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Muskrat Misinformation (vs. the place of Muskrats in the Natural World)

posted Dec 19, 2017, 6:30 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Dec 28, 2017, 11:59 AM ]

Muskrat with mouth full of food. By Tony Campbell.

An unfortunate pattern of anecdotal pieces about muskrats appeared in the local news this year: first it was "Little creatures create big problem in local lakes" in the White Bear Press (Bussjaeger 2017), followed shortly by "Influx of Muskrats Creating Problems in White Bear Lake" on KSTP-TV (Mazan 2017). More recently, Google Alerts popped up a notice about "No muskrat love" on SWNewsMedia.com (Jones 2017).

Back in April, I responded to the first of these in my hometown paper with a letter to the editor. I asked readers to look up the word "creature," and think about what that means (not just how inconvenient the little creatures can be). And I responded briefly to the old trapping myth that "everything would be fine, if more guys were still out trapping." My response: we can't just leave everything up to “the guys out trapping.” For our own good, we need to know a little about nature, and take precautions in the outdoors: with tick and insect repellent, vaccinations, clean food and water, and limited contact with wild animals and carcasses. The alternative--trying to rid the natural world of all the things we fear--isn't simple, reliable, or ethical.

The TV news segment consisted entirely of an interview with a townhome resident who lives near a wetland, and doesn't like muskrats. Until I heard it, I thought the desire for ridding the world of muskrats, etc. was limited to lakeshore homeowners with their minds set on docks, boats, lawn furniture, and sandy beaches--no muskrats allowed. But it turns out that intolerance can exist even among those who live near marshes. The common denominator seems to be their desire to be left alone, on their decks, with only the animals they like to feed or photograph.

Advice from the extension agency.

An internet search for "muskrat damage" returns a long list of agricultural-extension reports on muskrat control. Most of them seem to be about ponds that are constructed for aquaculture, rice growing, waterfowl production, and/or stormwater management. Even in the internet age, most of the old extension agencies still seem to be repeating the old advice about which traps to use and how to construct the farm ponds to minimize problems with muskrats (e.g. embankment slopes as gradual as 6:1 that are less prone to muskrat tunneling; riprap or wire-mesh protection for the slopes of dams or dikes; water depth sufficient for the purposes of the pond but otherwise deep enough to discourage emergent plant growth; vegetation removed at the end of the growing season; etc.). This can give the false impression that "most experts agree" that these are the only things that a lakeshore homeowner or farm-pond or wetland owner needs to know. But really, it's just the same, old information, repeated.

Refreshing exceptions include the muskrat-information pages of the University of Kentucky (UKY 2017). Their good advice: "muskrats should be removed only if they are causing problems, because they are a valuable fur resource and an integral part of aquatic ecosystems." The Wikipedia page on muskrats is good, too (Wikipedia 2017). Other resources include wetland-management guides that discuss the ecological benefits of muskrats in the control of emergent vegetation and the maintenance of open water in wetlands (along with the need for muskrat damage control, e.g. Ducks Unlimited 2005).

These and other resources point out that muskrat populations go up and down naturally, according to factors including weather, water level, food supply, predation, and disease. In other words, although most trappers won't admit it, trapping isn't the only factor. The diseases that affect muskrat populations don't affect humans or pets, as long as common-sense precautions are taken (for ourselves and our pets) with tick and insect repellent, vaccinations, fresh food and water, and the careful handling of carcasses (CDC 2017a CDC 2017b). If we didn't take these precautions, muskrats would be the least of our worries.

"Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) swimming in Rideau River, Ottawa, Ontario." By D. Gordon E. Robertson.
Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) swimming in Rideau River, Ottawa, Ontario. By D. Gordon E. Robertson.

Journalistic imbalance.

From the looks of the local press coverage on problems with muskrats, there seems to be an excess of lakeshore owners, animal-damage control operators, trapping lobbyists, fish & wildlife officers, and extension agents available to provide questionable material for little pieces in the local news about 1) "the big problems that the little critters can cause"; 2) residents' concerns for the appearance of their shoreline; 3) how muskrats, "like any other wild animal, need to be controlled"; and/or 4) how "once muskrats are established, trapping is about the only way to get rid of 'em."

On the other hand, though, there don't seem to be enough scientists, wetland ecologists, or conservationists available to community reporters with information that could lift these articles above the small concerns and unexamined assumptions of those who "just want the muskrats gone."

We need to hear more from environmental educators (e.g. Tamarack Nature Center 2017) about the life of a pond: its vegetation, its muskrats, the way the muskrats maintain the open water, and the value of the open water for the other creatures on the pond. And we could hear more from spiritual perspectives; for example, the Anishinaabe creation story of the muskrat's deep dive for earth (e.g. First Nation Literacy 2011, McGregor 2013, and Pipekeepers 2015). Without this input, our alternative is to trudge along, wondering to ourselves “what use are they?” (where “they” are all of the creatures we fail to understand) and assuming that the answer must be “none.”

No Muskrat Love.

Let's examine some of the unexamined assumptions in the article in SWNewsMedia.com.

  • First, it's unrealistic to think that sensitive equipment could be left out in a lake, unsupervised, without damage. As if rodents weren't known for chewing on things that have the consistency of roots, tubers, wiring insulation, rope, rubber, etc. The fact is that they are known for chewing on those things; and the most practical solution isn't to kill all of the rodents in the area, but just to put the equipment away between uses.

  • Second, it's a poor attempt at humor to suggest that the fecundity of a species could be considered its "biggest claim to glory." The fecundity of rodents is just one of their adaptive responses to high predation losses, and to the prospects of dispersing to unoccupied territory. Adding to this attempt at humor are the cleverly-reversed headline “No Muskrat Love” (referring to the 1970s song “Muskrat Love”), and the comic-book image of “a bunch of hardened metro super-muskrats evading every snare set in their path.” These are attempts to lighten-up an article that's really about extermination.

Contrary to the negative picture of muskrats that's painted by the article, the reality is that, to well-informed conservationists, muskrats are known for the roles they play as herbivores and prey, and for the many other things they do--between reproductive cycles--that are important to the full functioning of their ecosystems. In fact, muskrats don't make "claims to glory," they're not closely related to beavers, they and beavers aren't the only creatures in the animal kingdom to build nests in water (e.g. see the caddisfly cases at Hamrsky 2015), they don't have flat tails, they don't reproduce at the age of one month, their average litter size in Minnesota is not the maximum of ten, and their average number of litters per year in Minnesota is not the maximum of two or three. Why so many careless references to the natural history of muskrats? Because in order to write about extermination, you need to make the objects seem less interesting (or maybe they're just not interesting to you).

  • Third, variations in the size of muskrat populations on the suburban lakes in the article can't be solely attributed to fur prices or to the level of interest in fur trapping. Trapping on these lakes is not like what's traditionally been done on farm ponds and wetlands, in which a sustained, high level of fur trapping has been a controlling factor in muskrat populations (Miller 1975). Ironically, a better indication of the level of trapping on these lakes is hidden within the article itself: according to the statements of almost everyone interviewed, they're “trying to get rid of muskrats.” That indicates a level of trapping that's significant, and not a function of fur prices.

If fur prices were high, the effect of fur trapping on these lakes wouldn't be what the lakeshore owners expected--because fur trappers don't “get rid of muskrats.” When they're making money, fur trappers are making it from sustained harvests, with steady populations of muskrats on the lakes and ponds every year.

Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus). By R. Town.
Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) . By R. Town.
  • Fourth, the article seems to have borrowed a line from the trapping-lobbyist's handbook, that "some cities and counties have ordinances against trapping." That's partly true; but although there's at least one suburb in the twin-cities metro area that prohibits the taking of “game,” there's no way that such an ordinance would or could be enforced as a prohibition against animal damage control.

    • By the way, anyone who's wondering why "trapping kind of gets a bad name" can learn more about it from organizations like “Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN” (DogLovers 2017) or Wyoming Untrapped (WU 2017)--or by searching the internet for “trap kill dog.”

  • Fifth, a large part of the article is focused on the question of whether to relocate or kill the muskrats that are trapped. As if that's the most important question; and as if, once it's answered, the question of whether to trap doesn't even need to be asked. To be fair, hidden within the article (behind another piece of trapping advice), is a partial answer to the question of how to avoid the need to trap, “... if local ordinances permit, by decreasing the slope of the shoreline. Muskrats love a steep bank; gradual slopes are just not as appealing to them.” The reason that this non-lethal solution is hidden, and that other non-lethal solutions aren't discussed, is that this article is about extermination.

  • Sixth, although an effort seems to have been made to end on a more positive note, the information in the final two paragraphs is still cloaked in trapping advice, satire, a qualification, omissions, and an error. If those shortcomings had been addressed, it might have read something like this: “It's important to remember that the muskrat plays a beneficial role in wetland ecosystems. As herbivores, muskrats help to maintain the open water that's required by other wildlife. As prey, muskrats are an important food resource for hawks, eagles, owls, and other predators. As lodge-builders, their structures provide nesting platforms for geese and swans. The list of ecological services goes on; and, of course, they're kind of cute (in a 'Ratty' kind of way: Grahame 1908).

Mazan's interview--almost melodrama.

There's not much to examine in the TV-news piece (Mazan 2017) except for, maybe, its potential for dramatic development. Mazan might have earned a “best supporting actor” nomination for his jovial narration and humorous cues to the “villain” in the story--except that there was no “hero” to save the day. With a better screenplay, and maybe a rendition of “Muskrat Love” (let's try it with a ukulele this time, Joe!), Mazan might have taken it all the way to the awards ceremonies.

