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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Potlatch man: Deer paid price for ‘people’s cruelty’

A young white-tail deer with a snare cable around its neck pauses while eating in a Potlatch, Idaho, yard. The animal was euthanized by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.  (Courtesy Jeff Nitcy)
By Eric Barker The Lewiston Tribune

LEWISTON – A Potlatch, Idaho, man is hoping to raise awareness about trapping and snaring, an activity he sees as cruel, after finding a whitetail deer in his yard with a broken snare around its neck.

The injured animal was shot by conservation officers from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. While he wished the agency would have attempted to save the animal, Jeff Nitcy said he is more upset that snaring is allowed in Idaho.

“The deer wouldn’t be in this predicament if some jerk wasn’t out snaring,” he said. “No matter how you spin it, how does the animal die? It … strangles to death; it’s inhumane and not necessary.”

Trapping and snaring is allowed in Idaho but those who participate in the activity must be licensed and attend a mandatory trapper education class. Most snares work when a target animal walks through an anchored cable loop that tightens and strangles the animal.

In the case of the deer Nitcy found last week, the anchor appears to have broken after the yearling buck struggled. But the cable, as designed, remained tight around its neck.

George Fischer, regional conservation supervisor for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston, said the cable was embedded into the flesh of the deer and the infected injury would have been fatal in time.

He said snares can be a valuable tool for those looking to harvest fur-bearing animals and for the control of predators like coyotes and wolves. In most cases, death is quick.

“They are fairly easy to set and a lot of trappers rely on those, but they take a lot of responsibility to set. You want to make sure there are no deer around or domestic animals like cats, dogs or livestock.”

Fischer said the snare, which was likely set to catch coyotes or maybe raccoons, was illegal because it lacked a break-away device that would have allowed the deer, or any other large nontarget animal, to release from the snare by pulling.

Nitcy feeds deer at his house and suspects the young white-tail is one that spent the summer and fall on and around his property. If that is the case, the snare was likely set nearby. But it is also possible the animal is one that came to town from nearby mountains to spend the winter. Potlatch has an ordinance forbidding leg-hold traps but does not appear to have one pertaining to snaring.

Although he is a hunter, Nitcy views trapping and snaring as immoral. He believes both cause animals to suffer prior to their deaths. In the case of snaring, he asks people to imagine their pet being caught in one.

“For those people who think it’s not inhumane or not cruel, then let’s test it out on your beloved dog and see how it works,” he said.

“I’m (upset) over the whole thing but I’m a lot more heartbroken for the deer,” he said. “The deer paid the price for people’s cruelty, insensitivity and lack of empathy.”

Nitcy had asked Fish and Game to tranquilize the animal and attempt to remove the snare. He even offered to make a sizable donation to Citizens Against Poaching if they would. Fischer said tranquilizing large animals is risky and used only when deemed safe.

In this case, he said, it was considered unsafe because the deer was in city limits.

“The drugs are very dangerous to humans,” he said. “We are very leery to launch a needle in an area an animal can run off. If we lose a needle out there, that is a high-liability, high-risk situation.”