This story was originally published January 31, 2008
When Holly Grant's dog ran into the woods near Indian and started making a fuss earlier this month, she thought maybe there had been a confrontation with a wild animal.
"I started calling her name,'' Grant said, "calling and calling.''
Trucker, a 3-year-old pitbull-Labrador cross, did not come, however. So finally Grant waded into the snowy forest looking for her pet.
What she found horrified her.
"When I saw her, she was caught in this trap trying to get out,'' Grant said.
The trap in question was a Conibear body-gripping trap, the kind of trap known as a killer trap.
A Web site for terrier owners (www.terrierman.com/traprelease.htm) warns that while it is easy to get dogs out of most traps, "if your dog is caught in (a Conibear), it is in serious trouble, as this trap is designed to kill.
"A Conibear trap closes with about 90 pounds of pressure, and if you try to horse the jaw of the trap open by hand (a natural reaction, since the jaws will be crushing your dog to death), you are unlikely to succeed in getting your dog out alive."
The Web site gives detailed instructions on how to use a dog leash, or even a shoelace, to compress the springs on either side of the trap. With luck, a dog owner who gets to their pet quickly and knows what to do can save the animal.
Grant got to Trucker quickly, but could not get her out of the trap.
She ran down from the Powerline Pass Trail to Indian to get her boyfriend. Together, they managed to free Trucker, but by then it was too late. The dog was dead.
Trucker's death, and the trapping of another dog that was safely released, have sparked concerns about trapping in the Indian area specifically and Chugach State Park in general. The state Board of Game, meeting in Anchorage this week, has begun considering regulations to restrict or ban trapping near established recreational trails.
Both the Powerline Pass and Indian Pass trails near the community 25 miles down the Seward Highway from Anchorage would qualify, and both trails have had recent trapping problems.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokesman Bruce Bartley said it's hard to imagine a trapper putting sets near those trails since it would be easy to catch somebody's pet and because it would so easily expose the traps to theft.
Grant said it already appears Indian residents have moved to solve what they see as a trapping problem by use of thievery.
"Somebody's been following his trapline up there and taking the traps," she said.
The trapper, she added, appears to be an Anchorage resident who has been driving to Indian to set and check traps on weekends. Aside from the trap that killed her dog, she said, she's seen a handful of other traps set under trees, but only one that caught anything other than a pet. That trap nailed a snowshoe hare, a nontarget species for trappers. The pelts have no value.
"People aren't happy with this guy," Grant added. "I don't know his name. I just wanted to get the word out to people.''
She knows too well the pain of losing a beloved pet. She doesn't think anyone else should have to go through that.
MEETING TO DISCUSS DOGS, TRAPS AND TRAILS: Alaska Adventurer's Meetup has invited a representative of the Alaska Trapper's Association to share information about trapping with the public from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 at Lidia Selkregg Chalet, Russian Jack Springs Park. "Shared Trails: Dogs, Humans and Trapping" includes a 25-minute DVD on trapping, traps to look at and learn about, and a question-and-answer session. Organizers note this is not a debate forum on current trapping regulations. It is an informational meeting. Free. (632-0241)
DISCUSSION: What do you think of traps along recreational trails?