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How much difference do cable restraints make for non-target animals?

posted Mar 9, 2016, 8:15 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Mar 9, 2016, 8:17 PM ]

Cable restraints are a special type of snare. They're used to catch wild animals for the fur trade and predator control. They can improve animal welfare; and in many cases, give trappers the option to release their incidental catches relatively unharmed. 

The benefits for domestic dogs can be tremendous. But how likely are trappers to risk the release of dangerous animals?

In this article, the advantages of cable restraints over regular snares are examined in a range of scenarios from easy and safe to difficult and dangerous. In each scenario, different types of animals are released from cable restraints by different types of people. The advantages vary according to the scenario, from big advantages for most domestic dogs, to questionable advantages for the more dangerous wild animals.


== Advice from the WI DNR ==

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR) cable-restraint guide (Olson and Tischaefer 2004) recommends the use of a catchpole to release a dog that's prone to bite. However, it doesn't provide any instructions for how to release wild animals, at least some of which (e.g. wolves) must be more dangerous and difficult to release than frightened domestic dogs.

Here are the instructions for releasing a dog that's prone to bite:

"... we highly recommend the use of a catchpole (which is nothing more than another cable restraint on the end of a fiberglass handle). Place the noose of the catchpole over the dog's head and tighten it gently. Then pin the animal down and cut the loop on the cable restraint to release it. A pair of quality cable cutters should become part of your personal cable restraint equipment."

== Evaluating the advice from the WI DNR ==

As always, the trapping lobby, even in this higher-quality WI DNR document, has glossed over the difficult parts of the subject:
  • An animal caught in a cable restraint is likely to afraid, stressed, injured, and still struggling. 
  • It would be dangerous for a trapper to approach an animal in that condition, and slip the noose of a catchpole over its neck. 
  • An unknown percentage of trappers would be reluctant to put themselves in danger that way.
  • Rather than putting themselves in danger, an unknown percentage of trappers would kill the animal. 
  • Trappers who risk a release put themselves in danger twice: once when they put the catchpole noose over the animal's neck, and again when they remove the noose and release the animal. 
  • Rather than putting themselves in danger the second time, An unknown percentage of trappers would use the catchpole to strangle the animal into unconsciousness before releasing it.
So, although cable restraints are widely promoted for the option they give trappers to release incidental catches "unharmed," it seems unlikely that, in dangerous circumstances, many trappers would be willing to risk that option to release dangerous animals (e.g. wolves).

== Unanswered questions ==
  • How many trappers, rather than take any risk, instead just kill the animal?
  • How many trappers, willing to deal with a snared animal but not with an injured animal released from a snare, opt to strangle the animal into unconsciousness (possibly causing further injury or death) before releasing it?

== Comparing cable restraints to regular snares, part 1: defining the terminology ==
  • Cable restraint: a snare that's built and set to the specifications of the WI DNR cable-restraint guide (Olson and Tischaefer 2004).
  • Purposes of a cable restraint: 1) to reduce the harm that's done to animals by the snares, and 2) to improve the chances of releasing animals from the snares relatively unharmed.
  • Ideal calm-dog scenario: A dog is caught in a cable restraint while walking or hunting with his or her owner. When the owner finds the dog, the dog is calm and waiting to be released. The owner releases the dog, unharmed, by simply loosening the noose of the cable restraint with his hands.
  • Ideal aggressive-dog scenario: A trapper finds a strange dog in his cable restraint, but the dog seems to be behaving aggressively. The trapper uses his catchpole to immobilize the dog, removes the cable restraint by loosening or cutting the noose, and releases the dog from his catch pole.
  • Ideal calm-wolf scenario: A trapper finds a wolf in his cable restraint (which he might have set intending to catch a coyote or bobcat). The wolf is not trying to escape or attack the trapper. The trapper--taking extra care to stay out of the catch circle, keep a barrier between himself and the wolf, and station an assistant with a weapon to defend against a possible attack--uses his catchpole to immobilize the wolf, removes the cable restraint by loosening or cutting the noose, and releases the wolf from his catch pole.
  • Ideal aggressive-wolf scenario: A trapper finds an aggressive wolf in his cable restraint. He's reluctant to risk a release. He calls for assistance, and his local fish & game officer comes to help. Together, they release the wolf.
  • Unfortunate aggressive-dog scenario: A dog, struggling to escape the cable restraint, is injured or killed when the steel cable cuts into its neck or other body part (Rankin 2016).
  • Unfortunate wolf scenario: A wolf, struggling to escape the cable restraint, is injured as the steel cable cuts into its neck. The trapper, reluctant to risk releasing the wolf fully conscious from his catchpole, strangles the wolf into unconsciousness before releasing it and retreating to safety. The wolf is further injured, or killed, by strangulation.
  • Unfortunate careless-trapper scenario: A careless trapper finds an aggressive dog or wolf in his cable restraint. He's reluctant to risk a release or call for assistance. He's in a remote area, and he can tell by the lack of other tracks in the snow that he's alone, and that what he does won't be observed. Rather than take a risk, he kills the dog or wolf, and tosses its carcass in the brush.
  • Unfortunate negligent-trapper scenario: A trapper neglects to check his cable restraints. An animal is caught in one, and is left to suffer (Snowdon 2016; CBC 2015). The animal is injured, deprived of water and food, exposed to the weather and predators, afraid for its life, and exhausted from trying to escape. Eventually, the animal succumbs and dies.
== Comparing cable restraints to regular snares, part 2: evaluating the scenarios ==

 ScenarioAdvantage of
cable restraint
over regular snare
while waiting
Advantage of
cable restraint
over regular snare
at point of release
Advantage rating: 
5=best
1=questionable
0=none
 Ideal calm-dog scenario much better much better 5
 Ideal aggressive-dog scenario much better better 4
 Ideal calm-wolf scenario much better better 4
 Ideal aggressive-wolf scenario maybe better unknown 3
 Unfortunate aggressive-dog scenario none none 0
 Unfortunate wolf scenario maybe better maybe better 2
 Unfortunate careless-trapper scenario maybe better none 1
 Unfortunate negligent-trapper scenario maybe better none 1

== Summary == 

To summarize in simple terms:

  • For calm domestic dogs (easy to release), cable restraints are much safer than regular snares.
  • For frightened, struggling animals (difficult and risky to release), cable restraints will be safer than regular snares in many, but not all, cases.
  • For animals caught by careless trappers who didn't build, set, or tend their cable restraints as required, cable restraints won't necessarily be any safer than regular snares.

