state’s voters in 2012 – but it’s working to find reasonable restrictions on certain types of traps to allow trapping to continue while protecting pets.
After the incidents in December and January, Fish and Game convened groups in every region of the state, representing all sides, to brainstorm solutions. The North Idaho group included the two dog owners whose beloved pets died in “conibear,” or body-gripping traps; the group also included trappers, hound hunters and others.
“It was a good group,” said Chip Corsi, Panhandle regional supervisor for Fish and Game. “They were very respectful towards each other and understood everybody’s points of view, or made an effort to.”
All the regional groups’ ideas were combined into a report to the commission, which voted unanimously last week to start a negotiated rule-making process for new restrictions on body-gripping traps placed on the ground. Those types of traps are more typically used underwater to trap beavers, or up in trees to trap pine martens. But both North Idaho dogs who died were killed in baited conibear traps on the ground, set to trap bobcats, near where their owners were walking with their pets.
“It’s got a very powerful set of springs with it,” Corsi explained. “An animal sticks its head through and it snaps. It typically will break the spine, often an instant kill or a very quick kill.”
That’s distinct from the leg-hold or snare traps typically used to trap wolves; a dog can generally be released unharmed from those.
The first of the two incidents occurred the day after Christmas along Old River Road near Kellogg, where a family watched helplessly as its yelping 2-year-old pit bull/Great Dane mix was killed in less than a minute. “It was horrible,” owner Sarah Miller told KXLY-TV in January.
The second occurred in January when a woman took her 4-year-old black Labrador, Billi, with her on a run near her home in the Cougar Gulch area. The trap was placed legally on state endowment land; it closed so tight that the woman and her husband had to call for help to unlatch it to release the dog’s body.
Idaho Fish and Game data shows that more than 50 dogs were caught in traps set for hunting in 2013, though most were released and survived.
They can’t survive this particular type of trap, though, Corsi said.
He researched other states’ trapping regulations and found that all but three require conibear traps that are placed on the ground to be enclosed in a “cubby,” a box or bucket, that has an opening too small for a dog to enter. “That’s what most states require,” Corsi said. “Most dogs are too big to get more than their nose in very far, so they might get an ouch on their nose, but they’re not going to get their head caught. Whereas a bobcat will go in and investigate.”
Bobcat trapping season runs from mid-December to mid-February. Although some trappers use baited conibear traps, Corsi said bobcats also can be effectively trapped with leg-hold snares.
Fur prices have been rising sharply in recent years; that’s accompanied the jump in inadvertent trapping of non-targeted animals including domestic dogs.
A 2012 Idaho Fish and Game report showed more than 800 non-targeted animals were caught in traps over the previous two years, including 102 rabbits, 62 squirrels, 49 skunks, 30 dogs and 24 house cats.
Idaho’s negotiated rule-making process allows stakeholders from all sides to participate; the rules, once finalized and approved by the commission, then would go to the state Legislature for approval.