Category Archives: trapping

Trapping setbacks snap back into focus — Bill would set 200-ft distance from rec areas

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

If a new bill submitted by Anchorage Rep. Andy Josephson is passed, trapping will be banned within 200 feet of public trails and facilities on state-managed lands in Alaska.

This could have a big impact in Cooper Landing, where conflicts between dog owners and trappers have roiled for years, with dogs getting caught in traps set near popular hiking trails, campsites and along recreation spots on Kenai Lake.

“I hope this bill passes. I think it’s pretty reasonable,” said Ken Green, of the Committee for Safe Public Trails and Lands in Cooper Landing. “And I think it’s about time the Legislature got involved with it because private citizens have been trying for years and been unable to break through this barrier where, for some reason, the Board of Game is able to just say ‘No’ and turn their backs on this.”

Green submitted proposals to the Alaska Board of Game seeking to ban trapping within 250 feet of private land, recreation sites along Kenai Lake, and public trails, roads and campgrounds in Cooper Landing and Moose Pass. The measures did not pass.

On the federally managed Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, trapping is prohibited within a mile of public roads, campgrounds, road-accessible trailheads and within the entirety of the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area to the west of Cooper Landing, and refuge headquarters in Soldotna.

But there are no setback requirements for traps on state lands. State trapping regulations advise trappers to check their sets “regularly” and to “avoid situations where you might catch a domestic animal.”

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Caught in limbo — Dog owners regrouping after Board of Game turns down trapping restriction

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

After the Alaska Board of Game last month rejected proposals to limit trapping in recreational areas from Cooper Landing to Seward, Ken Green, of Cooper Landing, is feeling caught in a bit of a Catch 22 in his efforts to prevent dogs from being caught in game traps.

“The thing is we’re just going to have to live with it. That’s all there is. You have to live with what the Board of Game decrees, basically,” Green said.

Green, of the Committee for Safe Public Lands and Trails, submitted a proposal that would prohibit trapping within 250 feet of private land, public trails, trail heads, associated parking lots, roads and campgrounds, and in certain special areas, including frequently used beaches along Kenai Lake. A similar proposal was submitted for the Seward to Moose Pass area.

In doing so, Green thought he was following the appropriate procedure when one would like to see a regulatory change regarding hunting or trapping — take it to the authority on those regulations. Board members, however, in their March 18 unanimous denial of the trapping ban proposals, stated that the matter should have been resolved at the local level.

“The enforceability of this would be extremely difficult. It would be a full-time job, we’d need a Cooper Landing trooper just to check these places for trap lines because there’s a lot of tails down there, and this would encompass an awful lot of area,” said Board of Game Member Bob Mumford, of Anchorage.

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Trapped in conflict — Dog owners seek trapping restrictions from Board of Game

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Trappers, plus dog owners, plus trails and other public-use recreation areas from Cooper Landing to Seward, equal a contentious situation. One which the Alaska Board of Game will try to solve in its meeting in Anchorage this week.

Public testimony was taken over the weekend regarding two proposals to ban trapping from Cooper Landing to Seward on or within 250 feet of private land, within 250 feet of public trails, trail heads, associated parking lots, roads and campgrounds, and in certain special areas, including beaches along Kenai Lake and the Cooper Landing “organic dump.”

The board started deliberations Sunday afternoon after public testimony wrapped up. It was scheduled to address the trapping ban, as wells as a slate of other Kenai Peninsula proposals and the rest of its business pertaining to the Southcentral Region, sometime before its scheduled adjournment Tuesday. But as of Tuesday afternoon, it looked as though deliberations would stretch into Wednesday.

Testimony came both for and against the proposals. Those opposed spoke of wanting to find a solution among the interested parties, without regulations needing to be involved. Randy Zarnke, president of the Alaska Trappers Association, advocates a mutual voluntary approach the group has used in Fairbanks, where the ATA and dog owners identified two popular recreational areas and hung signs advising trappers not to set traps or snares in the area, and advising dog owners of the importance of keeping their pets on leash.

