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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.



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.