Muskrat Swimming through Lily Pads. By R. Runtsch.
Muskrat Swimming through Lily Pads. By R. Runtsch.

From anecdote to City Hall.

The information that's been getting to City Hall hasn't much better than what we've been getting in the local news. In the City of White Bear Lake, MN, the trapping lobby has a gripe against the trapping ordinance that was passed in 2013. The ordinance allows for the use of certain traps only in response to a “wildlife-management concern” (WBL 2013). It's a reasonable ordinance that protects people and their pets from the more dangerous types of traps; but trappers don't see it that way. They just want to “be out there trapping,” and they figure that pet owners--not trappers--should be in charge of protecting pets (even though they're the ones who are putting them in danger).

So in 2016, when muskrat populations in the White Bear Lake area cycled back to their multi-year highs, trappers complained that the muskrat population was “exploding... because nobody's out there trapping... because of the trapping ban.” Of course, their complaint wasn't based on population surveys, damage estimates, or anything other than seeing more muskrats. And of course, the ordinance isn't a “trapping ban.” But still, they presented a “wildlife-management concern,” and they got the wheels of government turning.

A careful observer of the shoreline of Birch Lake (in the City of White Bear Lake) from the pedestrian walkway along the north shore can see erosion due to a number of factors, including human paths down to the lake, and depressions where telephone poles have been removed and/or replaced, or where muskrat tunnels have collapsed. Erosion is a special concern on the north shore of the lake, because the road runs so close to it there. In order to keep the roadbed and the lakeshore in good shape, homeowners and the city have installed steps along the paths to minimize erosion, and they've refilled and reseeded depressions that were left after utility work or muskrat burrowing. Although it's been suggested that “muskrats need to be controlled” to avoid damage to the roadbed, the damage hasn't been quantified; and no estimate has been made of how much damage might be avoided by “keeping the muskrats under control.”

The same observer might be attracted to the two-foot concrete culvert where generations of anglers, birdwatchers, and lake watchers have stood, or sat with their feet dangling in the waves. The culvert connects the lake with its marsh across the road (a wetland that was once continuous, before the road was built). The question of whether or not it was an environmentally sound idea to build the road across the lake here has generally been lost to history, but it can at least remind us that “what we build today, we will need to maintain far into the future,” and that there's a case to be made for investing in environmental engineering. Again, although there have been suggestions that “muskrats need to be controlled” to avoid blockage of the culvert, there's been no report of blockage by muskrats, and no explanation of how trapping muskrats might help to keep it clear.

Still, when push came to shove in 2016, a “wildlife management concern” had been expressed, and a call for renewed trapping had been made. The city needed to respond without endangering people or pets on the pedestrian walkway around the lake, and they did so by authorizing the use of cage traps (including colony traps which kill by drowning, but don't endanger people or their pets).

No other actions were taken to reduce roadbed erosion. If the allowance for trapping was considered a political victory by some, it was an empty one; because the trapping ordinance had always allowed cage trapping, even on public lands and waters, and even without establishing a “wildlife management concern.”

Muskrat swimming. By Andrea.
Muskrat swimming. By Andrea.

How we can do better.

Muskrats are creatures, like us, living in a complex, natural world. Their lives have purpose, but unless we pay attention to it, we're likely to think that it boils down to how "cute" we think they are, or how inconvenient we find them to our plans for the lakeshore.

What can we--as suburban lakeshore owners and wetland shore owners--do differently to improve on the poor advice we're getting from the local news?

To start with, we can acknowledge that, although we have title to the land and public rights to the water, we don't own nature. We're a part of nature, and we can learn to be a better part. We can learn, for example, that if we leave chewable products out in the lake at night, they're likely to be chewed-up by morning. We can learn that, if we live near a marsh, we're likely to see muskrats crossing our lawns and streets in the Spring, even if some see that as a cause for extermination.

Next--given that we've built-over the wild ecosystems that formerly existed along our wetlands; and given that we've upset the balance of predator and prey, of wild herbs and herbivores, and of all the creatures that we've forgotten were even a part of the plant, animal, and other living kingdoms--we can take the good advice of our more knowledgeable extension agents (e.g. UKY 2017) and improve our efforts to 1) design and build structures that resist destruction by natural forces; 2) trap rodents when necessary, without killing our neighbors' pets, or maiming wild predators and scavengers--all of which are attracted, sometimes from long distances, to the baits and lures of traps; and 3) kill the trapped rodents as necessary--but in a business-like fashion, without pretending that we have “no other choice.”

It wouldn't be that much of a change; maybe for a new generation that could get past our limitations. A generation with more of the environmental learning that we didn't have in our biology textbooks, the environmental engineering that we didn't have in our industrial training, and the traditional reverence and respect for nature that we didn't have in our stories. They could do it, and we could get them started.

Muskrat floating in water. By P. Isotckii.
Muskrat floating in water. By P. Isotckii.


Bussjaeger, Jackie. 2017. “Little Creatures Create Big Problem in Local Lakes.” Press Publications, April 5, 2017.

CDC. 2017. “Tularemia.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017.

CDC. 2017. “Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (VHFs).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017.

Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN. 2017.

Ducks Unlimited. 2005. “Wetland Habitat Management: A Guide for Landowners.”

First Nation Literacy. 2011. “The Ojibway Creation Story.” Illustrated video with a reading of the story.

Grahame, Kenneth. 1908. The Wind in the Willows. England: Methuen.
One nice animation: https://youtu.be/TvsUCkRGdTk

Hamrksy, Jan. 2015. “Caddisfly Larvae (Order Trichoptera).” Freshwater Life. June 27, 2015.

Jones, Hannah. 2017. “No Muskrat Love.” Jordan Independent, December 9, 2017.

Mazan, Joe. 2017. “Influx of Muskrats Creating Problems in White Bear Lake.” KSTP-TV 5 Eyewitness News. White Bear Lake, MN, USA: ABC.

McGregor, Deborah. 2013. “Teachings from the Muskrat.” Muskrat Magazine, March 4, 2013.

Miller, James E. 1975. “Muskrat Damage Control.” In Great Plains Wildlife Damage Control Workshop Proceedings. Vol. 199.

Pipekeepers. 2015. "The Creation Story--Turtle Island." Author unknown.

Tamarack Nature Center, Ramsey County Parks & Recreation. 2017. Field Trips, including “Wetland Wonders,” “Go with the Flow,” and “Aquatics, Inc.”

University of Kentucky. 2017. “Muskrat Facts and Biology.” College of Agriculture, Extension, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. 2017.

White Bear Lake, MN. 2013. City Trapping Ordinance, Section 702.044.

Wikipedia. 2017. “Muskrat.”

Wyoming Untrapped. 2017.

Muskrat Mound. By Sharon Day.
Muskrat Mound. By Sharon Day.

Your Legislators: not protecting your dogs from body-gripping traps.

posted Mar 11, 2017, 1:06 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Mar 12, 2017, 1:22 PM ]

Last month on the show Your Legislators (Pioneer Public TV 2017b), four members of the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives discussed some of the issues of the day, including the following question from a viewer in Brainerd, MN.

"When will the Minnesota Legislature protect our dogs from body-gripping traps?"

Before examining their responses, let's review the history of the question, the perspectives of the stakeholder groups, the ethics of trapping, and the role of the state legislature in resolving issues like this. 


Ever year beginning in 2012, the call to protect dogs from body-gripping traps has been brought to the public, the Minnesota Trappers Association (MTA), the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance (MOHA), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR), and the Minnesota Legislature.

Here are a few of the milestones:

  • In 1997, the deaths of dogs in body-gripping traps prompted significant changes to the Wisconsin trapping regulations, led by the WI DNR and WI Trappers Association (Orrick 2012). Unfortunately, the changes were made only in Wisconsin--not in Minnesota.

  • In 2007, the issue was discussed in statewide MN DNR public meetings (Spielman 2007).

  • In 2010, the MN DNR made a Rule change to protect dogs from body-gripping traps set along the roads near their homes. The new Rule required landowner permission to set larger-sized body-gripping traps in the road right-of-way within 500 feet of a residence (MN DNR 2010a, 2010b).

  • In 2012, the MN DNR recommended regulations to protect dogs from body-gripping traps, and legislators introduced a bill to enact them (Ward and Wiger 2012). Unfortunately, the recommendations and the bill were ignored. Instead, committee leadership included language in the Game & Fish Bill (Hackbarth and Ingebrigtsen 2012, Section 72) that effectively prevented the DNR from enacting its recommendations in Rules (Slocum 2012). Committee leadership claimed that it was a "compromise" to protect dogs, but it wasn't, and it didn't.

  • In 2012, the grassroots group Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN (DogLovers 2012) was formed with members from three stakeholder groups: RecreationalTrappersEthical, HuntingDogOwners, and HikingDogOwners (the stakeholder groups are described below). Although DogLovers also had the support of the stakeholder group AntiTrappers, it kept its focus on solutions that would be fair and effective for dog owners and trappers alike.

  • In 2013, the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance (MOHA, 2013) hosted a summit meeting with representatives of DogLovers and two Minnesota trapping associations. The meeting was moderated by then-president Tim Spreck--not someone you could call a "third-party facilitator," by 2015, Spreck was a registered lobbyist for the Minnesota Trappers Association. The summit failed to reach consensus, and didn't publish a press release, report, or recommendation.

  • In 2014, the DogLovers group asked sportsmen to respond to a survey in two issues of Outdoor News about how they hunt with their dogs, and how they deal with the dangers of body-gripping traps (Kimmel 2014a). Given the limited resources of the organization, it was an informal survey. Of the 133 respondents, 65% reported that they either stopped hunting or modified their hunts with their dogs (Kimmel 2014b). The results of the survey were provided to the MN DNR, the MN Legislature, and the other stakeholder groups.