== Conclusion ==

Cable restraints aren't perfect, but they would be a big improvement for Minnesota dogs. 


== References ==

CBC. 2015. "Hay River, N.W.T., Dog Killed by Abandoned Wolf Trap." CBC News North. Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada: Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC). 

Olson, John F., and Rick Tischaefer. 2004. "Cable Restraints in Wisconsin: A Guide to Responsible Use." Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Trappers Association. 

Rankin, Eric. 2016. "'My Dog Died in My Hands' Says Owner of Pet Caught in Snare Trap." CBC News. February 2. 

Snowdon, Wallace. 2016. "Coyote Snares a 'Death Trap' for Pets in Parkland County." CBC News. February 15. 


WI_DNR_2004_CableRestraintGuide_Figure41
Diagram of a cable restraint (figure 41) from "Cable Restraints in Wisconsin: A Guide to Responsible Use." Olson, John F., and Rick Tischaefer. 2004. WI DNR, WTA.

Don't you know your voice is stronger as part of an organization?

posted Mar 24, 2015, 9:50 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Mar 24, 2015, 12:25 PM ]

Yes, but I also need to speak as an Independent.

Independent & Free blog

Why should MN switch from lethal snares to cable restraints?

posted Mar 23, 2015, 10:05 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Mar 9, 2016, 8:26 PM ]

Cable restraints would be a compromise between trappers and animal-protection advocates. They're not perfect, but they can make a big difference for dogs!

This note is meant to provide 1) information on snares, cable restraints, and their careful and careless use, 2) information about how animal suffering and accidental deaths might be alleviated by improved use of the devices in point 1, and 3) a call for a compromise to accomplish point 2.

It's past time for Minnesota to follow the example of trapping experts and trappers in Wisconsin, and make the switch from regular snares and power snares to cable restraints.

First, a few definitions:
  1. Protected animals (e.g. deer) are the "small-game" and "large-game" animals for which hunting and trapping seasons are regulated in order to provide recreational opportunities while maintaining healthy-sized populations, require relatively humane killing, and leave parents free to raise their young and live their lives relatively unhindered for most of the year.

  2. Non-target animals (e.g. parent animals with young waiting for them to return, endangered species, and people's dogs) are the animals that are caught in traps and snares by "mistake" (or shot by careless hunters who "thought they were coyotes").

  3. Unprotected animals (e.g. coyotes, woodchucks, and skunks) are the unfortunate creatures that--either because they're more common, or less valued as game animals, or more valued for the off-season "recreational opportunity" they provide to hunters and trappers--are less protected in the ways they may legally be killed, orphaned, and exterminated. When careless hunters and trappers are caught killing non-target animals by "mistake," these are the animals they say they were after (and that excuse is generally accepted by fish & game officials and the courts).

  4. Regular snares are steel-cable nooses that are set along game trails to catch game or nuisance animals. In unskilled hands, they tend to be indiscriminate in the animals they catch, injure, and kill (Knudson 2012). Depending on how a captured animal struggles, and how the snare has been constructed and set, the animal is either killed quickly (which can be a mercy for a target animal or a tragedy for a non-target animal) or left overnight to suffer in misery (or longer in the case of a careless trapper). If the animal is not killed quickly, the snare is likely to inflict mortal wounds by constricting the blood flow to or from the head or appendage, and/or by cutting through the flesh. Snares maim and kill non-target animals in ways and numbers that would be shocking if they were not kept as "trade secrets" by trappers.

  5. Power snares are snares that are closed forcibly by springs (Bertram 1988). If their nooses tighten over vital organs, they're likely to deliver more rapid and certain kills. If they tighten over appendages, they're only likely to cause more misery. Again, a quick kill can either be a mercy for a target animal, or a more certain tragedy for a non-target animal. A non-kill with more severe wounding is just more misery.

  6. Cable restraints are snares with relaxing locks and other features including springs, swivels, breakaways, stops, and small, tangle-free catch circles designed to spare the lives of non-target animals and lessen the suffering of all animals in snares (Olson and Tischaefer 2004). In the right hands, they can be much kinder to calm, non-target animals (including people's dogs!) than regular snares or power snares. In the wrong hands, they're not likely to be worse.

Second, a look at the regulations in other States. According to a tally kept by Born Free USA (Born Free USA, 2015), regular snares are prohibited in ten States, and restricted in another ten. Minnesota is not listed among the twenty States that have significantly regulated snaring. Minnesota's neighboring State of Wisconsin, however, is. Wisconsin has already made the switch to cable restraints on land (Olson and Tischaefer 2004). In Wisconsin, regular snares are allowed in watersets, but power snares are prohibited (WI DNR, 2014).

And finally, a focus on Minnesota, in which the only significant restrictions on snaring are in the "farmland zone." In this central, southern, and western agricultural zone, snares on land are never allowed on public land, nor on road rights-of-way, nor on fences along road rights-of-way (MN DNR 2014). In the "farmland zone," snares are allowed on private land only from November through March (plus late October in the extreme northwest). 

Throughout Minnesota during the aquatic furbearer trapping seasons, snares of all types are allowed in watersets, because in responsible use, watersets are more selective--no off-season Fisher or Marten, no endangered Lynx, no people's dogs.

Many animal-protection advocates are calling for a ban on snaring and a bill has been introduced to do so  (Wiger and Fischer 2015). That would be a sure way to reduce animal suffering across the board: target or non-target, protected or unprotected, caught by careful or careless trappers. However, in the current political climate, that doesn't seem to be within reach. Perhaps a compromise could be reached:

It's time for Minnesota to make the switch from regular snares and power snares to cable restraints.



