Willie the dog has a few tricks to teach about ethical trapping procedures.
The Great Dane-border collie mix was caught in a snare near a road in Kasilof last month as his owner, Pat Murray, drove along in his truck, letting Willie and his other dog get some exercise.
The exercise ended in Willie’s death when his head became stuck in a trap set on private property just beyond the road right of way.
Murray was only 50 feet away from his pet when he saw him pulled off his feet, but by the time he reached Willie, the wire snare had already done its work and suffocated the animal, as it was designed to do.
It just wasn’t designed for pets.
Murray wanted to hold someone accountable for the death of his dog, but found no laws were broken or regulations violated.
The owner of the property on which the trap was set had no idea the trap was there, but law allows trapping on private property. Trappers aren’t even required to seek permission from property owners. The only way to forbid trapping on private property is to post signs disallowing it. No such signs were in place.
Still, Willie’s death could and should have been prevented.
First, Murray should have had his dogs on leashes. Not only would that have saved Willie from the trap, it would protect dogs from entanglements with cars, hazardous substances and other animals.
But just like there is no law requiring that trappers seek permission from property owners or avoid areas obviously used by people and pets, there is no state or borough law requiring dogs be kept on a leash.
Even if there were a leash law, it may have saved Willie but it wouldn’t have erased the larger danger the snare posed. Domestic pets aren’t the only creatures that wander through the woods in subdivisions or recreation spots. Kids do, as well, and though children don’t investigate strange objects head first as dogs do, it is not difficult to imagine how injury or worse could befall a curious or oblivious child romping along that same stretch of road.
More stringent regulations would lower the chances of that happening.
· Trappers should avoid residential areas, no matter how rural, and other areas frequented by people and pets. When in doubt or always, to be conscientious trappers should post their own signs that snares are set in the area, warning anyone to the danger hidden nearby.
Some may grumble at calling attention to their gear, but signs won’t scare off target animals. And while there may not currently be laws outlawing traps near people and pets, there are law against tampering with someone else’s traps.
· Trappers should seek permission from property owners when using their land.
· Trappers should tag their traps so ownership is clear. This is required on federal land, but not state or private.
The fact that children or more pets aren’t reported injured or killed by traps is testament to the fact that many trappers do act responsibly. The snare that killed Willie may have been a case of someone who didn’t know better, or the rare bad apple who just didn’t care.
Either way, stricter regulations would help prevent a repeat occurrence.
For those trappers who already employ ethical practices in setting their snares and most do stricter regulations wouldn’t be a burden.
What they would do is help ensure the activity of one doesn’t harm another in shared spaces.
In Alaska, that’s a trick that never gets old.
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