  • In 2015, the DogLovers bill SF 1325 / HF 1655 (Hoffman and Fischer 2015) got its first legislative-committee hearings--but only in the Senate, not in the House. At the hearings, testimony was taken from all sides, and the bill was open to amendments (Slocum 2015). On their side, the trappers' associations opposed the bill in its entirety, without offering any compromises or amendments. On the DogLovers side, the Commissioner of the MN DNR testified in support of the bill. Over the following weeks, the bill was passed by all three of the assigned MN Senate committees, and was ready for a vote on the Senate floor. However, that was "too close for comfort" for the trapping lobby; it was never scheduled for a vote. It was "killed" by Senate leadership (including Sen. Thomas Bakk, one of the panelists in this episode of Your Legislators). In the House of Representatives, it was silenced without a hearing or a vote.

  • In 2016, the DogLovers bill got the same treatment from Senate and House leadership (no floor vote in the Senate and no hearing in the House).

Here's a summary of the DogLovers bill SF 1325 / HF 1655 (Hoffman and Fischer 2015):

Limit the uses of medium to large-sized body-gripping traps to the following:

        1. Elevated five feet above the ground; or
        2. Submerged underwater; or
        3. Enclosed to limit access by dogs (three configurations specified).

Add the following requirements to protect dogs from traps:

        1. Landowner permission required to trap on private property.
        2. Dog-trapping incident reports required.

Stakeholder groups.

  • AnimalDamageControlTrappers

    • The trapping that's done for animal-damage control (ADC) differs from commercial/recreational fur trapping in both motivation and methods. The motivation is to control property damage, and the primary tools are cage traps. The reason for choosing cage traps is that ADC trapping is done in residential and recreational areas where other types of traps are considered too dangerous.

    • One of the organizations that represents AnimalDamageControlTrappers is the National Wildlife Control Operators Association (NWCOA 2017).

  • RecreationalTrappersEthical

    • Ethical trappers take precautions to avoid non-target catches of domestic pets in residential and recreational areas.

    • One of the organizations that represents RecreationalTrappersEthical is the educational wing of the Minnesota Trappers Association (MTA 2012). Unfortunately, the lobbying wing of the MTA represents another stakeholder group: RecreationalTrappersLegal.

  • RecreationalTrappersLegal

    • These trappers think all they have to do is follow the law (not the ethics). That's why it's necessary to incorporate more of the trapping ethics into the trapping regulations.

    • For a comparison of the stakeholder groups RecreationalTrappersEthical vs. RecreationalTrappersLegal, see Slocum 2015a.

    • The perspective of the stakeholder group RecreationalTrappersLegal can be found by searching for news with keywords like "trap kill dog" (without the quotes). These are the stories of dogs that have been killed by body-gripping traps or snares. Trapping proponents are often quoted in the articles, and trappers often comment on the articles online. The first thing the trapping proponents want to say is that the trapping was legal, and the second is that allowing the dog off-leash was not. Whether or not either of those statements is true in a given case (the details are not always provided), the overall goal is to deflect blame from those who set the traps, and onto those who were the traps' victims.

  • HuntingDogOwners

    • Upland small-game hunters and their dogs are some of the hardest-hit by body-gripping traps. It's in the nature of hunting dogs that, sometimes, while they're hunting for game, they find traps. Some of the traps are even baited with the feathers and meat of the game birds they're hunting.

    • Groups representing hunting-dog owners on this issue include Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN (DogLovers 2012), the American Kennel Club (AKC 2015), and the Ruffed Grouse Society (Smith 2015).

  • HikingDogOwners

    • Hikers and their dogs use many of the same lands and trails as upland small-game hunters--plus residential areas where the dogs are sometimes off-leash in their yards and on walks with their owners. Although trappers' attorneys and lobbyists (representing the stakeholder group RecreationalTrappersLegal) are quick to blame dog owners for the slightest violations of leash ordinances, they're reluctant to blame trappers for violating trapping ethics.

    • One organization that represents hikers and their dogs on this issue is Wyoming Untrapped (Wyoming Untrapped 2014).

  • AntiTrappers

    • The anti-trapping movement (e.g. animal-protection advocates opposed to commercial/recreational fur trapping) encompasses a wide variety of viewpoints that range from sentimental (as the trapping lobby would like to characterize the entire movement) to technical (with biological and veterinary expertise that the trapping lobby can rarely match).

    • For example, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS 2014), the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD 2016), and the Sierra Club (Sierra Club 2012).

Trapping Ethics.

Paraphrased from the Minnesota Trappers Association (MTA 2012):

  • Use bait, traps, and methods that are appropriate to the location.

  • Use bait, traps, and methods that are specific to the target animal.

  • Check traps promptly.

  • Operate in ways that are known to and approved by the landowner and the neighbors.

Role of the legislature in conflict resolution.

Minnesotans are represented at our state capitol in Saint Paul by legislators who make, revise, and repeal laws on our behalf. Laws are necessary in cases where two or more stakeholder groups disagree about what should be allowed, and what should not. When a dispute is brought to legislators, they try to hear both sides. They confer with experts on the issue; for example, wildlife and trapping experts at the MN DNR. The experts weigh the testimony from both sides with their knowledge of the subject area, and they make recommendations to legislators about how the dispute might best be resolved. It might be resolved in law or in rule; or through improved public education; or outside of the legislature, through mediation or the courts.

Of course, legislators do what they can to help all of the stakeholders reach consensus, because that's generally the most effective and enduring way to resolve disputes. But even then, the consensus might be that a law or rule should be established. And even then, when it comes to a vote, it's not likely to be unanimous. Most issues are decided by divided votes, and many are returned to the legislature in later years for reconsideration.

Rarely will all of the stakeholders come to a consensus outside of the legislature, agree to what's needed in legislation, and abide by the legislation that's passed. In fact, if that happened more, there wouldn't be much need for a legislature.

Of the several guides to the legislative process that are provided by the Minnesota Legislature (MN Legislature 2017), none of them advises stakeholder groups to resolve their differences outside of the legislature. To the contrary, they describe the process of resolving differences through the legislative process: beginning in committee hearings, information is gathered by legislators, agencies, and staff, testimony is taken from stakeholder groups for or against the proposed changes, votes are taken, and bills are recommended to the full legislature.

In other words, if someone tells you that you should "resolve your conflicts before bringing them to the legislature" he's probably an opponent who's trying to avoid the issue.

Your Legislators.

Considering the above history, stakeholders, trapping ethics and regulations, and role of the legislature, let's examine the responses of "Your Legislators."

The moderator of the show, Barry Anderson (Pioneer Public TV 2017a), stated the question "When will the Minnesota Legislature protect our dogs from body-gripping traps?" He made personal introductions including the history of trapping in each legislator's district, and each legislator's experience with the issue. Finally, he left them on their own to answer--without asking any follow-up questions.

Sen.Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) stated the importance of AnimalDamageControlTrappers to farmers, and the right of RecreationalTrappersEthical and RecreationalTrappersLegal to pursue their pastime and supplement their incomes (as their predecessors have done in the great history of the North American fur trade). He ignored the problem of dog deaths, and ignored the concerns of the other stakeholder groups.

Sen.Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) recounted his experience in trapping, and implied that, since the problem doesn't lie with RecreationalTrappersEthical, that they shouldn't be restricted by a "one size fits all" solution to enforce trapping ethics on RecreationalTrappersLegal. He ignored the problem and the concerns of the other stakeholder groups, and failed to offer a solution that he might find more flexible.

Sen.Thomas Bakk (D-Cook)--without identifying himself as a lifetime member of the MN Trappers Association and an opponent of the DogLovers bill--suggested that the only way to bring the issue to a workable resolution would be for the stakeholder groups to work out their disputes outside of the legislature--and to bring their consensus to the legislature if there was a need to "enact something into law." He ignored the history of efforts to find solutions by consensus, ignored stakeholder groups other than RecreationalTrappersEthical and AntiTrappers, and attempted to cast the AntiTrappers stakeholder group as 1) lacking in credibility and 2) driving the issue (apparently as part of its "thinly-veiled plan to ban all forms of trapping").

Again, it should be noted that the Minnesota movement to protect dogs from body-gripping traps has been driven by the group Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN (DogLovers), representing the stakeholder groups RecreationalTrappersEthical, HuntingDogOwners, and HikingDogOwners. The DogLovers group represents hunters, trappers, and other outdoor recreationists; and is fiercely independent of the anti-trapping movement.

Sen.Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) began by explaining that she didn't know anything about trapping. That might have been an appropriate point to stop talking--except that it wouldn't have sounded so "decisive" as repeating what Sen. Bakk had said about resolving disputes outside of the legislature.


This is how politics fail: 1) evidence is either stressed or ignored, depending on whether it supports a party's preferred conclusions, 2) undecided legislators vote according to their political alliances, 3) premature conclusions are made with an air of "decisiveness," and 4) the discussion moves onto the next item on the agenda.

The way politics are supposed to work is illustrated, at least in part, by the way the 2015 MN Senate committee hearings were held: 1) evidence is presented and heard, 2) sound solutions are offered and evaluated, 3) conclusions are made based on all of the evidence regarding the problem and the proposed solutions, and 4) the matter is either voted down or forwarded to the legislature for a vote.

Unfortunately, politics haven't been operating as they should on this issue.


