A recent trapping incident very near to my home in Fremont County, WY is the impetus for this blog post. A beloved dog, Mac, who was rescued as a stray by the Lander Pet Connection and adopted by a wonderful couple who live just a few miles from me, was tragically killed at the beginning of 2020 by a very lethal snare trap, called a "power ram snare", while out for a run with his owner. She was forced to watch her dog die, within less than two minutes, as she desperately tried to free him from the snare. While this snare has existed for some time, it is rare enough in the trapping world of Wyoming that Wyoming Game and Fish specialists in Lander and the Fremont County Sheriff didn't even know of it's existence and the representative from the Wyoming Trapper's Association had never seen one and didn't have working knowledge of it. It is extraordinarily lethal though, and needs to be a focus of trapping safety for dog owners. Please forgive me, I fully intend to repeat myself throughout this post to emphasize the important points.
A normal snare trap. The wire continues to tighten as the animal fights and moves. The mechanism at the throat of the snare allows you to back it off to release an animal who is in respiratory distress. Some of these snares rely on a "pinch mechanism" rather than the lever mechanism shown here to back them off. A power snare does not have this type of mechanism or if it does, things are often so tight so quickly you can't release it, and your only option is to cut the cable with CABLE CUTTERS, where it is wrapped around your pet's neck or body, and you will likely need to also cut into the skin of your pet to release them. This will save your pet's life, and you can have the (fairly minimal compared to death!) cut treated or stitched at the vet later, if needed, but your pet will be ALIVE. Most snares work in such a way that the snare tightens as the animal struggles to a certain point shown by the "stop" between the middle and ring finger on this photo. A power snare has a stop, but no way to quickly and easily release in an emergency other than cutting the cable. DEATH BY SUFFOCATION WILL ENSUE WITHIN A FEW MINUTES!!!!
The incident sparked outrage, and advocacy. The Wyoming Game and Fish and the Lander Pet Connection hosted a workshop in Lander to teach pet owners how to release pets from traps. The workshop in itself sparked more outrage and sadly spurred several pet owners to storm out of the workshop in protest of trapping practices. I was disappointed because the trapper who was presenting, was actually sharing very valuable information to pet owners to help keep their pets safe, and to educate on how to avoid trapping areas. Honestly, the old school, veteran trappers feel that if a trapper traps your dog, they have failed in their mission.
I am sharing some of the information he presented here, along with pictures (at the end) downloaded (free downloads only) of different trap types, and links to websites to help pet owners keep their pets safe from traps. I want to drive home- this one serious fact- ASSUME TRAPS ARE EVERYWHERE, especially on or just off trails, on both PUBLIC and private lands! I think we automatically assume there is a possibility of traps on private lands (and you should always have permission to be on private lands- so ask the landowner where they might be!), and even on public lands, but there are likely to be more than you think and they may be in places you would not expect. Trappers will place traps and snares on trails or within close proximity because, "the path of least resistance" applies to most of living species. Even wild animals will follow established trails as much as we do. I know this to be true, even high traffic areas as well as in "off the beaten path" areas, I've followed trails that have more animal tracks than human!
Wyoming Untrapped ( www.wyominguntrapped.org ) sells very good kits to hike, bike, snowshoe and ski with. They are lightweight and will help you in the event your pet is caught in a snare or trap. They have produced a wonderful video, and will host workshops in your area to help with learning how to free your pet if requested. Wyoming Game and Fish is willing to host trap release workshops too, if there is enough concern in your area. Put in a request to your local game warden and ask your friends and neighbors to also. Both use experienced (former or existing) trappers to help you fully understand the process. The only thing I would add to the kit or recommendations on release tools, is a small vial of Rescue Remedy ( http://www.bachflower.com/rescue-remedy-pets-bach-flower/ ). Trust me, it will help, and you can take some too! Put a few drops on the gums or pads of the feet of your pet, take a few drops under your tongue, and get to work ASAP! If you don't think of it at the beginning of the ordeal, that is fine. Administering it afterward is still helpful! At a minimum, carry cable cutters, a leash, and rescue remedy, and be prepared to rip the sleeve off your shirt to place over your dog's head, covering eyes and maybe even acting as a muzzle, because your dog is going to be freaked and so are you- so he may not realize you are trying to help. A Leatherman type utility knife or a pocket knife will not suffice to cut the cable on a snare.
Specifically regarding this "power snare" you will likely be forced to clip the cable of the snare in a manner that actually cuts your dog in the process. Remember this, your dog will still be alive! The dog who died in that tragic incident died in roughly 90 seconds. Complete airflow was cut off, and he was gone. You will be saving your dog's life, to cut the skin. You can rush them to a vet, and this is where that Rescue Remedy is important, because it will help with the shock of the experience. For you and your dog- you can both take it safely. The vet can make sure there is no lasting damage to the neck or whichever body part was caught in the snare, and can stitch up the cut if necessary.
I have been working on a currriculum for shock free snake avoidance and wildlife avoidance classes. The whole situation got me to thinking, I could transfer this to trap avoidance with the right tools. Since the workshop, I have reached out to and met with the Wyoming Game and FIsh, and a few trappers, and their response has been quite encouraging and supportive! I will have the resources available to me to conduct such classes! Look for upcoming classes on the website and look for me at the Wyoming Outdoors Weekend in Lander, Wyoming May 7/8th, 2020!
To understand trapping regulations better, contact your local Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
To understand trapping better, the Wyoming Trappers Association has valuable information.
Wyoming Untrapped is a comprehensive source of information regarding trapping reform, and pet safety. IF your pet has been trapped (regardless of outcome, or if it occurred in the past), please report the incident to Wyoming Untrapped. They are tracking data on pet/human conflict with traps, and this is important! I was shocked at the number of people who have had conflicts with traps but didn't know where or how to report! Literally several in passing conversations at the dog park!
Trapping is serious business, for trappers, obviously for the animals who are trapped, and for pet owners, or dog handlers INCLUDING hunters (especially those who use dogs!), or even search and rescue. My job is to educate my clients. Many popular recreation areas throughout the state allow trapping, and the regulations are not as strict as you might assume. In closing, I want to add that in addition to awareness of the trapping issues and types of traps to be looking for, if you are recreationing on public (and even private lands with permission) I stress the importance of knowledge.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!
Look for workshops to learn more about trap release of pets from the Wyoming Untrapped website or local Wyoming Game and Fish websites.
If you are interested in trap aversion training, please send me a message. The Wyoming Trapper's Association has been very cooperative in helping me obtain materials to train aversion techniques using products they endorse and use.
Wyoming Game and Fish website for trapping information- https://wgfd.wyo.gov/regulations#Trapping
Wyoming Untrapped for trapping reform and pet safety - https://www.wyominguntrapped.org
Wyoming Trappers Association for general trapping info- www.wyotrap.com
My website, for aversion training - https://www.christichapman.org
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