WI_DNR_CableRestraintGuide_CoverImage


References

Bertram, Bruce H. 1988. "Power Snare." http://www.google.com/patents/US5675928.

Born Free USA. 2014. “State Prohibitions on Leghold, Kill-Type, and Snare Traps.” Born Free USA. http://www.bornfreeusa.org/b4a4_traps.php.

Knudson, Tom. 2012. “Neck Snare Is a ‘Non-Forgiving and Nonselective’ Killer, Former Trapper Says.” Sacramento Bee, April 30. http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/wildlife-investigation/article2574607.html.

MN DNR. 2014. Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook. http://dnr.state.mn.us/regulations/hunting/index.html.

Olson, John F., and Rick Tischaefer. 2004. “Cable Restraints in Wisconsin: A Guide to Responsible Use.” Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Trappers Association. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/trap/documents/cableguide.pdf.

Wiger, Charles W., and Peter Fischer. 2015. MN 2015 SF 592 / HF 1317: No Public Wolf Trapping, Baiting, Calling; No Snaring. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?f=SF592&b=senate&y=2015&ssn=0.

WI DNR. 2014. Wisconsin Trapping Regulations. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/trap/regulations.html.


Regular snare (with non-relaxing lock)
Figure 1: regular snare (with non-relaxing lock).

RAM power snare
Figure 2: RAM power snare.

The noose end of a cable restraint (with relaxing lock)
Figure 3: cable restraint (with relaxing lock). 
The other required components of a cable-restraint set (stops, breakaways, swivels, anchor) are not shown here.

Why can't traps just be outlawed?

posted Dec 11, 2014, 7:13 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Dec 14, 2014, 11:09 AM ]

Some trapping programs are considered necessary for public safety and wildlife management. Such programs are allowed everywhere in the world, even where recreational trapping is severely regulated. Ideally, they're conducted by professionals who are accountable for the results of their actions. Thus, ideally, they pose minimal risk to people and their companion animals.

Recreational trapping is continued as a sport, tradition, and industry. In some cases, it is also done in ways that aid public safely and wildlife management.

All of these forms of trapping can and should be done selectively, so that only the intended animals are caught, and so that incidental catches of non-target animals (including people's dogs) are minimized. (Of course, this ideal is rarely achieved, but let's remain theoretical for the moment).

Given all of the above, it's not a practical nor politically-viable option to "ban" or "outlaw" standard traps, nor trapping in general.


Pest-control contractor's vehicle.
Pest-control contractor's vehicle.

If I'm trapping legally, how can anyone say I'm doing anything wrong?

posted Dec 11, 2014, 5:37 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Dec 11, 2014, 5:38 PM ]

This question comes up most often in the form of a statement like "He was trapping legally; he didn't do anything wrong." 

This statement is most often made after the trapper has done something terribly wrong to an animal--probably not on purpose, but more likely due to lack of knowledge, lack of skill, haste, or carelessness.

Check out MN Trapping Ethics, think about it, and you'll probably come up with an answer to the question: "If I'm trapping legally, how can anyone say I'm doing anything wrong?"

Screenshot of MN Trappers Association's Trapping Ethics page.

Can I kill a dog for trespassing?

posted Dec 11, 2014, 4:52 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Dec 11, 2014, 5:18 PM ]

No. Here's my layman's understanding of the law (authoritative legal feedback is invited): 
  • Trespassing laws don't apply to animals.
  • Other laws (not trespassing laws) make animal owners liable for damages their animals cause (wherever they might cause them). 
  • Other laws (not trespassing laws) allow people to kill animals that threaten their personal safety or that of their livestock or pets. 
  • Leash laws, where they apply, generally prohibit people from allowing their dogs to be out of their direct control (e.g. not leashed and/or not otherwise under the owner's control, depending on the leash law).
  • Park laws, where they apply, often prohibit people from allowing their dogs onto picnic grounds, swimming areas, environmentally-sensitive areas, etc.
  • None of the above laws allow landowners to harm dogs simply because the dogs are on their land.
  • None of the above laws supersede animal-cruelty laws.
  • None of the above laws supersede trapping regulations.
In other words, anyone who thinks it's OK to kill a dog just because it crosses his property line is thinking outside of the law. Anyone who says that trapping ethics or trapping regulations should not apply to "trespassing dogs" just made that up. 



"No trespassing sign" with caption customized by Scott Slocum.
Sign customized by the blogger at http://www.mysecuritysign.com/

Can a dog's tongue be caught in a dog-proof raccoon trap?

posted Sep 17, 2014, 8:14 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Sep 17, 2014, 8:20 AM ]

It depends on the bait, the trap, and the dog.

It turns out that some of the dog-proof raccoon traps have two-way triggers, which is likely to make them less dog-proof than those with pull-only triggers.

And of course, if the dog-proof raccoon trap is baited with something that the dog wants (e.g. meat, peanut butter, etc.) it's less likely to be dog-proof.

As with all traps, care and discretion are called for to avoid harm to non-target animals.


Corgi licking peanut butter out of a glass jar. Photo credit: http://l0vejamie.tumblr.com/post/32613853816
Corgi licking peanut butter out of a glass jar.
Photo credit: http://l0vejamie.tumblr.com/post/32613853816


Duke brand dog-proof raccoon trap (pull-only trigger).
Duke brand dog-proof raccoon trap (pull-only trigger is relatively safe).

What's "incidental catch"?

posted Jul 17, 2014, 10:15 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Jul 17, 2014, 10:28 AM ]

"Incidental catch" is a term used by trappers to refer to the animals they catch unintentionally (while trying to catch other animals).

Trappers sometimes complain of unwanted animals "clogging up" their traps; that's incidental catch.

Trapping regulations allow for a lot of slop in what happens after a trap is set (and left unattended to catch whatever is attracted to its lure and capable of tripping its mechanical trigger). These allowances for "incidental catch" make the unintended damage legal.