AKC. 2015. "MN Update: Bill to Modify Use of Hunting Traps That Could Harm Pets." American Kennel Club. March 25. http://www.akc.org/government-relations/legislative-alerts/minnesota-senate-file-1325-update/

CBD. 2016. "Support for the Limiting Inhumane Federal Trapping (LIFT) for Public Safety Act." Center for Biological Diversity. September 8. https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2016/wildlife-traps-09-08-2016.html

DogLovers. 2012. "What We Want - Proven Methods." Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN. http://www.doglovers4safetrappingmn.org/what-we-want

Hackbarth, Tom, and Bill Ingebrigtsen. 2012. MN 2012 HF 2171: Omnibus Game & Fish Bill. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=House&f=HF2171&ssn=0&y=2012

Hoffman, John A., and Peter Fischer. 2015. MN 2015 SF 1325 / HF 1655: Wild Animals Trapping Modifications. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=senate&f=sf1325&ssn=0&y=2015

HSUS. 2014. "Statement on Wild Animals." Humane Society of the United States. http://www.humanesociety.org/about/policy_statements/statement_wild_animals.html

Kimmel, Richard O. 2014a. "Dogs Are Being Killed in Traps." Outdoor News MN, March 7 and March 14. http://www.doglovers4safetrappingmn.org/blogs/news/hunter-survey

Kimmel, Richard O. 2014b. "Hunter Survey: Thoughts on Dogs Being Killed by Traps in Minnesota." Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN, December 22. http://www.doglovers4safetrappingmn.org/blogs/news/body-grip-trap-impacts-on-mn

MOHA. 2013. Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance. http://www.moha-mn.org/about

MN DNR. 2010a. SONAR for Proposed Change to Rule 6234.2200 Subpart 7 (use of traps in the road right-of-way). Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 4/9/2010. https://www.leg.state.mn.us/archive/sonar/SONAR-03934.pdf

MN DNR. 2010b. Proposed Change to Rule 6234.2200 Subpart 7 (use of traps in the road right-of-way). Minnesota State Register 34(41) p. 1364, 4/12/2010. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/state_register/?vol=34&num=41

MN Legislature. 2017. "How a Bill Becomes Law in Minnesota." https://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/howbill

MTA. 2012. "Trapping Ethics." Minnesota Trappers Association. http://www.mntrappers.org/mtatrappingethics.html

NWCOA. 2017. National Wildlife Control Operators Association. http://www.nwcoa.com/

Orrick, Dave. 2012. "Will Minnesota's New Trapping Rules Mean Fewer Dog Deaths?" Pioneer Press, October 20. http://www.twincities.com/ci_21812576/will-minnesotas-new-trapping-rules-mean-fewer-dog

Pioneer Public TV. 2017a. "Your Legislators: about the show." http://www.pioneer.org/about-your-legislators.html

Pioneer Public TV. 2017b. "Your Legislators: body-grip traps." February 9. http://www.tpt.org/your-legislators/episode/body-grip-traps-february-9-2017/

Sierra Club. 2012. "Policy on Trapping of Wildlife." https://www.sierraclub.org/sites/www.sierraclub.org/files/uploads-wysiwig/Trapping-Wildlife.pdf

Slocum, Scott. 2012. "2012 MN Trapping Legislation: Fake." SS-Slocum. March 27. http://www.ss-slocum.info/home/trapping/blog/mnnon-functional

Slocum, Scott. 2015a. "Quadrants of Dog Owner's Goals vs. Trappers' Advice (Ethical or Slob)." SS-Slocum. January 18. http://www.ss-slocum.info/home/trapping/blog/quadrants-goals-vs-trappers-advice

Slocum, Scott. 2015b. "2015 Body-Gripping Trapping Bill Will Help to Protect Dogs!" SS-Slocum. March 4. http://www.ss-slocum.info/home/trapping/blog/mn_2015_body-gripping-trapping-bill-will-protect-dogs

Smith, Doug. 2015. "Ruffed Grouse Society Supports Minnesota Trapping Bill to Reduce Dog Deaths." Star Tribune, April 2. http://www.startribune.com/sports/blogs/298486391.html

Spielman, Tim. 2007. "Pheasant Bag Limit, Conibear Use, and Bow Draw Weight on Topic for DNR Meetings." Outdoor News, March 1, MN edition. http://www.outdoornews.com/March-2007/Pheasant-bag-hike-a-top-topic-for-DNR-meetings/

Ward, John E., and Charles Wiger. 2012. MN 2012 HF 2243 / SF 1736: Body-Gripping Trapping Restrictions. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=House&f=HF2243&ssn=0&y=2012&ls=87

Wyoming Untrapped. 2014. "Wyoming Untrapped: Our Work: Education, Reform, and Advocacy." Wyoming Untrapped. http://wyominguntrapped.org/our-work/


Mr. Anderson: A viewer from Brainerd wants to talk about, is concerned about, "when will the legislature protect our dogs from body-grip traps?" I'm going to pick on you, Rep. Torkelson, on the theory that your district is more rural than Sen. Pratt's. Why don't you take us into the body-grip trap problem and tell us what's going on there, if anything?

Rep. Torkelson: Well, it's certainly a controversial issue. We have a trapping industry in Minnesota that is very important to controlling unwanted critters, and also an economic opportunity for those that do trap and sell furs. There's a long history in Minnesota. Most trappers do a really good job: they're very careful about how they set their traps, and they do their best to protect against unwanted trappings of dogs. But it does happen [that a dog is caught], there are examples where it does happen. I don't know if we can prevent every mishap, but we can take steps, so that trappers understand what they can do to protect dogs. And, at the same time, I feel strongly that we need to protect the trappers and what they do for our state.

Mr. Anderson: I probably should have picked on you first, Sen. Bakk, because I know you and I have had this discussion before on prior programs. Tell us how you see this issue unfolding.

Sen. Bakk: Well, I think in my experience at the legislature, when two sides come in and bring their battle to the legislature, oftentimes they don't get the resolution that they want. And I've kind of learned over time... and you've got the trappers: very, very important heritage in this state; you've got people who don't want to worry about the safety of their pets... so for years, I've told those two parties "don't bring your dispute to us, and make us try to pick a winner or a loser." I frankly don't understand why those two sides can't get together around a table someplace and figure out how both can be considerate of each other's concerns. But there are requirements already on body-grip traps: depending on the size, they have to be so far off the ground, larger ones need to be set in water. But it's a very emotional issue for people who have lost a pet to them. But some of it has been driven by outside groups that are just anti-trapping, period. Right? For a long, long time, there was a campaign against leghold traps, and how bad leghold traps were. Well the truth is, body-gripping traps kill animals, so they're much more humane to use. Well, now the attack seems to be less on the legholds, and it's moved over to the body-gripping traps. I hope the sides can get together and bring some resolution, and then bring us the solution, and if we need to enact something into law, we will.

Mr. Anderson: Sen. Pratt, any thoughts on this topic?

Sen. Pratt: It's been years since I've run traps. I used to run traps with my cousin. But I think responsible trappers are doing a good job, and I agree with Sen. Bakk: let's see if we can find a solution, because we tend to take a very big approach, a one-size-fits-all approach, and it's not always the best way to solve a problem. I think we need, more often, parties coming to the table to work it out before they come to us.

Mr. Anderson: Rep. Omar, any thoughts on this? Not a lot of body-grip traps in your district, I guess. Your district is pretty urban, right?

Rep. Omar: It is very urban, and I don't think I've ever actually seen trapping or anyone who actually practices trapping. But, to me, I would agree with what Sen. Bakk was saying about making sure that we are not the body that people use to solve every problem. And I think the people need to see themselves as being part of the solution, and this is something that I think we can find the proper advocates from both sides to really come up with a solution that everybody can live with. 

Your Legislators

2015 MN Senate hearing of SF 592: to prohibit recreational wolf trapping and snaring

posted Mar 13, 2016, 4:55 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Mar 3, 2019, 9:02 AM ]

This is a video excerpt of the 3/9/2015 MN Senate hearing of the wolf-trapping and snaring regulation bill SF 0592: no recreational wolf trapping, snaring, electronic calling, prey-distress calling, or hunting over bait; gross misdemeanor penalty for wolf poaching; no recreational snaring. Almost all of the debate is about snaring. Proponents focus on the potential for the effective and humane uses of snares in research, predator control, and the fur trade. Critics focus on the suffering of animals in snares.

MN Senate Subcommittee on Fish and Wildlife, Committee on Environment and Energy, 3/9/2015.

It includes testimony from Maureen Hackett of Howling for Wolves, Gary Leistico of the MN Trappers Association, and Dan Stark and John Erb of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR).



00:02 Senator Matt Schmit, Chairman of the Subcommittee, opens the hearing of SF 592.

00:08 Senator Charles (Chuck) Wiger, the bill's author, introduces the bill

00:40 Dr. Maureen Hackett, President and Founder of Howling for Wolves, supports the bill. This bill addresses recreational trapping, snaring, and baiting--not government programs of depredation control. Non-target catches by snares are high, for example in situations where a bait pile is made and the area around it is saturated with snares. Snaring is an indiscriminate method that catches not only the intended, target animals, but also many non-target animals (ref. to a statement by Carter Niemeyer to that effect). Jellyhead is one of the horribly-painful injuries that can be caused by snares. Snares can become embedded in animals skin (ref. to letter from Peggy Farr, veterinarian and wildlife rehabilitator). Wildlife belongs to all of us. Non-target catches amplify the take of wildlife far beyond the intended targets. In a Lake Research Partners poll, 66% of respondents were opposed to the use of traps and snares for wolves, and even more were opposed to baiting and calling. 

