What To Do Wednesday: Issue #4

What to do to keep you and your pets safe from traps on public lands.

Here in Jackson Hole, and in many other places throughout the West, the thaw has begun! By now, many of us are itching to get outside and use our feet as our primary mode of transportation (as opposed to skis, snowshoes, and other over-snow tools). Hiking brings with it a whole slew of safety considerations (bears, sudden changes in weather, dehydration, exposure, etc), but this week we’ve decided to take a look at traps on public lands, and how you can keep yourself and your pets safe while recreating.

Sydney, the yellow lab on the right, was caught in a trap.

Sydney, the yellow lab on the right, was caught in a trap.

Trapping is an issue that hits close to home for The Cougar Fund. Sydney, the yellow lab pictured above, was caught in a small animal trap near Moran, Wyoming. She lost eight teeth (all her canines), and had an injury to her foot. There are countless other stories like this (and many that end a lot worse), and it raises the importance of better understanding trapping and how to stay safe while recreating.

Trapping on public lands is legal in many areas throughout the West, and typically runs through March or April. Trappers are often encouraged to post warning signs, but it is not a requirement. Dogs are at a particularly high risk of being accidentally trapped, due to the fact that traps are often scented and baited to attract animals. We’ve all heard the horror stories, so here’s a few tips that can help you and your pet stay safe:

  • Learn where trapping is and is not permitted, and plan your hike accordingly.
  • Stay on the trail.
  • Keep your dog on a leash.
  • If your dog cannot be leashed, keep it close by and be wary if it sniffs one area intently.
  • If you find a trap, stay away from it! It is illegal to interfere with the trap (If you think it might be illegally set, contact local wildlife officials).
  • Where wolf trapping is permitted, traps are often larger – they pose a real threat to human safety, not just dogs.
  • Watch this Idaho Fish & Game video on how to release a trap so that you’re prepared for the worst case scenario.

For more information on trapping safety and regulations, visit your state wildlife agency’s website or contact a local wildlife official. While regulations vary from state to state, this document by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife is particularly relevant. It is worth mentioning that there are groups throughout the country deeply invested in public lands trapping, such as Trap Free Montana Public Lands and Wyoming Untrapped.¬†Consider visiting their websites to learn more about the issue, or do some research to find out if there is a group near you working on it.