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What can we learn from the MN DNR Trap-Incident Reports?

posted Feb 27, 2019, 7:54 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Feb 27, 2019, 8:23 PM ]

And what else should pet owners know about trapping?

One aspect of trapping is that it can be a satisfying pastime, and a source of income.

When a trapper wants to catch an animal of a given species and maturity (e.g. a mature raccoon, bobcat, fisher, coyote, or other wild animal), he makes a "set" for the trap that he thinks will be attractive to the animal. For some types of animal, he'll put the trap in a box or "cubby," or another structure that looks like the nest of a prey animal. For others, the trap will be set just off of a trail. Some animals will be attracted by the sight of what looks like prey activity, or even human activity that they've learned to associate with food. Some will respond from a distance to particular scents--many to the smell of rotting meat. Some will climb to follow the scent, others will swim, and yet others will dig. When the trapper makes the set skillfully, and specifically for the animal he wants to catch, his chances of catching that animal increase.

Trappers know a lot, and they like to use that knowledge, keep their hands and minds busy, and spend as much time as possible outdoors. They like the look of fur--on the animal, or on a well-made winter coat. Just like their fathers, and their fathers' fathers, they think of trapping as a long and honorable tradition.

Another aspect of trapping is that it can do a lot of harm.

Even when a trapper makes a good set, though, there's a chance he'll catch and injure or kill a "non-target" animal--in other words, the wrong animal. Depending on the geographical area, the season, the weather, and the events of the day, the probability of a "non-target catch" can be dangerously high.

Every dog lover has known a dog that's attracted to wild sights and scents; inclined to run, climb, swim, and dig; impatient to get in close for a good sniff; and happiest outdoors, on the trail etc. with his or her family. A dog like that can be attracted to almost any trap, and if the trap isn't dog-proof, the dog is likely to be injured or killed.

If a trap is meant for catch and release (e.g. of the type used by trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs), the worst consequences for the captured animal can include hypothermia, tooth and gum damage, stress, and/or shock (these can be life-threatening). If it's a restraining trap or snare (e.g. a foothold trap, cable restraint, or in some cases an unpowered, locking neck snare), additional worst consequences can include depredation and/or the crushing, cutting, and/or tearing of tissues in the restrained limb--with potential damage to the skin, bone, tendons, circulatory system, immune system, and nervous system. If it's a lethal trap or snare (e.g. a body-gripping trap, spring-powered neck snare, or in some cases an unpowered, locking neck snare), the expected consequence is a relatively quick, but violent death.

Traps are killing people's dogs!

When the issue of dog injuries and deaths in traps was raised by groups including DogLovers 4 Safe Trapping MN, Sportsmen Take Action, and others in the year 2012, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) began to record "Trap Incident Reports." Although these reports are limited to incidents that are known to pet owners and are reported to the MN DNR, they're an important source of public information. Since then, from 2012 to 2018, the MN DNR has documented 31 Minnesota pets killed and 145 injured by traps (Table 1). Of course, these numbers are only the "tip of the iceberg," and each one is multiplied by the heartache of a family who, in too many cases, has lost their beloved pet. Each year the numbers accumulate, and each year the Minnesota Legislature is presented with a bill that would help to solve the problem. The bill would require all trappers to use lethal traps and snares in ways that responsible trappers do, already. It's time to pass that bill now!


Trap Incidents / Year

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Total

Injuries

10

6

33

40

18

12

26

145

Deaths

9

2

5

7

1

3

4

31

Table 1: A portion of the MN DNR Trap-Incident Report Summary, 2/26/2019. Injuries and deaths of MN pets in traps by year.

Snapshot of a portion of a MN DNR Trap-Incident Report.

Figure 1: A snapshot of the "injury or death" section of a MN DNR Trap-Incident Report.