06:12 Mr. Gary Leistico, MN Trappers Association (MTA), opposes the bill. MTA members have been lawfully and ethically trapping and snaring in Minnesota since the State was established. Wolf trapping is no different from the trapping of other animals. Modern snaring is improved over the old technology, with its use of aircraft cable and other components including stops, springs, and swivels. Snares operate better than foothold traps in MN winters. Snares are used in depredation-control trapping. He's not aware of statistics on non-target catches by snares. The selectivity of a snare depends on how and where it's set. Snares can be as selective as foothold traps. In his own trapping and snaring, there's almost no incidental catch. He's not aware of any MN incidents of "jellyhead." He's read about it, but hasn't witnessed it. The MN DNR has been recording incidents in which dogs have been caught in traps, but he hasn't seen an incident of a dog killed by a snare in those records.

Mr. Leistico states correctly that snaring technology has "improved," but he neglected to mention how. The improvements fall under two categories: 1) efficiency of catching and killing, and 2) cable-restraint technology that can be used to improve animal welfare and allow the release of incidental catches. Most trappers are interested in the former. The latter is required in Wisconsin, but not yet in Minnesota.

Mr. Leistico refers to the MN DNR "Trap Incident Reports." These are the spotty reports of incidents in which people's dogs were caught in traps, and the dogs' owners or friends reported those incidents to the MN DNR and/or the news media. The MN DNR apparently kept some records on an informal basis until 2012, when they were recorded on a more intensive basis in November and December 2012. The MN DNR stepped up its efforts in 2012 in response to that year's initiative by dog owners calling for MN regulations to protect dogs from body-gripping traps (Orrick 2012; Smith 2013). When dog owners continued their calls for regulations in subsequent years, the MN DNR began to record the incidents on a more systematic basis in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 trapping seasons. In the 2014-2015 MN Hunting & Trapping Regulations Handbook, a new message to trappers and small-game hunters was added to the "Small Game" section under the heading "Domestic Animals": "If you find a dog in a trap, or if your dog was caught in a trap – please contact your local Conservation Officer and report the incident." Consequently, the number of trap incident reports increased that year. It should be noted that neither the report title "trap incident report" nor the message in the Handbook included the word "snare."

Mr. Leistico neglected, for example, to mention MN DNR Trap Incident Report #20-12 (according to the initial numbering system, the twentieth trap incident report recorded by the MN DNR, among many other snaring incidents in which dogs were rescued from life-threatening situations in snares) of the death of an Airedale Terrier near Royalton, MN in a snare on 3/12/2012. The report, redacted by the MN DNR, provided very little information, not even whether the snare had been set in violation of trapping regulations. It did include a note that the trapper did not have permission to be operating on the private property where the incident occurred, but given the permissive MN allowances for trapping without permission on unposted private property, that was not necessarily a violation. Nevertheless, Mr. Leistico might have misjudged the note to be an indication that the snare had been illegally set. Mr. Leistico's informal opinion on the matter of illegal sets has apparently been that illegal sets should not be considered in the determination of trapping regulations. That's a very convenient policy for someone who has an interest in excluding as much negative information as possible.

The MN DNR does not record incidents in which animals restrained by the neck in lethal snares suffer from cerebral swelling and brain hemorrhaging (i.e. "jellyhead"). Although he did not mention them specifically, Mr. Leistico was apparently aware of reports including one that made the headlines in 2002 by a Maine DIFW biologist on the necropsies of 100 coyotes killed in snares. One third suffered from brain hemorrhaging, and another third were not killed by the snares but by the trappers after being restrained for undisclosed periods of time (legally up to seven days) in the snares (Austin 2003; Williams 2002).

08:45 Mr. Ray Sogard, MN Forest-Zone Trappers Association (MFZTA), opposes the bill. Predator control also controls the spread of disease, including mange. Humans can also suffer from mange. This is one of the services provided to society by trappers. Snares can be set selectively. Moose stops and breakaways are required on snares that are set for wolves. Snares can be constructed and set with lethal and non-lethal options. Snares are impervious to MN winter weather. Snares cause little or no damage to domestic animals that are caught incidentally, or to wild animals that are captured for research. Snare best-management practices (BMP) have been developed based on snare studies in states including WI, TN, etc. Snares provide an affordable opportunity for young trappers to get started in trapping on a low budget. Trapping is a 400 year-old tradition that the MFZTA promotes for all of its members.

There are several problems with Mr. Sogard's statement that "By controlling predators, the trapper is also controlling the spread of disease, such as mange. Although mange is a disease caused by a parasite, it in effect destroys the predator's coat, and the animal then dies of exposure. Many are unaware that humans can also suffer from this disease. Keeping this disease in check is an additional service provided by the trapper." 

This false yet commmonly-stated claim that "trapping controls the spread of disease" is based on the selective application of certain theories (and the ignorance of all the others) of density-dependent functions in population dynamics. The false reasoning is that any factor, including trapping, that would lower the density of a given population would logically result in the predictable lowering of density-dependent functions, including disease transmission. This reasoning does not necessarily hold in nature, where of course, many populations interact, and many density-dependent functions are inter-dependent. In other words, it's not that simple, and trapping is far from the only or best regulatory mechanism against the spread of disease.

11:40 Senator Chris Eaton asks the MTA and MFZTA testifiers to provide references to the snare studies they've mentioned, and to support their statements that snares can be used humanely and safely. 

Here's some information for the purposes of these notes (not necessarily what was provided by MTA, MFZTA, or MN DNR) from the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) in partial reply to Sen. Eaton's question.

The AFWA Wolf trapping BMP report (AFWA 2014) that was online as of 3/12/2016 was the "First edition, 2014." It stated that "to date, only foothold restraining traps and a power activated footsnare were used to capture wolves during BMP trap testing." It did not include any mention of neck snares.

AFWA BMPs list traps that have been "tested and meet performance standards for animal welfare, efficiency, selectivity, practicality, and safety." (AFWA 2007).
It's important to understand the limitations of the AFWA BMPs. They measure "animal welfare" in leghold traps nominally by the selectivity of the traps, but principally by the average severity of specific injuries that are caused by the traps to the animals' legs and feet. Not all injuries, only specific industries included in the testing standards. The injuries are apparently evaluated by veterinarians on the carcasses that are brought in by trappers, having been killed promptly following capture at the trap sites. Of course, the trapping injuries that would be detectable at this early stage (shortly following capture) would not include injuries that would, in nature, tend to become infected and develop into painful, disabling, and/or life-threatening conditions. The AFWA BMPs measure "animal welfare" in killing traps by time to unconsciousness. They measure "safety" by the lack of injuries to trappers (not according to animal welfare or selectivity).

12:08 Mr. Thom Peterson, MN Farmers Union, opposes the bill, supports the wolf hunting & trapping season as it is. He's concerned about controlling livestock depredation by wolves, and about providing funding for wolf-depredation compensation payments to farmers from wolf-hunting and trapping license fees.

12:53 Mr. Cory Bennett, MN Deer Hunters Association (MDHA), opposes the bill, supports the MN Wolf Management Plan, including trapping as part of the Plan.

13:17 Maureen Hackett returns to the testimony table to add information. Twenty U.S. States have effectively eliminated snaring. She had not presented the graphic examples she has of injuries caused by snares to dogs, wolves, even moose. MN DNR records on incidental trapping are incomplete; animals die unrecorded. The wolf-hunting firearms season would have been sufficient to meet the State's harvest quotas, without adding the wolf-trapping season. The wolf-trapping season was indiscriminate and harmful. You've heard it said by the trapping associations: snaring is cheaper, easier, you don't need a professional, the young guys can do it, anybody can snare. Anybody can go out and set thousands of snares, kill thousands of animals--and in the process, many thousands will go unknown. These animals belong to the public. In setting wildlife policies, we need to consider the public interest, not just the interests of those individuals who want to "take" those animals by hunting and trapping. We need to question "how many [non-target] animals does it take to get those [target] animals by trapping?"

15:03 Mr. Bob Meier, Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR), opposes the bill. He introduces John Erb and Dan Stark.

15:25 Mr. Dan Stark, Large Carnivore Specialist, MN DNR, opposes the bill. The MN wolf-hunting and wolf-trapping season is the most highly-regulated of all the State's hunting and trapping seasons. Regulations include limits on number of licenses, number of hunters, timeframe, and harvest target. Trapping is the most efficient method of capturing or killing wolves. Capture is used in research, for example to radio-collar wolves in order to track their movements. Baiting and calling of wolves is necessary to boost success in the recreational hunting seasons; these methods are now recognized by the MN DNR as "fair chase" methods of hunting.

17:20 Dr. John Erb, Furbearer and Wolf Research Biologist, MN DNR, Grand Rapids, opposes the bill. Although snares are relatively simple devices, there are a number of components to them that allow diverse uses--both for live restraint and for killing. Snares and cable restraints are used in research on foxes, coyotes, raccoons, beavers, wolves. National Trap Research Program has tested and certified "many forms of snares for live-restraining animals" [for information to the contrary, see the note above about the limitations of published AFWA BMP testing of traps and snares on wolves]. Most of the devices that were tested met the standards [he doesn't say what those standards were: again, please refer to the note about the AFWA BMPs above]. Subject animals were fully examined by necropsy by veterinarians following testing. There's a significant amount of data on the use of live restraints. Less information is available for killing snares. "A snare is not a snare:" there's a lot of diversity in how they can be used. Snares can be set selectively, depending on which options are used, including options for live-restraint and for killing. MN trapping regulations require daily trap checking for restraining-type traps, 3-day check for killing-type traps or drowning sets.

Note that both Mr. Stark and Dr. Erb addressed only the potential for what can be done effectively and humanely with snares, and most of that with cable restraints.

