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

Post date: Oct 11, 2014 5:36:23 AM

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.

Olson, John. 2014. “October Signals the Opening of Many Furbearer Hunting and Trapping Seasons.” Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. October 7.

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

Spreck, Tim. 2014. “Trapping Walk-In Access Areas: Incorrect Assumptions and Points to Ponder.” Outdoor News MN, September 12.

Strohecker, Todd. 2014. “Releasing a Dog from a Foot-Hold Trap.” Outdoor News MN, October 3.

Wilm, Dan. 2014. “Report Trapped Dogs.” Outdoor News MN, October 3.

WI DNR logo and outdoor-recreation images

Wisconsin trapping regulations: a good model for Minnesota to learn from--and improve upon!