Bill Marchel: Tragedy a cautionary tale for hunting dog owners

  • Article by: BILL MARCHEL , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 26, 2009 - 10:15 PM

On a hunting trip, a Pine River man lost his dog after it got caught in a legal body-gripping trap.

hide

A body-gripping trap guarded the entrance to a cubby made of balsam fir boughs. Bait is placed in the cubby to lure prey into the trap. Unfortunately, hunting dogs have been lost to these lawfully placed traps.

Photo: � BillMarchel.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

PINE RIVER, MINN. — It was shortly after noon when Mike Marvin of Pine River left his truck with shotgun in hand. Eagerly bounding ahead of Marvin was Faith, his 9-month-old yellow Lab. With the ruffed grouse hunting season waning, he hoped the adolescent dog would find and flush a bird or two.

The sky was cloudy and a slight southerly breeze wafted through the aspens as man and dog plied the forest. An inch or two of snow covered the ground. Weatherwise, it was typical for mid-December.

Tragically, though, the day would not end typically.

By midafternoon, Marvin and Faith had flushed four grouse. Now, as Faith explored the various forest scents, the young dog's nose drew her to a fate that would forever change her owner.

Suddenly and to Marvin's horror, he realized Faith had stuck her head into the jaws of a body-gripping trap set most likely in an attempt to capture a bobcat. The trap was firmly locked past the head and across the throat and neck of the 60-pound dog.

"I arrived at Faith's side within 10 seconds," Marvin said. "She stopped pawing the ground and looked at me fully aware."

The trap that gripped Marvin's dog had jaws that spread roughly 7 inches across and were held tightly closed by springs on two sides. Body-gripping traps like this are often referred to as conibear-type traps.

Marvin tried immediately to compress the springs in an attempt to free his dog.

"Using both hands I got the right side spring to within an inch or an inch and a half of being able to lock it," Marvin said.

During his effort to free his suffocating dog, Marvin screamed for help at the top of his lungs. "I knew there was no one within hearing," he said.

It was all over within two or three minutes. Faith was gone.

With the trap still fixed to the throat of his dog, Marvin transported her body home, where he unveiled the horrible news to his family, his voice choked with emotion and hoarse from yelling for help.

Ten days later, Marvin's thumb still aches from attempting to compress the spring on the trap. He is sleeping better at night, but the terrible event remains vivid in his mind.

It appears no laws were broken by the trapper responsible for setting the trap. According to DNR trapping regulations, the trap had a jaw width within the legal limits. The law reads, "A person may not set, place or operate any body-gripping or conibear-type trap with a jaw opening greater than 7 1/2 inches, except as a water set."

"I'm not an anti-trapper," said Marvin, who is an optometrist. "I have a number of patients who trap, and I respect them. No trapper I know wants to catch someone's dog, and they would feel terrible if they did.

"But somehow, hunters with dogs need to know trappers are in the area. If I get another dog, I won't be out hunting when there could be traps set."

Is there a way Marvin's tragic loss could have been avoided?

Trappers and hunters have explored various options. Trapping associations often give seminars on how to quickly and effectively free a dog from a body-gripping trap. That information is also available on the Web; one site is terrierman.com/traprelease.htm. In addition, the Minnesota Trappers Association has, for the past several years, purchased a one-page ad in the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations showing how to remove a domestic animal from a body-gripping trap. This year the ad is on page 53.

On page 45 of the 2009 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, in a box marked "Important!" and highlighted in orange, the DNR cautions trappers and hunting dog owners of the potential problem.

There are no known statistics on how many hunting dogs die in legally set body-gripping traps. Suffice to say it is a relatively rare occurrence.

That knowledge is of little consolation to Marvin and his family.

Bill Marchel, an outdoors columnist and photographer, lives near Brainerd.

  • 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

Cleveland 86 FINAL
Indiana 93
Washington 81 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Golden State 113 FINAL
Toronto 89
New York 121 FINAL
Detroit 115
Orlando 88 FINAL
Atlanta 95
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Boston 106
LA Clippers 97 FINAL
Memphis 79
Brooklyn 98 FINAL
Houston 102
Miami 102 FINAL
New Orleans 104
Minnesota 89 FINAL
Chicago 96
Utah 104 FINAL
Denver 82
San Antonio 107 FINAL
Sacramento 96
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
LA Lakers 101
Oklahoma City 112 FINAL
Portland 115
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 2
Calgary 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Washington 0 FINAL
Carolina 3
Chicago 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Colorado 5 FINAL(SO)
Dallas 4
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Penn 69 FINAL
Brown 75
Fairfield 65 FINAL
Canisius 72
Manhattan 75 FINAL
Iona 79
Saint Peters 67 FINAL
Marist 69
Princeton 60 FINAL
Yale 81
Ohio 58 FINAL
Akron 70
Dartmouth 84 FINAL
Columbia 71
Valparaiso 56 FINAL
Cleveland State 53
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 77 FINAL
Xavier 60
Cornell 54 FINAL
Harvard 60
Yale 49 FINAL
(14) Princeton 67
Elon 51 FINAL
Drexel 54
Northeastern 47 FINAL
James Madison 82
St Johns 60 FINAL
Butler 49
Creighton 71 FINAL
Georgetown 62
Brown 58 FINAL
Penn 75
Columbia 50 FINAL
Dartmouth 60
Canisius 54 FINAL
Siena 58
St Josephs Brooklyn 35 FINAL
NJIT 78
Western Carolina 86 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 80
Colorado 66 FINAL
Arizona 51
Southern Ill 72 FINAL
Bradley 66
Drake 59 FINAL
Wichita State 80
Indiana State 71 FINAL
Evansville 53
Illinois State 53 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 67
Northern Iowa 70 FINAL
Missouri State 72
Utah 42 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 46
Providence 62 FINAL
Villanova 71
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