“It relies on efforts from both sides of the issue, the trappers, and the one group that seems to have the biggest conflict is dog owners. And we offered the mutual voluntary approach to the person who submitted (the Cooper Landing proposal). And it was rejected.” Zarnke said.

Tom Lassard, who has trapped in Cooper Landing since 1987, decided to post similar signs in Cooper Landing this winter, and had trappers in the Seward area do the same, despite communications breaking down between he and Ken Green, the author of the Cooper Landing proposal.

Lassard then requested that Green withdraw his proposal, to no avail. Zarnke told the board that he had hoped the trappers association and Green’s Committee for Safe Public Lands and Trails could continue talking about a mutual voluntary approach.

“We feel like we’ve taken what actions we can to ameliorate, reduce, eliminate problems and conflicts, and we’ve seen no response from the other side,” Zarnke said.

Green said he welcomes continued dialogue, but that Lassard ceased talks when he wouldn’t withdraw his proposal.

“Their idea of working together is a bit different than what ours is,” Green said. “There are two different viewpoints — enforceable regulations or informal or verbal agreements. The ATA supports informal agreements and only informal agreements.”

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Cooper Landing trap flap — Dogs feeling snap of trapping, recreation overlap

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A hiker and dogs enjoy a clear day in the Cooper Landing area last winter. From November through March, hikers, skiers and others recreating with their pets should be aware of trapping season.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A hiker and dogs enjoy a clear day in the Cooper Landing area last winter. From November through March, hikers, skiers and others recreating with their pets should be aware of trapping season.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Having your dog caught in a hunting snare or trap just once is a traumatically memorable experience. Ken Green, of Cooper Landing, has had it happen multiple times, and always in popular recreation areas, not far from a road or trail. On one occasion it was in a conibear — a powerful, snap-type trap, rather than a less-destructive snare — that had long been abandoned.

He is not alone, particularly in an area like Cooper Landing, where tracts of the Chugach National Forest are open to trapping as well as dog-friendly recreational pursuits, like hiking, biking and skijoring.

Last spring he started an online petition through MoveOn.org to, “Demand Alaska legislative attention to the growing safety concerns of unregulated trapping and bear-baiting in residential areas and on multiple-use public lands.” The petition is to be delivered to the state Legislature and Gov. Sean Parnell, and has been signed by people across the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, the Lower 48 and farther abroad. The forum allows signers to post a comment. Some, like Natalia Aulenbacher, of Kenai, propose a specific regulatory change — such as outlawing traps within a quarter mile of a trail and requiring the traps’ owners to post their name and contact information on the trap. Others, like Renee Vincent, of Sequim, Wash., rail against trappers in general:

“This is pathetic! I am so sickened by this neanderthal (sic) thinking and actions that I am EMBARRASSED to be of the same species with these thugs! Evolution train pass them by? APPARENTLY SO! We Demand Alaska legislative attention to the growing safety concerns of unregulated trapping and bear-baiting in residential areas and on multiple use public lands.”

There’s even a voice of dissension, like Ben Sweeney, of Sterling, who states he “signed” the petition only to be able to comment, asking that not all law-abiding trappers who do try to minimize the possibility of catching an unintended species be lumped in with the few bad apples trapping close to homes, roads or trails. While it is “obviously unfortunate and sad when a pet does in fact get caught in a trap and is injured or killed because of it,” and his “heart has gone out to the owners,” he argues that pet owners should safeguard their pets’ safety:

“Take responsibility for your pets and have some sort of control over them. And know that this is public land we are speaking of here and it should be open to us all and free to use how we wish within the limits of the law.”

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Dog owners snap over traps — Conflict brews in recreation areas of Cooper Landing

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

As Cooper Landing musher Robert Bear headed up to a major mid-distance sled dog race in the Interior last weekend, he did so without two of his best dogs. Back at home were his two leads, sitting out this race, and others to come, due to injuries sustained after being caught in the bone-crushing clamp of a leg-hold trap early last month.

“One of the dogs lost its front right leg and the other part of its front paw,” Bear said.

This is the second time in two years he’s had a dog caught in a trap, although he was able to quickly release the dog the last time, he said. This time, however, was not so fortunate.

