There's little doubt most pet owners love their animals and are diligent about ensuring the safety of their dogs, cats or any other creature they share their homes with.
East Fork residents Laurie and Alan Hurd are no different.
The Hurds live in rural Idaho. They recreate outdoors often with their dog. Alan has a trapping license from the state and traps some furbearers. They understand what activities are allowed on public land and private land. They don't question the legality of, nor need for, the trapping industry in Idaho.
But, they do question one specific trap type in which their dog, Whiskey, died.
On the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 11 Laurie and Whiskey drove to Road Creek, off East Fork Road, to go on a walk. It was a site they chose that day "for a change of pace," from their frequent walking spots in Spar Canyon. At one point during the walk Whiskey headed a short distance off the road into the willows. Soon afterward, Laurie heard a loud snap and her dog whimpering and crying. She knew it was the sound of a snare closing and immediately knew her dog was caught in it.
Whiskey was in a Canadian dispatch snare, made with a 1/16th inch aircraft cable to ensure it can't be chewed through, easily cut or broken. The trap tightens as the animal tries to pull away and eventually tightens enough to set off the quick kill spring which in essence cuts off the animal's blood flow, Alan said. The traps are intended to be deadly and to kill the trapped animal very quickly, making them one of the most humane types of traps on the market.
Canadian dispatch snares are commonly used to trap such animals as fox, coyote, bobcat or wolf. They can be tuned to drop -- go off -- at only a brush of contact, he said.
"Basically when a dog hits one of those snares, it's a done deal," Alan said.
Whiskey was the fifth dog in the East Fork to be caught in a trap recently, the Hurds said. One other dog died. Three lived because they were caught in different types of traps than what Whiskey was in, although one dog lost a foot.
Snares have long been used for trapping animals, Alan said. The "new" thing about snares is the kill spring and locks.
"I've hunted and trapped my whole life," he said. "I saw these things come out and thought they'd be great for coyotes." He chose not to buy or use any though, after he realized he'd spend too many sleepless nights "wondering what else they caught."
The entire thing "happened so quickly," Laurie said. Whiskey was only about 50 yards off the public road when she was caught. Laurie was walking on the road while Whiskey, a border collie-Australian shepherd mix, zig-zagged around, so Laurie didn't see her dog get caught, but clearly heard her 6-year-old dog crying.
"I tried to get it off her, I was trying to get something between her and the trap," she said. She soon realized she couldn't open the trap so she ran 200 or so yards to her auto, and headed to get help. She had to drive by Charlie Campbell's house, which was about 2 miles from the trap, on the way home and could see he wasn't home so she kept driving to go get Alan.
"I told Alan I couldn't get Whiskey out of the trap."
Alan grabbed some tools and they headed back to find Whiskey. While he didn't say it at the time, Alan now says the moment Laurie told him what had happened, he was nearly certain they'd lost their dog. When they got back to their pet, Alan said "you couldn't get a fingernail between her and the spring."
The Hurds contacted the Custer County Sheriff's Office to report the incident and the dispatcher made contact with a game warden, who called the Hurds.
Alan acknowledged to the game warden that the trap was on private land and was legally set. It was tagged with the trapper's name and address, as is required by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Alan contacted the trapper, who owned the trap and asked him if he would stop setting those particular traps near roads. The trapper said he was within his legal rights and would keep doing it, Alan said. The man did say he was sorry about Whiskey.
"Legally, it's right," Alan said. "Morally it's wrong. Putting a dispatch snare 50 feet off a public road -- I'm anti that."
Laurie wonders how "anybody with any kind of conscience could put that kind of trap that close to a public road." There was another trap only 100 or so feet from the one which caught Whiskey, she said.
Alan recommends anyone walking their dogs in areas where traps might be set carry cable cutters made specifically to cut snare cables. That gives a dog owner a chance to save their dog if the animal is trapped, he said.
He worries about the possibility of one of the many hunting hounds used frequently in the East Fork getting caught in one of these snares. The only positive side to such an incident, in his mind, is that pressure would probably come from the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association to Fish and Game and rules might change.
"Idaho is all about the wide open spaces and not being constricted by so many laws," he said, "but this is a matter of ethics and morality."
Laurie said before that January afternoon she hadn't thought about the possibility her dog could get caught in a trap while out for a common activity.
"The majority of people who take their dogs out for a run aren't aware of traps or snares," she said. The Hurds wish this trapper had taken advantage of the free signs that Fish and Game has on its website for trappers to print and post in areas where they set traps. Posting signs isn't mandatory, but is suggested.
The Hurds posted a sign at the bottom of Road Creek after Whiskey was killed, warning other dog owners of the presence of traps.
"We just want it to be known, right or wrong, that they're out there and they'll kill your dog," Alan said. "Silly me, I didn't know anybody was hanging these dispatch snares this close to a public road. So, take your cable cutters, your Leatherman won't work."