"Incidental catch" includes the careless and unnecessary injury and killing of endangered and threatened species (e.g. Lynx), protected animals out of season (e.g. nursing mothers), unprotected animals anytime in almost any way (e.g. skunks)--and people's dogs.

Look up "incidental" in the dictionary, and you find a word that makes unintended consequences seem unavoidable and acceptable.

Legally, unless clear intent is shown, the killing of our dogs is generally considered to be "incidental" to the activity of trapping. Even if a trapping regulation is violated, the fine is for the violation, not the death of the dog.



Definition of the word "incidental."

Trap Release

posted Feb 9, 2014, 6:02 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Feb 16, 2017, 8:51 PM ]

The trap that killed Phillip.


Take a look at this device (a #160 body-gripping trap laid over its upturned cubby with bait). If you don't know all of its parts, how they operate and tangle with the soft tissues and hard teeth of your dog (fighting against the trap and you for its life), then you're not prepared for a trap release and rescue.

The trap-release instructions below (with acceptable ratings) can help you prepare to release a trap and save a dog, but (as you'll figure out once you start practicing with a reasonably-realistic simulation), the only sure thing is to avoid all areas in which these traps might be set.





Introduction
The goal of this page is to evaluate a few of the many available body-gripping trap-release instructions.

Unfortunately, 1) too many sets of instructions have been published to be evaluated here, so this is not a complete list, and 2) most of the published instructions aren't practical, so this is just a list of their failings.

The instructions that aren't practical tend to be political, and the reason there are so many is that there are so many political organization with statements to make in their own sets of instructions. 

Which of these instructions can dog owners actually learn from? The ones with good grades, or the ones that help us work out the method ourselves, through hands-on practice with various sizes of full-strength body-gripping traps, realistic dog models, and different release methods. 

If dog owners learn how to release these traps, can they count on saving their dogs? No.

The instructions with the better grades are at the top, and the worst (the fake instructions that are actually political platforms) are at the bottom.


Key to the summaries.
  • Grade: A (very good), B (good), C (not bad), D (poor), F (failed).
  • Intent of "political misdirection": in the critic's opinion, the apparent intent of the instructions is 1) to make the trap-release process seem easy, and thus 2) to make trapping regulations seem unnecessary (to protect people's dogs from lethal trapping & snaring in ways and in locations that could kill people's dogs).
  • Shortcomings: one common shortcoming that applies to all of the following instructions is that they don't simulate a live dog struggling for its life or near death in the trap. For the worst instructions, the notation "too many [shortcomings] to list" will have to suffice in the summary (but is more detailed in the critical subtitles).


James Vee
A crew of four men releases a wolf from a foothold trap by immobilizing and isolating the animal under a utility sled.

Critique:
  • Grade: A.
  • Intent: to show what "great guys" some trappers are.
  • Shortcomings: not a body-gripping trap release. No evaluation of possible trap injuries.
  • Strengths: a successful, real-life release.
  • Producer type: trapper.
  • Trap: foothold.
  • Trap set: dirt-hole set, intended to catch a wolf.
  • Object in trap: juvenile wolf (released in order to reset the trap to catch an adult wolf).
  • Release method: immobilization under utility sled.
  • Critic: SS-Slocum.
  • Critique URL: none.
Citation:
  • Title: "Trapper releases a wolf."
  • Publisher: James Vee.
  • Video URL: https://youtu.be/yw8Gi1b2OJA
  • Date: about 10/22/2013.
  • Location: Wisconsin, USA.


Idaho Conservation League.
Idaho Conservation League body-gripping trap-release video.

Critique
  • Grade: A- (very good, but missing some information).
  • Intent: public-service announcement (without getting into politics).
  • Shortcomings: dog's head not covered, leash threaded from clasp end, only one trap--oversized.
  • Strengths: appropriate warning of the danger of these lethal traps and the true difficulty of rescue.
  • Producer type: wildlife-conservation society.
  • Trap: #330 body-gripping trap (oversized).
  • Trap set: none (outdoors on the patio).
  • Object in trap: beagle-sized dog model. Relatively small compared to the oversized trap.
  • Release method: leash
  • Critic: SS-Slocum
  • Critique URL: none.
Citation


Footloose Montana

Footloose Montana body-gripping trap-release video.

Critique
  • Grade: A- (good, but short on the danger of these situations, and long on the prospect of rescue followed by veterinary treatment).
  • Intent: public-service announcement (with a comment on the opposition to the improvement of trapping regulations).
  • Strengths: warning of the danger of the traps and the difficulty of rescuing dogs from them.
  • Shortcomings: false comfort that through rescue and veterinary treatment, you may save your dog's life.
  • Producer type: animal-protection group.
  • Trap: #330 body-gripping trap (oversized, and thus in some ways easier to work with than the smaller traps that are more commonly encountered by dogs).
  • Trap set: none (bare traps only, in a comfortable, indoor setting).
  • Object in trap: Sheltie-sized dog model. Relatively small compared to the oversized trap, providing an unrealistic amount of room for the rescuer to work with. Inanimate model simulates the release of an unconscious dog: easier to release, but probably too late to save. Although the presenter calls for covering the dog's head (and teeth), the actual release is not shown with the head covered the dog restrained, or the trap anchored..
  • Release method: leash
  • Critic: SS-Slocum.
Citation


Wyoming Untrapped

Screenshot from the Wyoming Untrapped brochure "Trap Safety for Pet Owners."

Snapshot from the Wyoming Untrapped trap-release brochure (dog owners: take that warning in the lower-left seriously: "... a pet's survival is unlikely if caught...").