19:51 Sen. Eaton comments that, although she understands that it's legal and effective to snare and trap animals, she questions whether it's ethical. She challenges the distinction between how we, as a society, treat our domestic pets vs. how we treat our wildlife.

20:20 Sen. Wiger reminds the subcommittee that the bill would not affect the MN Predator Control Program or the wildlife-removal operations that are allowed under it. 

21:07 John Erb reiterates that the bill would prevent the use of snares by private trappers, even those who operate their snares humanely and selectively.

21:41 Mr. Jeffrey Wiles, resident of Coon Rapids, MN, supports the bill. He specifies that his comment is limited to the practice of recreational snaring. He emphasizes the quote on the Howling for Wolves fact sheet from Carter Niemeyer about the danger and lack of selectivity of snares. He notes that those dangers are a concern both for pets and wildlife.

22:23 Sen. Schmit concludes the hearing of SF 592. The bill will be laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus Game & Fish Bill, SF 1303.

22:33 End of video excerpt.


AFWA. 2007. "Best Management Practices (BMP) for Trapping in the United States." Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA). 

AFWA. 2014. "BMPs for Trapping Wolves in the U.S." Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies. 

Austin, Phyllis. 2003. "Maine IF&W Biologist Critical of Coyote Snaring, Slated for Demotion." Maine Environmental News. March 11. 

Orrick, Dave. 2012. "Will Minnesota's New Trapping Rules Mean Fewer Dog Deaths?" Pioneer Press, October 20. 

Smith, Doug. 2013. "Number of Dogs Killed by Traps Concerns Owners." Star Tribune, January 15. 

Williams, Ted. 2002. "Maine's War on Coyotes." Audubon. September 1. 

Maureen Hackett, Howling for Wolves, testifying in support of SF 592.
Maureen Hackett, Howling for Wolves, testifying in support of SF 592: to prohibit wolf trapping, snaring, etc.

Dogs and traps on trails in the Mat-Su Valley, Alaska.

posted May 8, 2015, 11:32 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated May 8, 2015, 11:37 AM ]

TV News series by FOX 4 News at 9:00 reporter Gretchen Parsons.

Part 1: Lynn D. Mitchell describes the Alaska Safe Trails petition to prohibit trapping near designated trails and on school grounds.

Part 2: Jim Maddry describes the problem of traps for MAT+SAR Search and Rescue. With comments by Jane Baldwin and Mike Webber,

Part 3: Several stories on the increasing problem of dogs caught in traps set near trails in the Mat-Su Valley (Matanuska-Susitna Borough, north of Anchorage, AK).

Traps in the Valley: Mike Webber's dog Von Braun killed in a body-gripping trap set near a trail near home.

MN 2015 body-gripping setback bill would help to protect dogs along roads and trails

posted Mar 15, 2015, 1:15 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Mar 26, 2016, 7:18 AM ]

MN Senate hearing of body-gripping trapping road & trail setback bill SF 1070, 3/9/2015.

Update, 5/18/2015:

As expected (in the realm of GOP politics) this MN House  bill HF 1070 was denied a hearing or vote.

Although this MN Senate bill HF 1070 was properly included in the Game & Fish bill HF 1406, and passed all of its committee hearings well before the end of the legislative session, it was not scheduled for a floor vote. 

The scheduling of a Senate floor vote is the responsibility of Senate leadership, specifically Sen. Tom Bakk, a lifetime member of the Minnesota Trappers Association, and an opponent of the bill.

This was just one of the procedural tricks that was played by Sen. Bakk this session, interfering with the open and transparent operation of State government, and misusing the power of "leadership" in order to prevent the passage of popular legislation. 

It's not supposed to work this way. Good legislation like this, reasonable and popular, is supposed to move through the system on fair votes, and if it passes, become law--whether a few, entrenched legislators like it or not.

Due to political game-playing by a few MN legislators in key positions, the Game & Fish Bill was not scheduled for a floor vote. Instead, a few selected pieces of it were picked out and inserted into what had been the omnibus Environment & Natural Resources finance bill (which then became the "omnibus Agriculture, Environment, & Natural Resources policy and finance bill," HF 846, a long mess of deal-making and questionable procedure).

Similar story (no MN Senate floor vote) for the body-gripping trapping-regulation bill to protect dogs: SF 1325 / HF 1655.

Update, 3/17/2015.

This "road & trail buffer bill" for body-gripping trapping, HF 1070 / SF 1070, is now a part of the Game & Fish Bill HF 1406 / SF 1303.

The MN Senate Game & Fish Bill, SF 1303, was passed with several technical amendments by the MN Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/17/2015. 

The hearing was well attended by trappers and dog lovers, who were able to come downstairs following the big hearing of SF 1325: the "DogLovers Bill" an hour earlier.

Sen. Hall said he wants to restore this bill to its full strength, with 150-foot buffers on both sides of the centerline. It was weakened by narrowing those buffers to 50 feet, for the convenience of trappers, at the expense of everyone else--and our dogs.

Another important request will be to come up with an inclusive definition of the term "public trail" (and to keep a good, inclusive definition of the term "public road").

Good news: it's something.

Bad news: it offers even less protection than it did when it was introduced (trapping lobby chipping away).

Conclusion: your conclusion might depend on whether you're a "glass half-full" person or a "glass half-empty" person.

Summary, full strength, as introduced:

  • No body-gripping traps in the buffer strip on each side of the road or trail.
  • Buffer strip: 150-feet from the centerline.
  • Public road: not initially defined. Most people would expect the definition to be "the roads where people walk with their dogs."
  • Public trail: not initially defined. Most people would expect the definition to be "the trails where people walk with their dogs."

Summary, as weakened at the request of the trapping lobby, 3/11/2015:
    • No #220 body-gripping traps in the buffer strip on each side of the road or trail.
    • Buffer strip: 50-feet from the centerline or road ROW, whichever is less.
      • Most common road ROW is 33 feet from the centerline.
    • Public road: "State, county, city, or township road."
    • Public trail: "State Trail designated under section 85.015."
    • No body-gripping traps in the buffer strip on each side of the road or trail.
    • Buffer strip: 50-feet from the centerline.
    • Public road: defined in MN Statute Section 160.02, Subdivision 26.
    • Public trail: "Trail that is managed by a federal agency, state agency, or a political subdivision of the state."

MN Sen. Chuck Wiger
MN Sen. Chuck Wiger

MN written-permission bill would protect landowners and their dogs from hidden traps.

posted Feb 6, 2015, 10:06 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Mar 8, 2019, 4:01 PM ]

Landowners are being surprised by traps, and people's dogs are being killed by those traps! 

Perhaps the biggest part of this problem is in the ditches along the roads. Many of these ditches are public road rights-of-way (ROW) on private land. Minnesota Statute allows the use of unposted private lands--including these rights of way--for "outdoor recreation" including hunting and trapping. Although it would be illegal for a hunter to discharge a firearm on an unposted ROW, it remains legal for a trapper to set traps there. And it remains legal for a trapper to kill a dog that's out with its family for a walk along a country road, or to kill a dog that's come out with its family to the end of their driveway, to wait for the bus or to get the mail. 

Dead dog. Heartbroken family. No trapper liability.

Landowners and dog lovers want a solution to this problem. One solution that's been proposed is to require written permission for trapping on private land, and that's the subject of this blog.

This blog begins with a general introduction, and then describes the 2015, 2017, and 2019 bills to require written landowner permission for trapping. It ends by referring to related information.

Good points of this bill

This bill would help to solve one problem with trapping: it would require landowner permission to trap on unposted private property--and that would be a good thing.

Limitations of this bill

This bill would not solve all of the problems with trapping. For example, it would not require landowner permission to trap on a public road right-of-way ROW.

It would leave the controversial, confusing, and dangerous problem of trapping along roads as it is. We need additional legislation (e.g. SF 1070 / HF 1070) to solve that problem.

Background of this bill: 2014 MN Statute 97B.001

MN Statute 97B.001: Trespass.
    • Defines the term "Outdoor Recreation." 
    • Defines the term "Agricultural Land." 
    • Allows access to private land for outdoor recreation--with the following restrictions.
      • Requires landowner permission for outdoor-recreation access to agricultural land.
      • Requires landowner permission for outdoor-recreation access to posted land.
      • Specifies how landowners may personally notify individuals to restrict outdoor-recreation access.
      • Specifies how landowners may post their private land to restrict outdoor-recreation access.
      • Allows hunters to retrieve wounded game and hunting dogs.
      • Prohibits firearm discharge near occupied buildings and corrals.
      • Prohibits the taking of wildlife on land where the person is prohibited from entering.
      • Regulates individual behavior in outdoor recreation with the following restrictions:
        • Prohibits the wounding or killing of another person's domestic animal.
        • Prohibits the damaging of fences, buildings, grain, crops, live trees, or signs.
        • Requires a person passing through a closed gate to return it to the closed position.
The next Section of MN Statute, 97B.002, sets penalties for civil trespass.

Not addressed by this bill: the State of Minnesota allows trapping on an unposted ROW without landowner permission.

"Road Right-of-Way: some road right-of-ways are not owned by a unit of government. In these instances the landowner has granted an easement for vehicle and foot travel. The landowner generally retains authority to restrict access for hunting or trapping and may prohibit trespass by posting the land or by verbally directing hunters and trappers to leave the easement." 

In other words, unless Minnesota landowners post their land "no trapping" or "no trespassing"--and unless County or City Ordinances further restrict trapping in the ROW--Minnesota trappers do not need landowner permission to trap in the ROW. 

