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 www.startribune.com/a969) 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 • dsmith@startribune.com

  • 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Toronto 2
Detroit 3 Top 3rd Inning
Chicago WSox 1
Chicago Cubs - F. Doubront 1:15 PM
St. Louis - J. Masterson
Cincinnati - A. Simon 3:05 PM
Pittsburgh - V. Worley
Minnesota - K. Gibson 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Philadelphia - J. Williams 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
Miami - J. Cosart 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Boston - A. Webster 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cleveland - T. Bauer 6:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Detroit - K. Ryan 6:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt
Texas - R. Ross Jr. 6:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Colorado - T. Matzek 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada 7:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Gonzales
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 3rd Qtr
UAB 24
(7) UCLA 21 3rd Qtr
Virginia 10
Western Mich 14 3rd Qtr
Purdue 23
(5) Ohio State 6 3rd Qtr
Navy 7
Appalachian St 0 3rd Qtr
Michigan 35
Ga Southern 17 3rd Qtr
NC State 3
Boston College 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Colorado 3:00 PM
Seattle
New England 4:00 PM
Toronto FC
Columbus 6:30 PM
Montreal
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Chicago
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

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

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close