Critique
  • Grade: A- (good, but short on the danger of these situations, and long on the prospect of rescue followed by veterinary treatment).
  • Intent: public-service announcement (including important references to the need for political change).
  • Strengths: realistic warning of the danger of the traps and the difficulty of rescuing dogs from them.
  • Shortcomings: the realistic warnings are unfortunately moderated by comforting indications that rescue and veterinary treatment "may save your dog's life."
  • Producer type: animal-protection group.
  • Trap: #330 body-gripping trap (oversized, and thus in some ways easier to work with than the smaller traps that are more commonly encountered by dogs). Foothold release diagrams show smaller, less-powerful, easier-to-release traps (wolf-sized traps require more strength or body weight).
  • Trap set: none (illustrations only).
  • Object in trap: drawings of a dog the size of a Shiba Inu. Relatively small compared to the oversized trap, providing an unrealistic amount of room for the rescuer to work with. The dog is shown unconscious: easier to release, but probably too late to save. Although the instructions call for covering the dog's head (and biting teeth), the illustrations show a placid dog with her head uncovered and unrestrained.
  • Release method: leash
  • Critic: SS-Slocum
  • Critique URL: none.
Citation


Alaska Department of Fish & Game
Alaska Department of Fish & Game body-gripping trap-release video.

Critique
  • Grade: B (good, but incomplete physically and politically).
  • Intent: trying to help hunters and trappers get along without trapping regulations?
  • Shortcomings: dog's head not covered, leash threaded from clasp end, only one trap--oversized.
  • Strengths: "twice around with horizontal pull" leash method. Accompanying pamphlet.
  • Producer type: trapping lobby and State Fish & Game Department.
  • Trap: #330 body-gripping trap (oversized).
  • Trap set: none (indoors on the floor).
  • Object in trap: beagle-sized wolf model. Unrealistically small in the oversized trap.
  • Release method: leash "twice-around with horizontal pull."
  • Critic: SS-Slocum.
  • Critique URL: http://youtu.be/5z_guEO-1GA
Citation


Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game (IDFG).
Idaho Department of Fish & Game trap-avoidance video.

    Critique
    • Grade: B (presents good information, but with a political subtext: "dogs should always be leashed; trappers are not liable").
    • Intent: to help urban dog owners accommodate to trappers, while freeing trappers from any responsibility for harming or killing people's dogs.
    • Shortcomings: only helps dog owners when they have their dogs on leash.
    • Strengths: helps dog owners avoid traps.
    • Producer type: trapping lobby and State Fish & Game Department.
    • Trap: foothold and body-gripping traps in a variety of sets. One snare is pictured, but snares are not otherwise shown.
    • Trap set: several sets are shown accurately in natural settings.
    • Object in trap: none--this is a trap-avoidance video, not a trap-release video.
    • Release method: none--this is a trap-avoidance video, not a trap-release video..
    • Critic: SS-Slocum.

    Citation
    • Title: Recognizing & Avoiding Wildlife Traps while Walking your Dog.
    • Talent: Jennifer Struthers, Wildlife Biologist and model.
    • Producer: Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game.
    • Video URL: Recognizing & Avoiding Wildlife Traps while Walking your Dog
    • Host: Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game.
    • Host URL: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/
    • Date: about 1/14/2015
    • Location: Idaho, USA.


SS-Slocum
Scott Slocum's body-gripping trap-release video.

Critique
  • Grade: B (good, but focused on complications--of intentionally-limited instructional value).
  • Intent: public-service announcement (including politics).
  • Shortcomings: model's head not covered, no close-ups to show details of the release technique.
  • Strengths: warns of complications that can interfere with or prevent rescue.
  • Producer type: dog owner.
  • Trap: Duke #160 body-gripping trap.
  • Trap set: none (indoors on the floor).
  • Object in trap: small faux rabbit model. Flattens realistically in the trap
  • Release method: leash.
  • Critic: SS-Slocum
  • Critique URL: none.
Citation
  • Title: Dogs & Traps #4 excerpt: release demo.
  • Talent: Scott Slocum.
  • Producer: self.
  • Video URL: http://youtu.be/3YQUyW6TYEo
  • Date: 3/24/2012.
  • Location: Maplewood, MN, USA.



Pioneer Press
Pioneer Press body-gripping trap-release video.

Critique
  • Grade: C (not bad, but incomplete physically and politically).
  • Intent: trying to help hunters and trappers get along without trapping regulations?
  • Shortcomings: dog's head not covered, leash threaded from clasp end, only one trap--oversized.
  • Strengths: rejects "manual" method, endorses "belt" or "leash" method.
  • Producer type: outdoor-sports editor.
  • Trap: #330 body-gripping trap (oversized).
  • Trap set: none (indoors on the floor).
  • Object in trap: bulldog-sized model. Realistic.
  • Release method: belt (variation on the "leash" method, requires a flexible belt).
  • Critic: SS-Slocum.
  • Critique URL: http://youtu.be/gd-dFFgZlng
Citation



Terrier Man
One of Terrier Man's  body-grip trap-release diagrams.
Terrier Man's body-gripping trap-release instructions (print).

Critique
  • Grade: C (not bad, but incomplete physically and politically).
  • Intent: trying to help hunters and trappers get along without trapping regulations?
  • Shortcomings: a shoestring is not as reliable as a leash.
  • Strengths: warns of danger, shows details of trap and how to thread the rope through it.
  • Producer type: sportsman/author.
  • Trap: generic body-gripping trap (no scale).
  • Trap set: none (diagrams only show empty trap).
  • Object in trap: none.
  • Release method: shoestring, leash, rope.
  • Critic: SS-Slocum.
  • Critique URL: none.
Citation
  • Title: Releasing Your Dog From a Trap: Be prepared for the unthinkable -- it could save your dog's life!
  • Talent: "Terrier Man" Patrick Burns.
  • Author: Patrick Burns.
  • Producer: TerrierMan.com
  • Print URL: http://www.terrierman.com/traprelease.htm
  • Date: unknown.
  • Location: Virginia, USA.


Fur-Bearer Defenders
Fur-Bearer Defenders body-gripping trap-release video.

Critique
  • Grade: F (failed).
  • Intent: Fundraising? There's actually a fundraising link on the host page.
  • Shortcomings: see comment below.
  • Strengths: none.
  • Producer type: animal-protection organization (for some reason, off-track with this video).
  • Trap: #330 body-gripping trap.
  • Trap set: none (indoors on floor).
  • Object in trap: none. Totally unrealistic.
  • Release method: leash.
  • Long comment (deleted by the producer from the producer's Facebook announcement of the video):
Why do people (and good organizations like this) keep making "comfort videos" like this?

