Two Minnesota lawmakers said they will introduce legislation next week to restrict the use of body-gripping traps, a response to the accidental deaths of at least six dogs killed in the traps since the fall.

Their bill would require body-grip traps to be set at least 5 feet above the ground or be completely submerged underwater or be placed "in a manner" that would prevent a dog from being trapped.

The goal, the legislators said Thursday, is to allow for the traps' continued use but to protect hunting dogs and pets from accidental capture and death.

"We are not asking for these traps to be banned totally," said Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, who is proposing the legislation with Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood.

"They do serve an important function for trappers," Ward said. "We are just asking that we make it safer for our dogs and other pets as they and their owners travel much of the same areas where these traps are set."

But Con Christianson, a trapper and legislative liaison for the Minnesota Trappers Association, said requiring the traps to be 5 feet off the ground would make them useless to trappers seeking bobcat and raccoon. They still might be effective for marten and fisher, he said.

"There would be problems for trappers," said Christianson, whose group hasn't taken a formal position on the legislation.

The legislators said 25 other states already have similar requirements.

"I'm very concerned about the deaths of dogs that have occurred," Wiger said. "The goal is to allow the traps to continue to be used but to prevent the accidental trapping of dogs. ... I would hope this wouldn't be viewed as anti-trapping. We need to at least bring up the discussion."

He said the bill will be formally introduced Wednesday.

Doug Smith • 612-673-7667