Hunters upset after dogs killed by traps

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 24, 2012 - 10:41 PM

After several deaths since fall, the DNR will consider tightening the rules to reduce risk of dogs getting caught in body-gripping devices.

Doug Snyder won't forget the day he loaded a .22 rifle and shot his dog at point-blank range.

He and his two teenage sons were walking along a forest road near their cabin east of Hinckley in late December when Polka Dot, their 9-year-old setter-Lab mix, suddenly howled in distress.

Bolting headlong into the woods, Snyder found his dog 60 yards away with its head and neck caught in a deadly body-gripping trap. "She was standing there, bleeding from the snout," he said.

Frantically, Snyder and his 16-year-old son struggled to free their pet before it suffocated. But two powerful springs held the trap's jaws tightly closed.

"We fought like hell to get it off, and we couldn't," he said. "She was melting away."

Desperate to end Polka Dot's suffering, he sent his son to the cabin for his .22.

"I sat and petted her," said Snyder, 48, of St. Anthony. Then he loaded the gun and shot his dog.

"There was nothing else to do," he said. "It was devastating. She was a great dog. I loved to walk in the woods with her."

Polka Dot is among at least six hunting dogs that have been killed in traps in Minnesota since last fall. That number could be higher because some pet owners don't report the losses and others might never find their dogs, and the Department of Natural Resources doesn't track such cases.

Body-gripping traps such as 220 Conibears -- with 7-inch openings, large enough for most dogs to fit their heads into -- have been around for 50 years. But the recent rash of dog deaths has spurred some hunters to call for stricter regulations, and the DNR will hold public meetings this winter on the topic.

The traps usually are baited with meat, and when an animal pokes its head in to get the bait, the trap springs.

"We're going to work with trapping groups and try to come up with some remedies to minimize the risk," said Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife chief. "Though the number of cases is relatively small, the majority are fatal."

Minnesota Trappers Association president Shawn Johnson of Duluth said relatively few dogs are caught in body-gripping traps each year, considering the number of traps in the woods. As many as 8,000 Minnesotans trap.

"These are very, very rare instances," he said. The lack of snow this winter allowed trappers and hunters easy access to the woods and likely played a contributing role, he said.

But trappers are concerned, Johnson said, adding, "It's not in anyone's interest to have this happen."

Trapper loses dog

John Reynolds, 58, of Merrifield, is a longtime hunter and trapper who was trapping fox on public land near Emily, Minn., in December with his 50-pound springer spaniel, Penni, when his dog disappeared.

He later found her dead in a baited body-gripping trap set by another trapper.

"She meant the world to me," he said.

The trap was legally set, so Reynolds didn't report the incident. But he has established an online petition (see to outlaw body-gripping traps on public land. He wants them allowed only underwater (for beavers, muskrats and otters) or 5 feet off the ground, so dogs can't get caught.

"The DNR approves these trap sets knowing they are killing dogs," Reynolds said. "They just don't consider the number of dogs killed significant enough to inconvenience trappers. Something has to change."

Johnson countered that elevated sets may be effective for species such as martens and fishers, but "they are substantially less effective for others, such as raccoons." And bobcats and skunks can't be reliably taken in elevated sets, he said.

Hunters beware

Jerry Noska, 62, of Browerville, was hunting ruffed grouse with his 6-year-old English setter, Sue, on public land near Staples the day after Christmas. His dog, a pointer, had an electronic collar that beeps when the dog stops running and locks up on a bird.

"We were about 200 yards from my truck and it started beeping," he said. He got to the dog in moments, and found her in a 220 body-gripping trap set with a baited 5-gallon pail.

"She was dead," Noska said. "It broke her neck." He removed the trap and tried to resuscitate her, but it was fruitless.

"She was a once-in-a-lifetime dog -- a super hunter," he said. "It's sickening."

Noska has trapped, and doesn't oppose it, even now.

"I'm definitely not against trapping; it's one of the best tools to control predators. But this gives trapping a bad name."

Johnson, the Trappers Association president, said dogs caught in Conibears stand a reasonable chance of survival if their owners act quickly. His group pays $4,500 for an ad in the DNR hunting and trapping regulation booklet showing how it's done (see diagram).

But Reynolds said the tips in the booklet "are a cruel joke. They give people false hope."

The traps are designed to kill, he said, and even if a dog owner gets the dog out of the trap, the dog may have sustained life-threatening injuries.

Snyder agreed. "Knowing what I know now, I think I could get the trap off her, but I'm not sure it would have mattered," he said. It appeared his dog had suffered major damage.

Snyder and his family buried Polka Dot at their cabin.

"It's a huge hole in your life," he said.

Doug Smith •

  • related content

  • Doug Snyder of St. Anthony held the collar of his dog Polka Dot, who w...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


Cleveland 45 3rd Qtr
Indiana 51
Washington 42 3rd Qtr
Philadelphia 47
Golden State 27 2nd Qtr 11:00
Toronto 13
New York 23 2nd Qtr 10:06
Detroit 32
Orlando 21 2nd Qtr 8:58
Atlanta 34
Charlotte 34 2nd Qtr 6:10
Boston 39
LA Clippers 2 1st Qtr 9:19
Memphis 3
Brooklyn 3 1st Qtr 10:50
Houston 2
Miami 5 1st Qtr 9:33
New Orleans 6
Minnesota 4 1st Qtr 10:04
Chicago 4
Utah 8:00 PM
San Antonio 9:00 PM
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
Boston 1 2nd Prd 8:57
New Jersey 0
Calgary 0 2nd Prd 11:29
NY Islanders 1
Washington 0 2nd Prd 13:51
Carolina 1
Chicago 0 1st Prd :33
Tampa Bay 0
Colorado 7:30 PM
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 39 2nd Half 5:00
Cornell 42
Penn 30 2nd Half 16:52
Brown 49
Fairfield 34 2nd Half 20:00
Canisius 34
Manhattan 35 2nd Half 20:00
Iona 41
Saint Peters 27 2nd Half 18:35
Marist 45
Princeton 43 2nd Half 14:36
Yale 39
Ohio 0 1st Half 20:00
Akron 0
Dartmouth 6 1st Half 17:46
Columbia 0
Valparaiso 9:00 PM
Cleveland State
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 56 2nd Half 12:57
Xavier 34
Cornell 27 2nd Half 20:00
Harvard 23
Yale 19 2nd Half 14:30
(14) Princeton 45
Elon 30 2nd Half 12:17
Drexel 37
Northeastern 30 2nd Half 15:52
James Madison 43
St Johns 33 2nd Half 14:52
Butler 28
Creighton 50 2nd Half 12:35
Georgetown 42
Brown 35 2nd Half 13:57
Penn 54
Columbia 29 2nd Half 13:30
Dartmouth 39
Canisius 31 2nd Half 13:30
Siena 36
St Josephs Brooklyn 17 2nd Half
Western Carolina 45 2nd Half 20:00
UNC Greensboro 33
Colorado 9 1st Half 13:49
Arizona 9
Southern Ill 7:00 PM
Drake 9 1st Half 16:47
Wichita State 4
Indiana State 7 1st Half 13:20
Evansville 12
Illinois State 7:05 PM
Northern Iowa 7:05 PM
Missouri State
Utah 7:30 PM
(10) Arizona State
Providence 7:30 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question