The video of how to open an empty foothold trap on a carpeted floor can only give people false confidence in how easy they think it will be to encounter a trap in real-life, with a struggling, biting dog in it; a stake holding it down; and possibly a wet and muddy surface on which "just stepping down on the trap springs" will not be an option.

And if it's a lethal trap? Now that they've got all of that false confidence built up, about how easy they think it will be to encounter any trap, they might not think they need any more skills than the ones they imagine they have already. In real life, dogs who encounter lethal traps and snares are generally killed, even when their owners are present.

If you're going to make an honest instructional video, you need to have at least a simulation of a struggling, biting dog; a stake holding it down; and possibly a wet and muddy surface on which "just stepping down on the trap springs" will not be an option. You need to have an average person discovering that he or she doesn't have the strength, leverage, timing, or training enough to release the powerful springs of a body-gripping trap, or the spring of a power snare, or the lock of a non-relaxing snare. You need to have a veterinarian recount cases of damage to dogs' throats or spines that was caused immediately as the lethal traps and snares closed on their vulnerable neck tissues.

If you're going to take down a trivialized and misleading instructional video, please start by taking these two down.

I've "graded" some instructional videos better and worse than this, but unfortunately the poor ones keep showing up as each trapping association and State game & fish agency scrambles to present trapping in a good light, or tries to look like it's being helpful, or tries to help but doesn't try hard enough to do their research, or whatever the problem is. We don't need any more, but it looks like we're still getting them.


Citation

Scott Linden Outdoors
Scott Linden Outdoors body-gripping trap-release video.

Critique
  • Grade: F (failed, fictitious, fake).
  • Intent: political misinformation.
  • Shortcomings: too many to list--see critic's comment on the YouTube video.
  • Strengths: none.
  • Producer type: trapping lobby.
  • Trap: #220 body-gripping trap.
  • Trap set: none (indoors on a table).
  • Object in trap: none. Totally unrealistic.
  • Release method: 1) by hand, 2) rope.
  • Critic: SS-Slocum.
  • Critique URL: none.
Citation



Minnesota Forest Zone Trappers Association
MFZTA body-gripping and foothold trap-release video.

Critique
  • Grade: F (failed, fictitious, fake).
  • Intent: political misdirection.
  • Shortcomings: too many to list--see the critic's video subtitles.
  • Strengths: none.
  • Producer type: trapping lobby.
  • Trap: #220 body-gripping traps (plus coilspring and longspring foothold traps).
  • Trap set: blind trail set, cubby, recessed cubby (foothold sets not shown).
  • Object in trap: cardboard tube. Not a good model.
  • Release method: 1) by hand, 2) setting tool, 3) cable ties (footholds: by hands or feet).
  • Critic: SS-Slocum.
  • Critique URL: http://youtu.be/hjEl8j8Su-o
Citation



Star Tribune
Star Tribune body-gripping trap-release video.

Critique
  • Grade: F (failed, fictitious, fake).
  • Intent: political misinformation.
  • Shortcomings: too many to list--see the critic's video subtitles.
  • Strengths: trail set shown in nature (hidden), "setting tool" and "cable-tie" alternatives introduced.
  • Producer type: trapping lobby.
  • Trap: #220 body-gripping trap.
  • Trap set: none (trap never even triggered).
  • Object in trap: none. Totally unrealistic.
  • Release method: 1) by hand, 2) rope.
  • Critic: SS-Slocum.
  • Critique URL: http://youtu.be/C_RRrBxlLvo
Citation


TrapFree Oregon

TrapFree Oregon: "The Rope Trick."

TrapFree Oregon trap-release instructions

Critique
  • Grade: F++ (Nearly as bad as the Wisconsin Trappers Association (WTA) trap-release instructions, below).
  • The two "plus" signs are added to the still-failing grade because the TrapFree Oregon web page and brochure add photos to supplement and correct the poor-quality WTA diagrams of "the rope trick!"
  • Producer type: animal-protection organization (for some reason, off-track with these instructions).
Citation



Wisconsin Trappers Association

Wisconsin Trappers Association "Rope Trick!"
Wisconsin Trappers Association (WTA) trap-release instructions.

Critique
  • Grade: F+ (Nearly as bad as the Minnesota Trappers Association trap-release instructions, below).
  • The "plus" is added to the still-failing grade because the WTA diagrams are slightly better than the MTA diagrams (perhaps they're the originals from which the MTA diagrams were poorly copied.)
  • Producer type: trapping lobby.
Citation



Minnesota Trappers Association

 
MTA body-gripping trap-release instructions from the 2013 MN Hunting & Trapping Regulations Handbook.
 
2014 MTA trap-release instructions in the 2014 MN Hunting & Trapping Regulations Manual
 2013 (negligent and misleading)
 2014 (prettier)

Minnesota Trappers Association (MTA) trap-release instructions (in print only).

Critique
Citation
  • Title: How to release a domestic animal from a body gripping (raccoon) trap.
  • Talent: Minnesota Trappers Association.
  • Producer: Minnesota Trappers Association.
  • Host: MN Hunting & Trapping Regulations Handbook. Paid advertisement.
  • Host URL: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/regulations/hunting/index.html
  • Handbook URL: (indexed at the host URL).
  • Date: since at least 2007.
  • Location: Minnesota, USA.

Why are there fake trap-release instructions in the MN Hunting & Trapping Handbook?

posted Jan 25, 2014, 9:15 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Feb 11, 2016, 10:27 AM ]

See also this blog's partial listing and rating of (mostly fake) trap-release instructions from other sources.

Why does the Minnesota Trappers Association place a paid advertisement of fake trap-release instructions in the Minnesota Hunting & Trapping Regulations Handbook every year?

  • Supposedly to "to educate the outdoor enthusiast in the proper method of releasing an accidentally-caught animal."
  • Actually, because although the trapping lobby likes to say that dogs are rarely caught in these traps, in fact they are, far too often. Why else would the trapping lobby make up and place this paid advertisement?

