FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Brian Stanford's dog, Stella, didn't come home for seven days from what is normally a short evening romp on Cleary Summit. And when the 8-year-old Rottweiler limped in, she was missing half of her left front leg, apparently chewed off to get out of a trap.
Stella was one of five dogs caught in traps or snares that were reported to Fairbanks wildlife officers in a week. That led officials at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Fairbanks North Star Borough Animal Control to caution both trappers and dog owners on how they go about their business. And it led some to speculate that it was time to restrict trapping near the Interior city.
While Fish and Game usually fields a few calls each winter about dogs in traps, wildlife biologist Cathie Harms said five cases in a week is extraordinary.
In addition to Stella's case on Cleary Summit, Fish and Game received three other calls about dogs caught in traps on unmarked trails or in residential areas. Fish and Wildlife Protection troopers responded to a call from a woman who found her dog, still alive, in a snare.
There was nothing illegal involved in any of the dog trappings. But Harms said trappers and dog owners need to use common sense when it comes to setting their traps or walking their dogs around Fairbanks.
''Trappers need to be reminded that near town is not good place to set traps, and dog owners need to be reminded that Alaska is not a good place for dogs to run loose,'' said Harms.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough requires all dogs to be physically restrained if they are not on the owner's property. But many dog owners ignore the leash law.
Borough animal control manager Laura Hood said more dogs are getting caught in traps as Fairbanks becomes more residential and it's usually because owners let their dogs run loose.
''It does seem to be becoming more and more of a problem,'' Hood said. ''I don't think people who live in urban areas realize trapping is legal almost anywhere.''
Both Anchorage and Juneau have laws against setting traps and snares in and around their cities. Fairbanks bans trapping within the city limits, but there are no restrictions beyond that.
The Alaska Trappers Association has tried to educate trappers to avoid situations where they may catch dogs, said trapper Randy Zarnke, who works as a wildlife biologist for Fish and Game.
''It's self-preservation on our part. If these things continue to happen, it's just going to paint more and more of a black eye for trappers,'' Zarnke said.
The association hosts a two-day trapping school each year in October. Novice trappers are instructed not to trap near residential areas and told that catching pets jeopardizes the future of trapping.
''Any trapper who has a long-term view of things should realize if you're going to trap anywhere close to people you don't use traps which can catch dogs,'' he said.
Harms figures the trappers responsible for the recent dog trapping don't have much experience.
Lt. Dave Lorring with the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Protection Troopers says there are few limits on trappers. But if troopers can determine who set a trap that catches a dog, Lorring said, they contact the trapper to talk about setting unmarked traps in residential areas.
But troopers couldn't find identifying marks on any of the traps they checked that caught dogs. Trappers aren't required to put their names on traps, but most responsible trappers do, he said.
''The idea is not to close areas down to trapping, but to educate trappers,'' the trooper lieutenant said.
But Hood said it may be time for Fairbanks to think about some kind of restriction on trapping around the city.
''My feeling is there should be some restrictions on trapping within the Fairbanks area so trail users can feel safe using the trails,'' she said. ''Fairbanks is becoming a pretty urban area. Maybe we can't do some of the things we used to do in the same areas.''
As for Stella the Rottweiler, owner Stanford said she's getting better each day and putting on some of the 20 pounds she lost while she was gone. The veterinarian told him she won't have any problem getting along on three legs.
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