Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Trapping Season

I debated back and forth with myself whether I should even post this story in my blog, but something happened this morning that finally made me do it. It began last week, when Savi and I were driving to Grand Marais and I decided to stop and take him hiking along the way. We did a short, steep hike to a view overlooking a lake, and he got to charge up and down the trail, sniff around, and get some exercise. When I made my way back to the truck parked at the trailhead, he detoured into the brush. As I called him to get into the truck, I heard a chain rattle on the ground, and immediately dashed over to save him. Sure enough, he started crying loudly, and when I got to him he had a trap stuck on his muzzle. He was surprised and shocked more than hurt, and I quickly released it's grip on him, and got him into the vehicle, but not before grabbing the trap and tossing it into the truck bed. Luckily, the trap was a small one, a #1 longspring with a jaw spread of about 4", so it didn't do much damage. It actually sprung on the front of his upper lip, and after a little bleeding, his upper lip (right under his nose) has a bare, pink spot.
At this point, let me explain that I am not opposed to fur-trapping. My family (living remotely in the bush) has done it to support themselves for many generations, and I was raised running traplines with my parents. I know there are ways to trap animals as sustainably and humanely as possible. Also, where my family traps there are absolutely no domestic pets, so a dog getting caught in a trap is unheard of. However, my puppy did get trapped, and this set was literally 3 feet off of a state hiking trail! Savage was off-leash that day, only because there were no other cars parked at the trailhead, and I knew there were no hikers he might disturb. But even on leash, he could have found the trap, and so could a child wandering along the edge of the trail. Because I grew up trapping, I automatically knew how to release the trap, but that's not something every hiker knows. Until now, I had the silly idea that trappers in our area might have enough ambition to actually walk even a few yards into the woods to set their traps, but apparently that is not the case. When I called one of our local conservation officers about the incident, he explained that the location of the set was completely legal, and all he could do was try to explain my concern to the trapper (whose trap I had to return, incidentally). The CO was sympathetic to my complaint, but could do little about it, and also told me that my dog was not the first caught in a trap this season. I remain pissed off that the trapper was so lazy and irresponsible to set his trap so close to a trail used by hundreds of tourists, their kids, and their pets each summer. Though it's late in the fall, obviously people (like me) still use that hiking trail. From now until the end of trapping season, I resolved to keep walking Sava on our normal route (Co. Rd 92 and Poplar Lake Access Rd.) because we haven't noticed any vehicle activity there except a couple of people that live along the road, and I assume it's safe.
This morning a friend that lives about 4 miles or so from me came over to show me the trap his dog got caught in. Apparently, one of his basset hounds got loose and was gone all night long. He had stopped by my house last night looking for her. This morning another friend heard a dog whining in the woods, and they found her with her nose stuck in a conibear-style body trap, baited with a chunk of deer meat (presumably Savvy ate the bait from "his" trap). The trap (size 220, designed for catching pine marten or mink) has a jaw spread of 7", making it the perfect size for basset noses. The dog is probably seriously injured, I'm thinking that it probably broke her nose, but I don't yet know the extent. My friend's wife was on her way to the vet with her dog, and I hope everything works out fine. I do know that this trap was set legally, and the dog was indeed running loose, so nothing else can be done about it. It just makes me disappointed that I will have to keep Savvy on a tight leash (no pun intended) when we walk anywhere there might be trapping activity. It also bears mentioning that while beaver, mink, marten, otter, etc. trapping seasons come and go, our coyote trapping season runs year-round.


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