Below are the MTA instructions side-by-side with a critique by SS-Slocum.info to expose how awfully inaccurate and misleading these fake instructions really are. On another page: my experience with the MTA / MN-DNR trap-release instructions.

How to release a domestic animal from a body-gripping (raccoon) trap.

Warning: don't expect these instructions to help.

A paid advertisement of the Minnesota Trappers Association, www.mntrappers.org

The following diagrams and instructions are from page 38 of the 2013 MN Hunting & Trapping Regulations Handbook. The instructions were made "prettier" in the 2014 Handbook, and the "rope method alternative" was replaced by a new, even less reliable "zip tie method," and those instructions are displayed along with the 2013 instructions at the bottom of this page.

The "critique" column includes a critical analysis by Scott Slocum of these very poor instructions.

Text that appears in square brackets [like this] has been added by Scott Slocum to clarify the original instructions (because those instructions really do need some help, even to understand what they mean and what's wrong with them).

Manual-Release Method (hint: don't expect it to help)

 ---- Section -------------- Instructions-------------- -------------------- Critique ---------------------------------
 Title
How to release a domestic animal from a body-gripping (raccoon) trap
The term "domestic animal," in this case, means "larger dog."

These manual-release instructions (the first set of instructions, before the "rope method alternative") call for a 90-degree twist of a partially-released body-gripping trap to shift the force of the trap from the tender throat and spinal areas to the neck muscles of a larger-sized dog. This twist would not work on a smaller-sized dog (or other "domestic animal") with smaller neck muscles.

At least one eyewitness has said that he was unable to release the trap enough to attempt this twist; his small dog's neck had been crushed to fit between the jaws of the trap, less than an inch from jaw to jaw. and six inches wide. Although he was able to partially compress the trap springs, he was not able to rotate the trap; the dog's neck was still practically flat between the trap jaws, not a solid cylinder like a bottle of wine, but more like a soft bag of fluid like a wineskin.

 Introduction
Although an uncommon occurrence, domestic animals have at times been accidentally caught in body-gripping traps set for raccoons and other similar-sized fur animals. Sadly in most cases, the reason that animals were ultimately lost was due primarily to a lack of familiarity with these devices by the person attempting to free the animal. This handout is an attempt to educate the outdoor enthusiast in the proper method of releasing an accidentally-caught animal.
There are no good statistics to support this statement that incidental catches of domestic animals in body-gripping traps are "uncommon." The MN DNR did not count incidental catches until the 2012-2013 trapping season, and at that, their records were incomplete. More incidents were reported to Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN than to the MN DNR, and the number of unreported incidents is, of course, not known to either organization.

Body-gripping traps are not specialized for raccoons, nor for "similar-sized fur animals." They kill a wide range of animals--many more than they're set for. Raccoon trapping can be done more selectively using dog-proof raccoon traps, elevated traps, and traps baited with sweets.

The reason that animals are "ultimately lost" (killed by body-gripping traps) is that they're set without precautions in places where they're likely to kill dogs.

These instructions do not constitute a "proper method" of releasing a live animal from a body-gripping trap. Even a proper method would not be effective in the case of a "clean kill," a mortal blow, or a non-immediate release.

 Springs vs. Jaws
Do not attempt to pry the jaws apart, as the springs will prevent the trap from being forcefully opened in this manner in most cases.
The phrase "in most cases" means that if a body-gripping trap strikes the neck of a relatively small dog, it can close all the way--in which case it's harder to open. If the dog is larger dog, the trap doesn't close as far and it's easier to open--but still not by prying the jaws apart.

 Calm
If a domestic animal is accidentally captured in a body-gripping trap, don't panic. The animal can be simply and safely released in a very short period of time if you follow these simple steps and make a mental commitment to think and act rationally.
Situations like this are rarely "simple" or "safe." These instructions just try to make them seem that way. They score a political point at the expense of a rescuer's chance of success. They leave out critical information that would reveal that these situations are actually complex, error-prone, and dangerous.

Even if these instructions were complete, reading and remembering them would not be enough--practice would still be necessary.

What's the political point? To portray trapping as a "safe" activity that doesn't threaten hunting or hiking dogs in multi-use areas. But is that true? No.
 Method #1
 Manual Method.
The original instructions don't identify this method. The implication is that "this is the only method you're going to need," and that the alternative method will only be needed by people who "cannot squeeze the springs of the trap by hand."

The fact is that most people in most situations cannot compress both springs of the trap, one hand on each spring, enough to even attempt the 90-degree twist that's required by this method.

Most people need the "rope-method alternative" at the bottom of the page--and for that method, too, practice is necessary.
 Step 1.1
Remain calm and speak soothingly to the animal. This will help reassure the animal and make your job easier.
The animal is frantic, in extreme pain, fighting to escape the trap, and biting his rescuer. Speaking soothingly is not going to change that.

In a real-life situation, a jacket may be put over the dog's head to immobilize the dog during the rescue. Normally, this is a two-person process.

 Step 1.2
Taking a spring in each hand, squeeze the springs and twist the trap so the trap jaws are not placing pressure on the animal's windpipe. This virtually eliminates the chances of the animal being lost, and allows a considerable amount of time to completely release the animal. The animal can now breath freely, which helps to calm both the animal and the aide.

If you're strong enough to do this in your particular situation, then great. Otherwise, don't count on it; it's harder than these instructions indicate. Practice, and if you're not sure, then go to the "rope method alternative" below.
 Figure 1.2.1
 
Figure 1: "Squeeze springs."
Description:
"Squeeze Springs." The trap in this diagram is "suitcasing" the dog's snout and neck horizontally; that is, one set of jaws is pressing on the top and bottom of his snout, and the other set of jaws is pressing on the top and bottom of his neck. The rescuer has grasped and squeezed one spring in each hand, enough to partially compress the springs and partially release the trap.

Critique:
Same notes on strength and practice as step 1.2.

