The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Trappers, pet owners create risk


Photo courtesy of Arctic Ice Fisheries

A wolf snare with moose breakaway release. If your dog has been caught in this and is properly leash trained he will be sitting there waiting for you to do something. If not, your first job is to calm your dog down.

[A correction appears in italics at the bottom of this story - Ed.]

A hands-off policy by regulatory agencies and trappers looking for convenience are the focus of one man's criticism of the current state of trapping activity on the Eastern Kenai Peninsula. With lost claws, paws and lives in the balance, Ken Green of Cooper Landing says to expect to hear of pets caught up in the net of a few careless trappers enabled by disinterested bureaucrats and politicians.

This winter, trappers are heading into the hills and setting snares and traps along area trails as the snow deepens. Unfortunately for some pets, they don't have to stray far from home in rural areas around small communities such as Seward, Moose Pass, Cooper Landing and Hope. Or, in many cases, very far off the trail.

Green's dogs have been caught by traps in residential areas of Cooper Landing and thinks that a better balance needs to be found as human and pet communities continue to grow in the area. Although he doesn't oppose trapping per se, Green says that unmarked or poorly marked traps and snares are an inexcusable liability. He also suggests that regulators should explore limits to trapping near encroaching civilization. According to Green there should at least be some meaningful consideration of the issue by legislators and regulators within State of Alaska departments.

Local trapper Seth Rockwell disagrees. He thinks that once further limits are decreed, the balance will continue to tip toward anti-trapping activists. Rockwell explains that there's no way to protect a historic use of public lands against the indiscriminate activity of unrestrained domestic animals. He points out that, for instance, pets are required to be leashed on Chugach National Forest lands. There's no better incentive for pet owners to keep their dogs from running wild and accosting other users than the possibility of lurking traps.

Rockwell offers that owners who pay attention and have done some basic research can generally have their trapped pet walk away unscathed from getting caught in a trap or snare. He says the first step is to immediately calm the animal. Unlike wild animals, many pets will not go beserk when captured and it's best to calm them while the offending trap is removed. The simplest method is to compress the spring action that drives most traps with a shoelace drawn through a slipknot.

Traps and snares are sometimes designed to tighten as an animal resists capture. Conibear style traps are a different story. The larger versions render resistance futile and will probably make removing the animal a moot, or post-mortem, activity. Even humans, especially children, can be seriously hurt by one of these traps, which are designed to incapacitate large animals such as bears.

Larger, incorporated communities such as Seward can regulate trapping activity. Indeed there is no trapping allowed with Seward city limits. However on the Resurrection River immediately on that border, trappers have been setting snares for marten and other river denizens for decades. Rockwell says that most lands immediately surrounding Seward are fair game but that there is a informal system of respect between trappers, kind of an esprit de corpse.

Rockwell points out that trapping is a legally protected use and that molesting or removing traps is a crime. However, when asked about recourse against owners of poorly marked or unmarked traps with no identification, he concedes there's little that can be done. That's one of the aspects of regulation that critics like Green point to as a minimal step toward accountability for trappers. According to activists there should be a mandated identification system and if traps are unmarked or unmaintained, then they should be subject to removal whether or not they have ID.

Green has variously contacted state Sen. Cathy Giessel as well as biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and federal forest and parks personnel in his quest to stimulate progress toward a system of accountability and equity among public lands users. His latest initiative is to seek enough signatures on a petition to achieve a critical mass of residents that will force some official attention to the subject. The petition is online at

Correction: In the story “Trappers, pet owners create risk” from the Dec. 19 Seward Phoenix LOG, there was the implication that Conibear traps can kill animals including bears. Seth Rockwell, interviewed for the story, describes the #330 Conibear, the largest one they make, as 10” by 10” and not large enough to kill a bear. He also comments that there is no trapping season on bears in Alaska.

As for trap marking requirements he says that they are only for identifying the owner of a trap. According to Rockwell, regulations do not apply to marking trap locations and if a trap is not marked with owner identification then “a simple call to Fish and Game with a location of trap will fix this problem.”

This video that shows the use of leg hold traps and how animals, including dogs, are released from these traps It is an old video probably from early eighty's but is still informative.


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