Trapping season is open in Alaska and once again, some loose dogs are getting caught.
Attitudes on dogs in traps seem to track attitudes on free-running dogs. Owners of free-running dogs that get caught in traps are shocked and appalled that it could happen. Skiers, hikers, snowshoers and others unhappy by being accosted by other people's loose dogs don't seem at all upset.
Either way, according to Irene Lindquist of the U.S. Forest Service in Seward, everyone should stay alert to the risks.
Keep dogs on leash
"Quite a few dogs have been caught in traps in Seward Ranger District,'' Lindquist reported this week. "A dog was caught in a trap directly off West Juneau Road on Monday. There are traps on Snug Harbor Road that are also catching dogs. One dog had to have his foot amputated."
Both West Juneau Road and Snug Harbor Road are in the Cooper Landing area, but Lindquist said that is not the only area in Chugach National Forest with dog-versus trapping conflicts.
"Many areas and locations used for winter recreation have active trap lines that are directly off a road or trail,'' she said. "There are some trap lines where the trapper is a fair distance off a road or trail, but these are also a hazard to a loose dog who is lured by strong scents to the trap. Our current (hard-packed snow) conditions allow for easy and fast travel off trail for a critter to get into trouble quick."
Dog owners are advised to keep their animals on a leash, or in sight and under voice control. To help dog owners unfamiliar with trapping or traps, Lindquist said, the Alaska Trappers Association is offering a shared-trails presentation at Cooper Landing Community Hall at 7 p.m. Friday. The association has put together a DVD that explains how to recognize traplines, the various kinds of traps used in Alaska, and what to do if your dog gets caught in one.
The DVD covers the specifics of how various traps work, and how to open them to release a dog. Lindquist said trappers will attend the Cooper Landing meeting to demonstrate. Dog owners who act promptly can usually free dogs unharmed.
Lindquist said the purpose of the meeting "is educational and not to debate individual views of trapping." She also said she can provide loaner copies of the DVD to people who might not be able to attend the meeting but want to know how to free a dog caught in a trap. Hands-on training is better than anything viewed on a computer screen, but the DVD could help dog owners.
Learn how to open traps
How to open a leg-hold trap is obvious to most people, but Conibear traps -- designed to trap and kill wild animals -- can be confusing to the those unfamiliar. There is a good explainer on how to free dogs from Conibear traps here. Another video on how to free dogs from cable-lock snares is here.
A leash or rope can be a vital aid in opening a Conibear, another reason to always carry a leash. Both Conibear traps and snares are used regularly in Alaska. People venturing into the backcountry during trapping season are likely to encounter them.
If you want to borrow a copy of the trapper association DVD, Lindquist can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 907-288-7748.
Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com