In this case, the trap has struck both the dog's snout and neck. Still lethal, but easier because some of the trap's force is taken by the dog's snout (rather than completely on the dog's throat and spine).

In other cases, the trap can strike full-force on the dog's throat and spine. More lethal, and more difficult to release.

This case makes the rescue look "simple" and "safe" (see the "political point" above).

 Figure 1.2.2
 
Figure 2: "90-degree twist."
Description: 
"90-degree twist." The rescuer has maintained his grasp on the two springs and is rotating the trap ninety degrees so that the jaws will now "suitcase" the dog's snout and neck vertically (i.e. one set of jaws pressing on the two sides of the snout, and the other pressing on the two sides of the neck). Once the twist is completed, the trap will be pressing on the dog's strong neck muscles rather than on his tender throat and spine.

Critique:
Same notes on strength and practice as step 1.2.
Same notes on trap orientation as figure 1.2.1.

 Figure 1.2.3
 
 Figure 2b: "90-degree twist with measurements."
Description:
Same as figure 1.2.2, with a comparison of trap width vs. neck width.

Critique:
Take a look at this diagram and see a major weakness in this method: the rescuer hasn't opened up the trap enough to rotate it; so he's using the dog's neck as a fulcrum to open the trap. If that seems improbable to you, you're right.
 Step 1.3
Squeeze together one of the springs using both hands if necessary until you're able to fasten the safety lock over the arms of the spring.
If both hands weren't "necessary," you would have been done by now.

You need one of your hands free to "fasten the safety lock." That leaves only one hand to keep the spring compressed. If you could do that, you would have been done by now.

Practice, and if you're not sure, then go to the "rope method alternative" below.

 Figure 1.3
 
Figure 3: "Lock springs by hand."
Description:
"Lock springs by hand." The trap is now positioned vertically, with one spring above and the other below the dog's head. The bottom spring has already been compressed and locked. The rescuer will use both hands to compress the spring, then free one hand to swing the lock into position and complete the release.

Critique:
Same notes on strength and practice as step 1.3.
 Step 1.4
Repeat the same process for the other spring. Slide the animal's head out of the trap.
Same as step 1.3.


Rope Method Alternative

Warning: don't expect these instructions to help.

  ---- Section ---- ---------- Instructions--------------  -------------------- Critique ---------------------------------
 Method #2
"Rope Method Alternative." If you cannot squeeze the springs of the trap by hand, a piece of rope, your belt, or a dog leash can help gain the necessary leverage.
Not usually an "alternative." Usually your best bet. Are you a betting person?

See the notes on strength and practice, above. Not as much strength needed here, but more practice--and of course, no guarantees.

 Step 2.1Thread the rope through [both of] the large rings of one spring where [those rings of] the spring meets the rotating jaws of the trap.

Practice is required.

In other words, no way are you going to understand the trap-release procedure from reading these instructions; and no way are you going to be able to complete it without hands-on practice. And even then--once you've come to understand it, and once you've practiced it--it's not likely to help you in a real-life situation.

Still it's good to learn everything you can, because in some cases 1) the trap does not strike an immediate, mortal blow; and 2) you're present when the trap strikes; and 3) you're able to keep your head, immobilize your dog, and complete the procedure in a timely fashion; and 4) you're fortunate in every other possible way. And in those cases, people are able to rescue their dogs.

 Step 2.2
Bring the rope around and thread it back through the initial ring far enough to provide a "handle" to grip.

The "handle" is just the end of the rope or leash.

An improved method is to repeat step 2.1, so that the rope is brought around and threaded all the way through again (which was perhaps the intention of figure 2.4, below).

In other words, this step is incomplete, the diagram that is intended to illustrate it does not seem to illustrate it, and the diagram is of such poor quality that it's hard to tell what it's intended to illustrate.

Practice is required.

 Step 2.3
Put your foot on one end [of the rope], and pull on the free end [the "handle"] with steady pressure. This will compress the spring enough to attach the safety [lock] to the spring, thus relieving considerable pressure.

Ideally, there's a loop at each end of the rope or leash: one around a foot and the other around a hand. A rope or leash can easily slip out from under a foot on snow, ice, or in mud.

Practice is required.

 Step 2.4
Repeat on the remaining spring, and release the animal.

Ideally, the rescuer will pull horizontally like a rescuer, rather than vertically like a hangman.

Practice is required.

 Figure 2.4
 
Figure 4: "rope method alternative."
An empty trap is lying on the ground. It's hard to tell from the poor-quality reproduction of this diagram (perhaps copied from the Wisconsin trap-release manual), but it might be intended to show that the rescuer has threaded a piece of rope through both rings of one spring (step 2.1), and then brought it around and threaded it through in the same way again (a more thorough method than the method described in step 2.2).

The rescuer seems to be pulling vertically upward, which would in reality apply a twisting force that would bring the trap into a vertical position (and, if this diagram included a dog's head and neck, a twisting force that would cause further injury to the soft tissues of the dog where they were clamped in the jaws of the trap).

In other words, the rescuer is pulling vertically like a hangman (see the critique of step 2.4).

This diagram--and even what we may suppose is the original from the Wisconsin trap-release manual--does not depict reality: 1) there is no dog in the trap, 2) there is no twisting motion to compound the dog's injuries, and 3) there is no good anchor for the rope under the rescuer's foot, on the snow and ice, or on the soft earth.

Practice is required.

 CreditsMinnesota Trappers Association.
www.mntrappers.org
Paid advertisement.

This disqualification says a lot: "Paid advertisement."

These instructions are political, not practical.

Advice: examine, adapt, practice, and avoid areas where lethal traps might be set.



Full-page advertisement in the MN Hunting & Trapping Regulations Handbook.

Warning: don't expect these instructions to help.

  2013 (negligent and politically misleading).  2014 (prettier)
 
MTA trap-release instructions: paid advertisement in the 2013 MN Hunting & Trapping Regulations Handbook.
 
2014 MTA trap-release instructions, from the 2014 MN Hunting & Trapping Regulations Handbook.
 2013 (negligent and politically misleading).
 2014 (prettier).

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