Joe Davis, a long-time trapper, said common sense can go a long way to prevent the problems caused when dogs get caught in body-gripping traps.
The Ironton man, who is Region 4 director of Minnesota Forest Zone Trappers Association, said the recent incidents in which dogs were killed by body-gripping traps were unfortunate but he pointed out that such incidents are still relatively rare. He said there are about 1.3 million dogs in Minnesota and the DNR recently reported that about 20 dogs were listed in incident reports related to any types of traps. Davis said about 10 of those dogs were involved with body-gripping traps. He was not certain how many of those involved a dog’s death.
Jason Abraham of the DNR said Tuesday he began keeping records on dogs vs. traps incidents in October of 2012 and his most recent figures are 18 incidents, including nine in which a dog died.
“How many dogs are killed on highways?” Davis asked. “When a dog gets hit by a car it doesn’t make the paper. Negative drama sells.”
Incidents in which dogs have died in traps played a role in the establishment of Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN by John Reynolds of Merrifield and others. Reynolds lost his springer spaniel to a trap last year.
Reynolds, president of Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN, said people can’t hunt with a dog on a leash and hunters have a legitimate right to be out in the woods with their dogs. He said figures he compiled in attempt to reconcile DNR, media and unofficial reports show there were at least 20 dog deaths in body gripping traps in Minnesota last year. He said there were seven between Jan. 1, 2012 and March 15, 2012 and 13 between Oct. 20, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2012.
“We want responsible trapping,” Reynolds said, adding that his group is calling for measures that are used by tens of thousands of hunters in other states.
Davis said media coverage of incidents in which dogs are killed by traps has been negative, disheartening and one-sided in its portrayal of trapping.
Officials with the Minnesota Trapping Association declined to comment in earlier Brainerd Dispatch stories on the issue.
Davis said even though trappers are not as numerous as other types of hunters the activity is part of Minnesota’s heritage and played an important role in the early exploration of the state.
He said he enjoys the exercise that comes with trapping as well as being outdoors, identifying animal tracks and reading nature’s signs.
Davis advises trappers to know the area where they’re trapping and know whether neighbors have dogs. He also advises trappers to not set traps too close to a road or near a residential area.
Dog owners, Davis said, should train their dogs to listen and make sure the dogs are under the owners’ control.
“I wouldn’t take a dog in the woods that isn’t ready,” he said.
The Minnesota Trappers Association teaches trapping classes and offers certifications for trappers, Davis said.
He said he’d be happy to talk with members of hunting and dog groups who would like to learn more about trapping and trapping seasons.
“No. 1, people need to read the hunting and trapping regulations of our state,” he said. “Know when the (trapping) seasons are.”
Part of the problem, he said, is that negative drama that’s generated in the form news reports of pets that are killed by traps. Such reports, he said, often lead to knee-jerk reactions.
“That’s not the answer,” he said. “People are using their emotions to make poor decisions.”
Those poor decisions, in his opinion, include potential legislation that might call for body-gripping traps to be only used when submerged in water or placed five feet above the ground.
He cited his own experience of setting traps five feet off the ground which resulted in no success. It’s the ground scents that draw animals to a trap, he said.
“You might as well set them (the traps) on the moon,” Davis said.
He would favor pushing back the trapping seasons for fishers and bobcats to a point that is later in the year. This, he said, might lessen the conflicts between trappers and bird hunters.
The current season for trapping bobcats is Nov. 24 through Jan. 26. The trapping season for fishers is from Nov. 24 to Nov. 29.
As a dog owner and someone who hunts grouse and pheasant, Davis pointed out that trappers play a role in the nesting success for game birds.
Davis said he personally doesn’t want to see any changes in the regulations. He said there are enough restrictions on trappers.
Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, reintroduced a bill placing restrictions on trapping that is similar to one he introduced last session. This session’s bill (House File 456) states that a person may not set a body-gripping trap unless the trap is: at least five feet above the ground; placed in manner that the trap will protect domestic dogs from inadvertent taking; a water-set trap that is that is completely submerged in water.
The lawmaker said the restrictions are very similar to Wisconsin’s rules, where he said it was found that their implementation resulted in very little difference in fur-bearing production.
Davis said a summit meeting was organized by the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance on the issue of trapping but said at this point he had nothing to report from the meeting.
Reynolds said he attended a meeting of trappers and dog lovers and nothing of substance came from the meeting in terms of compromise.
“People out there want to end trapping,” Davis said. “This is just a foot in the door.”