Apparently there's a gray area here, related to limitations in how "no trespassing" signs can be posted. For purposes of road maintenance, landowners are not allowed to post "no trespassing" signs on the ROW. The closest to the road these signs can be posted is outside of the ROW. Some trappers fail to recognize the fact that--although these signs cannot be physically posted on the ROW--these signs do apply to the ROW (as well as the private land behind the signs).

(The blogger doesn't have a reference yet to the MN Statutes and/or MN DNR Rules that are quoted here by the MN Hunting & Trapping Regulations Handbook. If anyone can illuminate any part or all of this gray area, please let the blogger know).

Could be addressed by this bill (or another bill): other States allow trapping on the ROW only with landowner permission.

Wisconsin requires landowner permission.

From the Wisconsin Trapping Regulations, 2014, p. 5:

"Trapping Along Roadsides: permission to trap road right-of-ways can be a complex issue. Highway right-of-ways are established to provide areas for vehicle and sometimes pedestrian travel and not for the purpose of trapping. Most are owned by either the state or the local unit of government; however in some cases the adjoining landowner still maintains ownership of the underlying land. Trappers must have permission from the owner of the land underlying any public road, street or highway right-of-way areas before trapping these locations."

Diagram of a public road right-of-way (ROW)


Diagram of a public road right-of-way (ROW) across private land. Source: SD hunting regulations.

The (basic) bill was heard, refined, and favorably received (but not yet passed into law).

Update: 3/9/2015.

The (basic) 2015 bill SF 591 was heard on 3/9/2015 by the MN Senate Subcommittee on Fish and Wildlife, Committee on Environment and Energy.

On the basis of this hearing, MN 2015 SF 591 was included in the Game & Fish Bill, MN 2015 SF 1303, Section 28.

Unfortunately, the 2015 Game & Fish Bill never made it to a vote on the MN Senate floor. Instead, it was disassembled and reassembled, at least twice, each time with politically-oriented exclusions and inclusions, with portions of it (not including SF 591) finally ending up in an omnibus bill in special session. In short, through political manipulations by Senate leadership, SF 591 was "killed" without a floor vote.

Update: 3/24/2016.

Good news: the language of the 2015 bill SF 591 was improved and included in the 2016 Game & Fish Bill SF 2758 by Sen. Eaton's amendment A4 in the Senate Environment and Energy Committee meeting on 3/24/2016. 

The improvement was to limit the written-permission requirement to "property that is not subject to a requirement to be open to the public." That is, written permission would not be required to trap on industrial-forest land that's open to the public through a conservation easement with the State of Minnesota.

Here's how the improved bill looked in the 2016 Game & Fish Bill SF 2758 after the first engrossment on 3/29/2016:


A person may not set or place a trap or snare on private property that is not subject to a requirement to be open to the public, other than property owned or occupied by the person, unless the person has the written permission of the owner, occupant, or lessee of the private property. This section includes, but is not limited to, written permission to access private property from waters of the state when the trap or snare is placed or staked in the water.

Description of the 2015 bill

Bill number MN 2015 SF 591.
Bill title Trapping without written permission on private land not posted prohibition.
Bill summary the bill would require trappers to get landowner permission before trapping on unposted private lands.
Bill author and co-authors MN Senators Wiger, Marty, Sieben, and Benson.
Bill URL https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=senate&f=SF591&ssn=0&y=2015

Bill numberMN 2015 HF 2138.
Bill titleTrapping without written permission on private land that is not posted prohibited
Bill summarythe bill would require trappers to get landowner permission before trapping on unposted private lands.
Bill author and co-authorsMN Representatives Fischer, Selcer, Youakim, Hausman, and Slocum.
Bill URLhttps://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?f=HF2138&y=2015&ssn=0&b=house

The (improved) bill was heard and favorably received (but not yet passed into law).

Update: 3/30/2017.

Good news: two bills have been introduced in the Minnesota legislature for the new biennium: the basic HF 1931 /  SF 9 and the improved HF 1924 / SF 1390.

The latter, SF 1390, was included in the MN Senate environment & natural resources omnibus bill SF 1723 and passed by the Senate on 3/29/2017.

Unfortunately, the omnibus bill wasn't passed in regular session, and didn't include SF 1390 in the special session.

Comparison of the (basic) 2015 bill to the (improved) 2017 bill.

Language of the (basic) 2015 bill.

Minnesota Statutes 2014, section 97B.001, is amended by adding a subdivision to read as follows:

Subd. 9. Trapping. A person may not, without written permission of the owner, occupant, or lessee, enter private land that is not posted under subdivision 4 to engage in trapping activities.

Language of the (improved) 2017 bill.

Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 97B.001, is amended by adding a subdivision to read:
Subd. 9.  Placing traps or snares on private land; written permission required.  A person may not set or place a trap or snare on private property that is not subject to a requirement to be open to the public, other than property owned or occupied by the person, unless the person has the written permission of the owner, occupant, or lessee of the private property.  This subdivision includes, but is not limited to, written permission to access private property from waters of the state when the trap or snare is placed or staked in the water.

The (improved) bill has been introduced for the 2019/2020 biennium. No news as of 3/1/2019.

Related Information.

Quadrants of Dog Owner's Goals vs. Trappers' Advice (Ethical or Slob).

posted Jan 18, 2015, 10:26 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Jan 19, 2015, 11:44 AM ]


The grid above represents four situations in which a dog owner has a goal for protecting his or her pet, and a trapper has advice for that dog owner. In the top two quadrants, the dog owner's goal is to protect his or her dog from traps that are set for predators (or, really, from any traps that might harm or kill his or her dog). In the two lower quadrants, the dog owner's goal is different: to protect the dog from predators.

In the left-hand two quadrants, the trapper's advice to the dog owner is to keep his or her dog "under control." In the right-hand two quadrants, the advice is different: let your dogs be dogs. The acknowledgement that "dogs will be dogs" is an acknowledgement that dogs will sometimes roam off of the trails where they're walking with their owners, or out of their yards to follow a scent; or that people will sometimes let their good dogs safely off the leash to let them stretch their legs and run. It's also an acknowledgement that leash laws are not universal: that they exist only in certain cities, parks, and natural areas where dogs might otherwise cause problems for wildlife or neighbors.

So, in each quadrant we have one situation, one conversation, one comment made anonymously online under a newspaper article about a dog that was harmed or killed by a trap or a dog that was attacked by a predator. In the upper-left quadrant, the newspaper article might be about a little girl's little dog that was killed while he played with her near a walking trail (Orrick 2012). The unethical (slob) trapper's patent advice to dog owners would be to keep their dogs leashed. In the upper-right quadrant, the ethical trapper's advice would be for trappers to avoid sets that could harm or kill people's dogs, or other non-target animals (“Trapping Ethics” 2012).

In the lower-right quadrant, the newspaper article might be about a coyote attack on a dog--in the dog's yard (Gauthier 2011). Yes, that's alarming! But the unethical (slob) trapper's advice to dog owners would be to leave things with the dogs as they are, ignore the other food attractants that might be encouraging the presence of coyotes, don't waste your time trying to deter coyotes, but instead just bring in trappers to remove the "vermin." In the lower-left quadrant, the ethical trapper's advice would be to take expert advice, and implement an integrated program of (lethal and non-lethal) depredation control and coexistence.

In other words, if you're concerned about protecting your dog from traps, the unethical (slob) trapper's advice for you is to "keep your dog under control." So that he doesn't have to take proper, ethical precautions to avoid non-target catches.

On the other hand, if you're concerned about protecting your dog from predators, the unethical (slob) trapper wants you to forget he ever said that (about all of the responsibility being on you to "keep your dog under control"). Now he understands that not all dogs are going to be leashed at all times. Now he wants you to feel comfortable with whatever you're doing (even if it's contrary to expert advice on integrated depredation control), and leave everything up to him. So that he can be the important person who "protects" people and their dogs from predators.

See how many comments you can find to fit the pattern of the upper-left or lower-right quadrants of this grid, under articles about dogs being killed by traps or dogs being attacked by predators, respectively.


Gauthier, Ryan. 2011. “Second Edina Coyote Attack Spurs Council Response.” Edina Patch, May 3. http://patch.com/minnesota/edina/second-edina-coyote-attack-spurs-council-response.

Orrick, Dave. 2012. “Minnesota: Weekend Dog Death Highlights Dangers of Small Traps, Too.” Pioneer Press, October 25. http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_21854559/weekend-dog-death-highlights-dangers-small-traps-too.

“Trapping Ethics.” 2012. Minnesota Trappers Association. http://www.mntrappers.org/mtatrappingethics.html.

Maine emergency trapping rules, 12/9/2014

posted Dec 11, 2014, 6:34 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Dec 11, 2014, 6:35 PM ]

There have been some recent (misleading) headlines to the effect that Maine has "shut down" trapping in response to the killing of two endangered Lynx. By now, I think we know not to believe exclamations like "shut down" or "banned" or "outlawed," etc. when they're made about trapping regulations. That holds true in this case, too.

They didn't shut down trapping in Maine, in general, as evidenced by the following unchanged regulations and programs:
  1. There was no change in the southern part of the State (Figure 1).
  2. No changes for snaring with cable restraints.
  3. No changes for trapping in water.
  4. No change for lethal traps in lynx-exclusion devices in the middle of the state. 
  5. etc.
There's some controversy about those lynx-exclusion devices, that could have been resolved long ago if trappers or officials had been willing to try them--which they were not (ME DIF&W 10/282014). The devices are simply cages or boxes (Figure 2, ME DIF&W 2011) that enclose lethal traps so the traps don't kill the wrong animals--like endangered Lynx or people's dogs. Taking this kind of precaution is a good idea from the perspective of many conservationists and dog owners, but trappers and officials have been reluctant to adopt them.

