After two dogs were killed in North Idaho traps this winter Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission has agreed to look at new rules to restrict some 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 since it’s enshrined in the state constitution, thanks to a hunting rights amendment overwhelmingly approved by the state’s voters in 2012. But state officials are working to find reasonable restrictions on certain types of traps to allow trapping to continue while protecting pets.
After the dogs were killed in December and January, the Fish and Game commission convened groups in every region of the state 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, the commission’s Panhandle regional supervisor. “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 making rules 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 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 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 30 dogs were caught in traps set for hunting in 2013, though most were released and survived.
Corsi 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 nonlethal leg-hold traps.
Fur prices have been rising sharply in recent years; that’s accompanied the jump in inadvertent trapping of nontargeted animals including dogs.
A 2012 Idaho Fish and Game report showed more than 800 nontargeted animals were caught in traps over the previous two years, including 102 rabbits, 62 squirrels, 49 skunks, 30 dogs and 24 house cats.