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
#wyomingpets #wyomingoutdoors #wyominguntrapped #trapping #keepingyourpetsafe
You have finally found the one, but how to make it work? Shelter pets can be the best companions, their life experiences help them to deeply appreciate their new home. But life in a shelter can be unpredictable, hard on their mental and emotional systems, and the confusion of life before they went to a shelter can have some lasting effects. Going to a new home can be just as scary and hard as going to the shelter was. Here are some tips to help you give your new friend a paw up on transitioning smoothly into your home!
One of the most important things is time to settle in. There is a "honeymoon period" where the newness of it all is a pleasant distraction, and for the first few days it can be absolute bliss, or, for some pets who have never experienced a loving home before, it can be very overwhelming. The behavior you encounter during the first few days from the shelter may be the opposite of what you can expect long term. But with gentle guidance, clear expectations, and a few more tricks, things can smooth out and be wonderful for life. Experts agree that it takes a minimum of three months to decompress from the shelter and settle into home life. Working with a trainer or behaviorist familiar with shelter dogs might be beneficial, and many rescues now have trainers who are willing to offer discounted services for shelter or rescued pets. The amount of time your new friend was in a shelter environment can have a profound effect on them, so if they were there for a long time, be prepared to need to work with a qualified fear free trainer and give them more time. Make sure you do not overwhelm them by having too much socializing or excitment. Give them time to relax, and get them on a set schedule to help refill their emotional cup!
Before you pick your new pet up, make sure you are ready! Have the items you absolutely need ahead of time. This allows you the time you need to help your new pet adjust to life with you, and for you to form that important bond.
Talk to the shelter about the food your new pet was eating, and have that on hand to either help shift to a new diet or to feed until you have been able to consult with your vet who may recommend something different. Have a ready supply of training treats available so you can begin to work on new behaviors in a positive way, immediately. Treats should be small and soft, it is a good idea to start with hot dogs, or real meat or cheese cut into tiny pea sized pieces. Have a small variety on hand to figure out what is the most rewarding to your new friend! You don't need much, but a few small baggies is a great idea to help with motivation in new or scary experiences.
Have a good plan of where the new pet will sleep, and offer different options. Some pets are willing to snuggle into bed with you but others have never had that experience and prefer a bed of their own. Crates are a great choice because it gives them their "own" space, think of it as their own room! Most shelter pets LOVE having their own room! But some have had negative experiences with a crate and might not like it. Alternatives for this might be a bed with you, a bed next to yours, or a different room. Knowing that YOUR plan of what you want, might not be what your new pet needs, helps you to go with the flow and not be stressed about it. Stress can transfer to them, and make things harder on both of you. Be prepared to offer alternatives if things don't seem to be working out.
As a family, discuss ahead of time what expectations you all have. Choose words to communicate certain desired behaviors to your new pet and stick with them. For instance, the cue "off" rather than "down" when the pet is jumping up on furniture is a good choice because "down" might be used to ask them to lay down in the future, and would become confusing for your pet! Discuss behaviors that will be acceptable or not, such as allowing them on beds or couches, and discuss training routines. Having the household on the same page is very important.
Be sure to have a good schedule lined up for feeding, play time, potty times, social times and rest. Depending on age, these items can help make the transition much smoother. Understand what the routine was in the foster home or the shelter kennel, so you can gradually transfer these things to fit your schedule.
THE BIG DAY!
On the day you go pick up your new friend, it might be a good idea to have a friend drive you, so you can sit near the crate or in the back seat with your new pet to comfort them if the ride seems scary. Make sure you have a properly fitted collar or harness, and it is not a bad idea to have a tag already made with your contact information, in case things are very scary and they bolt. Your new pet could get sick in the car, if they have not been exposed to rides much, so take a few towels and cleaning supplies. Try to go early, and have the day to help them adjust to the new routine once you get home.
THE FIRST FEW MONTHS
Within the first few weeks, it is a good idea to take your pet to your veterinarian, for an exam and ensure you can give them a good healthy start to their new life! Make sure the vet can review the shelter/rescue records and ensure your pet is up to date on vaccines and preventatives appropriate for your area. If your pet was microchipped, ask them to scan it to ensure it is readable and has the appropriate information in their file.
Take a lot of walks together. Try a variety of food puzzles, there are wonderful DIY puzzles online with a simple search to engage their minds in a healthy way. Hand feeding half of their daily food in a puzzle and the other half in simple training exercises is a wonderful way to build a strong bond. Enroll in a training class. Every time your dog comes to you, give them a treat, and let them move back off to explore things, whether in the yard or on a hike with a long leash. Find a good trainer to help you understand how to deepen the bond and navigate any behavioral issues you were not prepared for. Most important- enjoy each other! And thank you for choosing a shelter pet!
It is very important to reward our pets for offering behavior that we like. Using rewards very liberally in the beginning that are valuable to your pet, sets the pet up to choose to offer that behavior more reliably and often, and continuing to reward them when you can after they have learned what you expect, with things that might not have as high of a value, will still encourage them to choose to offer those behaviors.
An often overlooked or unknown reason for the use of treats involves core emotions. Every living thing has "core" emotions hardwired in to help them to survive. The fear emotion helps you to run from danger. The rage emotion helps you to fight when you can't run, or need to protect. Lust helps with procreation, and nurture helps us form attachments to children, lovers, and other important things. I will do another post on the ways in which we might deprive our pets of their core emotions in a misguided effort to give them everything we can, eagerly engaging OUR core emotion of nurture, but for now, this post focuses on the seeking emotion, which is one of the most important core emotions and the most widely deprived for modern pets! The seeking emotion helps us find the basic resources we need for survival and some that help fulfill other emotions. Like mates for lust, and ways in which to protect, or nurture. This is the one that motivates us to build homes, provide food, water, and ranks up there in survival with the fear and rage to truly keep us alive. When we deprive our pets of the seeking emotion, they will find ways to engage it, because it MUST be engaged. This is the root of so much destructive behavior in pets, like digging and chewing, and opening cupboards and pulling all of the contents out! Having controlled and constructive ways in which to engage the brain to engage the seeking emotion naturally reduces the need for them to find ways to do that on their own.
The types of rewards you use are so very important. Many people underestimate the value. Consider that you are not as willing to work for lesser pay, or if you have no choice, you are probably not willing to work as hard for something that doesn’t pay off as well. Animals work for food or survival. Dogs, and even other pets, no longer have to work for survival, so it is our job as their caretakers to find ways to satisfy that emotion of seeking. It is natural to find the resources that are most rewarding and work harder to earn them! So find what makes your pet the happiest!
Types of rewards