Kevin Auslund and others have worked for three years to change Minnesota trapping regulations to reduce the chance that “body-grip’’ style traps inadvertently catch and kill hunting dogs and other pets. This style of trap is used to catch bobcats, beavers, raccoons and other furbearers.
Among changes sought are modifications of the enclosures that contain the traps, and a requirement that traps set in water be fully submerged.
Since 2012, at least 17 dogs have been caught in the traps and killed.
A bill authored by Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, that would modify state trapping regulations is supported by the Department of Natural Resources, but opposed by the Minnesota Trappers Association.
The Senate bill has passed three committees and is awaiting a floor vote, while in the House a companion bill has received no hearings.
The interview below with Auslund further explains the proposals’ background and prospects.
Q Your belief is that the threat posed to hunting dogs by body-grip style traps is causing at least some bird hunters to stop hunting once trapping begins in Minnesota — or else go to other states to hunt.
A Yes. Even after 2012, when regulations were changed to require a 7-inch overhang on top of the enclosure holding a body-grip trap, dogs continued to be caught and killed. I should note also that different regulations apply to public and private lands. Either way, our position is the regulation doesn’t go far enough.
Q How and why did you get involved in this issue?
A I had a well-trained Brittany and while hunting on a large waterfowl production area in 2010, my dog disappeared. He was a well-trained dog and it never happened before. He could have gotten stolen or lost. But I found out trappers had been using the area, and I fear a trap might have gotten him. I’ve talked to other hunters — in addition to those whose dogs were killed by traps — who have lost dogs in similar ways. These traps snap down right on their windpipes. You’d be lucky to hear a whimper.
Q Last year, you and your group, Sportsmen Take Action, focused specifically on these traps when placed on Walk In Access Program lands. The DNR contracts with landowners to keep these properties open for hunting, and your position has been that trapping shouldn’t be allowed on these lands, because they are paid for by hunters. Or, at the least, traps should be limited to leg-hold style, not body-grip.
A Yes. But we didn’t get much traction in the Legislature. Gov. Mark Dayton’s office was sympathetic, and we were encouraged to come back this session with more comprehensive proposals that covered both public and private lands statewide. So this year, leaders of another group, doglovers4safetrappingmn.org, worked with Hoffman and the DNR to develop the Senate bill and a companion, House File 1655, authored by Rep. Peter Fischer, DFL-Maplewood.
Q What do the bills propose?
A They keep body-grip style traps enclosed, elevated or submerged out of a dog’s reach. New restrictions are placed on the size of the openings of the required “cubby’’ boxes that hold the traps, and on the distance that traps have to be recessed from the openings. Separate legislation has been proposed for inclusion in the House and Senate game and fish bills that requires the traps be set back at least 50 feet on either side of a public trail or road.
Q How have the bills been received?
A The House bill went nowhere. In the Senate, it passed the three necessary committees. But my understanding is that Majority Leader Tom Bakk hasn’t yet approved it for a floor vote.
Q Why has the opposition been so stiff?
A Trappers see the requirements as a threat to trapping. We don’t think it is. It just requires that trapping be done more safely. We’re asking for changes so the traps don’t pose as big an issue for dogs. Beaver sets in particular are a concern. When exposed half above the water, they are problems because they often are set at the end of trails, where dogs are likely to run to get a drink, and enter the traps. Again, trappers could adjust and submerge these traps, in our view.
Q Have you talked to the Minnesota Trappers Association?
A No. We’ve relied on the DNR as an intermediary. Basically, the DNR’s viewpoint is that trappers would have to retool a bit. But they still should be able to accomplish what they want, so that hunters and trappers could better share the resource.
Q What’s your next step?
A We would love to get a floor vote in the Senate in the session’s closing days.
Q How do you view your public support?
A I think it’s overwhelming. If it goes to a floor vote in the Senate, it will pass. The public wants it.