The big change is that these emergency rules (ME DIF&W 12/9/2014) shut down foothold trapping on land in the northern part of the State. This makes sense in a way, since that's the way many Lynx have been injured (and probably died of their injuries). But, on the other hand, it's not a direct response to the two deaths that triggered the emergency rules. Those two deaths were presumably caused by lethal traps, not by foothold traps.

Meanwhile, a number of major trapping issues are still being ignored in Maine, including the following: 
  • The overly-long trap-checking interval that can leave trapped animals in misery for days.
  • The untried lynx-exclusion devices.
  • The ineffective but deadly predator-control program (Matteson and DeJoy 2014).
  • The trapping of bears.
  • etc.

Diagram of Maine Wildlife Management Districts by Bangor Daily News.
Figure 1: Maine Wildlife Management Districts, with the Lynx zone in green. Diagram from the Bangor Daily News.

Maine DIF&W sample of a Lynx-exclusion device (openings highlighted in orange)
Figure 2: Maine DIF&W sample of a Lynx-exclusion device (ME DIF&W 2011. Openings highlighted by the blogger in orange).


Matteson, Mollie, and Daryl DeJoy. 2014. “Feds Approve Maine Trapping Plan Allowing Rare Canada Lynx to Be Harmed, Killed.” Center for Biological Diversity. November 4. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2014/canada-lynx-11-04-2014.html.

ME DIF&W. 2011. Lynx Exclusion Device Rule. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/pdfs/Lynx%20Exclusion%20Device%20flyer.pdf.

ME DIF&W. 10/28/2014. Incidental Take Plan for Maine’s Trapping Program. United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Augusta, Maine, USA: Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. http://www.fws.gov/mainefieldoffice/Canada_lynx.html.

ME DIF&W. 12/9/2014. “IFW Adopts Emergency Trapping Rule Changes In Northern Maine.” Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. December 9. http://www.maine.gov/ifw/aboutus/news_events/pressreleases/single.shtml?id=633146.

Trapping controversy: Minnesota dogs still not protected in the 2014-2015 season

posted Oct 10, 2014, 10:36 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Dec 11, 2014, 6:51 PM ]

The following four pieces of Minnesota and Wisconsin trapping news deliver more information together than they do separately.
  • News item #1 describes how the State of Wisconsin takes precautions in State Parks to avoid hunting/trapping conflicts that could otherwise lead to the injuries or deaths of hunting dogs in traps and snares.
  • News item #2 describes how the State of Minnesota has only now started asking people to report dog injuries and deaths in traps. That took a long time; the State of Wisconsin did that more than fifteen years ago, and based on those reports took prompt and effective action to protect dogs (Orrick 2012).
  • News item #3 warns that releasing a dog from a trap--even a non-lethal foothold trap--can be a very difficult thing to do (contrary to the poor information in the fourth piece of trapping news, below).
  • News item #4 suggests that, among other things, releasing a dog from a foothold trap is no problem. The author's goal is similar to the Wisconsin State Parks' goal (to avoid hunting/trapping conflicts), but his proposed solutions aren't consistent with that goal.
These pieces of news address two different levels of regulation: statewide or in special areas.
  • The general, statewide Wisconsin trapping regulations (e.g. on private property and WI Wildlife Areas), provide good protection for dogs statewide.
  • And the special Wisconsin trapping regulations (e.g. on WI State Parks) provide the increased protection for dogs that's appropriate in those special areas.
Minnesota trapping regulations need to be improved at both levels: generally (e.g. on private property and MN Wildlife Management Areas) and on special areas (e.g. on MN WIA areas). The Wisconsin regulations provide a good model for needed improvements in Minnesota.

In short, the MN DNR would do well to follow the lead of the WI DNR on these issues.

News item #1--Wisconsin regulations reduce hunting/trapping conflicts in recreational areas

In a press release, the WI DNR described the limited trapping that is allowed in WI State Parks: only watersets, enclosed-trigger traps (referred to by Kevin Auslund as "dog-proof raccoon traps"), and cage traps are allowed. No lethal traps or snares, no foothold/leghold traps, not even cable restraints are allowed (Olson 2014).

These trapping limitations would also be appropriate for recreational areas in the State of Minnesota.

News item #2--Please report trapping incidents

In a letter to the editor of the Outdoor News, 10/3/2014, Dan Wilm wrote in support of the MN DNR request for everyone to voluntarily report trapping incidents in which dogs are injured or killed (Wilm 2014). Wilm dismissed the "slippery slope" argument of Tim Spreck, MOHA President (Spreck 2014), in which Spreck suggested that it would not be wise to modify trapping regulations to protect dogs from lethal trapping and snaring because it might encourage animal-rights groups to call for more radical changes to hunting and trapping regulations.

News item #3--Warning: it's not easy to release a dog (even from a non-lethal foothold/leghold trap)

In an Outdoor News article, 10/3/2014, Todd Strohecker described how to release a dog from a foothold/leghold (Strohecker 2014). He properly included the warning that the first step--immobilizing the dog--can be very difficult to do alone. Unfortunately, Strohecker's also made the following false assumptions: 1) that there will be firm surface under the trap, and 2) that the would-be rescuer will have the body weight and/or hand strength necessary to compress the springs of a powerful trap. That "firm surface" assumption applies to any release method that depends on standing on the trap (which doesn't work in the mud). In addition, the larger long-spring traps (more than the coil-spring traps) require significant body weight and/or hand strength to compress the springs.

News item #4--Proposal limited to MN WIA areas and certain types of traps

In the Commentary column of Outdoor News on 10/3/2014, Kevin Auslund of Sportsmen Take Action described the historical and legal background of the Minnesota Walk-In Access Program (WIA) as it pertains to trapping on these publicly-designated hunting areas. He's right about the spirit of the law; we just have to get the letter of the law up to the same standard.

But, from that well-established foundation, Auslund made the mistake of moving onto a new subject that did not, in fact, build upon that foundation. Auslund proposed a compromise to his past call for a general ban of traps
on WIA areas that can (if they're not used with proper precautions) kill dogs. That includes all of the lethal traps and snares, and all the dog-proof raccoon traps (referred to by the WI DNR as "enclosed-trigger traps") on Minnesota Walk-In Access areas (WIA). Regardless of the trapping method or location (Auslund 2014).

Auslund's new compromise was to allow the use of foothold/leghold traps--regardless of the trapping method or location--on WIA areas.

There are many problems with Auslund's trapping recommendations: they ignore the safety of some methods of trapping (using the types of traps he would ban), and they ignore the danger of some methods of trapping (using the types of traps he would allow). Furthermore, if there is more evidence, let's hear it: on the danger of dog-proof raccoon traps, on the differences between the dangers of different trap designs and baits in these traps. More evidence would be welcome, because by design and according to a number of experts, these dog-proof traps are safer for dogs, when used properly, than other types of foothold/leghold traps.

Underlying all of these problems is the major limitation of all of Auslund's proposals is that they're limited to only one, relatively-minor type of land in Minnesota: WIA areas.

For all the weakness of Auslund's proposed solutions, he has a general point: places like WIA areas where people take their dogs should be safe for the dogs. Let's retain that general point, and resolve this conflict statewide.


Auslund, Kevin. 2014. “WIA Trapping Compromise Needed for Respect, Safety, and Unity.” Outdoor News MN, October 3. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxzc3Nsb2N1bWluZm98Z3g6NDdhOThiNWUzY2FmZTY0ZA

Olson, John. 2014. “October Signals the Opening of Many Furbearer Hunting and Trapping Seasons.” Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. October 7. http://dnr.wi.gov/news/Weekly/?id=452#art6.

Orrick, Dave. 2012. “Will Minnesota’s New Trapping Rules Mean Fewer Dog Deaths?” Pioneer Press, October 20. http://www.twincities.com/ci_21812576/will-minnesotas-new-trapping-rules-mean-fewer-dog.

Spreck, Tim. 2014. “Trapping Walk-In Access Areas: Incorrect Assumptions and Points to Ponder.” Outdoor News MN, September 12. http://www.ss-slocum.info/home/trapping/blog/WIA_assumptions_critique.

Strohecker, Todd. 2014. “Releasing a Dog from a Foot-Hold Trap.” Outdoor News MN, October 3. http://www.outdoornews.com/September-2014/Releasing-a-dog-from-a-foot-hold-trap/.

Wilm, Dan. 2014. “Report Trapped Dogs.” Outdoor News MN, October 3. http://www.doglovers4safetrappingmn.org/blogs/news/wilm-report.

WI DNR logo and outdoor-recreation images
Wisconsin trapping regulations: a good model for Minnesota to learn from--and improve upon!

Trappers' double standard on private-property rights

posted Oct 7, 2014, 11:18 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Oct 10, 2014, 9:12 PM ]

A good point has been made by Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN: there's a double standard in Minnesota when it comes to trapping and private-property rights.

My land:
A trapper/landowner may legally set a lethal trap or snare "on his own land!" without taking full, ethical precautions to avoid killing his neighbor's dogs, or those passing by on neighboring land (regardless of the neighboring land use).

Your land:
Unless you've carefully posted your land including the road right-of-way, a trapper may legally use "your land" for his lethal trapping and snaring--without even getting your permission. In MN State Statute, this is called "outdoor recreation." He's not required by law to take full, ethical precautions (additional regulations do apply, but they don't avoid killing your dogs or those of your neighbors).

Double standard. Unwise, unjust--and fiercely defended by the Minnesota trapping lobby.

See also: thoughts on private-property trapping regulations

County Road ditch. Photo by Gus Philpott, Woodstock Advocate.

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