Hunting dog owners and pet owners are being cautioned this September to avoid traps set by wolf and furbearer trappers.
The caution is especially timely as bird hunters take to the field and Idaho Fish and Game has approved an extended trapping season for wolves.
“With some of the wolf seasons being extended, it’s definitely potential for some overlap there,” said James Brower, regional communications manager for Fish and Game. “Wolves are big canines, so if you have a set out to trap a wolf, you could potentially catch a dog. Most public lands and forests have leash laws which is one of the best things to do. If they’re not running around through the brush.”
Fish and Game reminds dog owners to be especially wary hunting or recreating on private land where wolf trapping has been given a year-round go-ahead.
Most traps used in Idaho are leg-hold or body-gripping traps. The traps are meant to hold the animal without killing or harming it too much. Fish and Game offers videos and brochures describing how the traps operate and how to free a dog should it get caught in a trap.
“Most traps and snares are simple in design and easy to operate if you know what to do,” Fish and Game said in a news release. “Some of the larger foothold and body-gripping traps can be challenging because they require more effort to open, but the principles are the same.”
Trappers are encouraged to not set traps close to popular trails, trailheads or areas where people commonly frequent and to also post warning signs near their trap lines. The signs are not mandatory and often not used for fear that traps will be tampered with.
It’s illegal to place wolf traps within 10 feet of the edge of “any maintained, unpaved public trail,” “across or within any public highway” or within 300 feet of designated public campgrounds, trailheads, paved trails and picnic areas, according to Fish and Game rules.
On Jan. 2, State Sen. Michelle Stennett of Ketchum was hiking near Trail Creek Road when her golden retriever was caught in a wolf trap set near the road. She said it took two men working together to force the trap open and release her dog.
An online website, “Wyoming Untrapped,” logs incidents of pets being trapped throughout the state. One incident is recorded in November 2019 on the Idaho/Wyoming border in the popular Darby Canyon between Driggs and Victor. The pet was caught in a leg hold trap and freed after about 45 minutes. The website shows about 10 pet trapping incidents along the Idaho-Wyoming border in the past several years.
“It’s a good idea for people to be aware that there may be traps out there, and there’s some signs to look for so you can avoid them where possible,” Brower said. “We have trapping classes for wolf trappers and regular trapper education. A large part of that class is teaching ethical behavior to trappers so that they put their traps in places not heavily populated by people walking dogs or people in general.”