He was hooking up for a training run off of Snug Harbor Road. The dogs were amped to go, Bear explained, and as he was attaching dogs to the lines as quickly as he could, it wasn’t quick enough for one of the dogs just behind the leaders. It chewed through the mainline and set the two leaders free.

“They took off sprinting,” he said. “I immediately went out looking for them, and nothing. I continued looking for them for 48 hours before I finally heard one of them howl as I was going by.”

Bear followed the sound a short distance through the forest and found the two dogs, cold, dehydrated and hungry, but alive. They were clamped in side-by-side traps.

“This was less than 50 feet from the road and between the senior center and the Girl Scout camp. Baited with meat and feathers, so I think any loose dog could have been caught in them,” he said.

Equally concerning to Bear is that, while trapping season for many species opened Nov. 10, lynx season wasn’t set to begin until Jan. 1. Bear’s dogs were caught Dec 13. From the trappers he’s described the setup to, it seemed the traps was either legally targeting coyote or illegally targeting lynx.

Despite the accident, Bear said that he’s not against trappers or responsible trapping.

“I use ruffs and other fur for mushing, so I’m not anti-trapping,” he said, “but I do want to create an awareness of the dangers within our community. It’s not safe right now. We can’t hardly recreate on trails they call multiuse, because once those traps are set, they kind of become single-use in the mind of most dog owners.”

Ken and Kate Green, of Cooper Landing, have had their Labradors caught on multiple occasions, as well.

“Since trapping in this area is a significant problem for hikers, skiers and dog walkers, it would be very nice to get the word out. We have had our dogs caught in foothold traps and snares over the past three years. All traps were within 25 to 50 feet of the lake or roads and, to the best of our knowledge, unmarked,” Kate said.

Her husband, Ken, remembers each of the events clearly, since he was with their dogs. The first time was while recreating with his three Labradors — two of the younger ones off-leash — at a popular picnic site referred to by the locals as Five-Mile Beach or Waikiki.

“About 20 feet from Snug Harbor Road — up the embankment, on the beach just at tree line — the loose puppy got caught in a snap trap — jaws, but without teeth. Other than the howling and whining, she was unhurt. I released her easily enough. The trap was rusted, the bait seemed to have long deteriorated, and the only marking was a small piece of surveyor’s tape, which was faded. The trap appeared to have been there for some time,” he said.

Green wasn’t sure if the trap was deliberately deserted or just forgotten about by whoever set it, but either way he said it shouldn’t have been left behind since it could only have made the intended species unduly suffer since no one ever came to check it, but also because it could have caught a nontarget animal or even a small child recreating in the area.

The second time one of Green’s dogs was caught, he said it was again at a common recreation site for Copper Landing residents. This time it was along the shore of Kenai Lake.

“I was walking the same three dogs the next early spring, this time along the Quartz Creek side. The road ends at a small turnaround and a path leads to the beach which is wide and walkable at that time of year,” he said. “I noticed a DVD disc hanging on a branch just off the beach, and figured that some kids were playing around. When I came across another in another tree, I realized what they were.”

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Old Duck Hunter: Beware the trap of inattention

By Steve Meyer, for the Redoubt Reporter

If you hunt upland birds with dogs, take dogs with you on outdoor adventures or have a family dog that runs the neighborhood, then Nov. 10 is a date you want to remember. This marks the opening of trapping season for most furbearers on the Kenai Peninsula. Thus, the presence of snares, foothold and conibear traps in the field.

Dogs, being what they are, will find trap sets quicker than their wild canine counterparts, since pet dogs are not nearly as survival oriented.

Being a trapper, a hunter who hunts with dogs, and a dog lover, this subject is fairly dear to me. I have friends who have lost dogs in snares near their homes and others who have lost dogs in the wilderness. Most of the losses can be avoided with a little forethought and care to beloved canine pets.

I don’t know any trappers who want anything to do with catching someone’s dog. Most trappers are responsible and don’t set snares or kill-type traps near areas of human habitation. But as in practically any activity nowadays, there are some exceptions.

This isn’t in any way intended to tell pet owners how to deal with their pets, only a fair notice in case someone isn’t aware of the dangers inherent with a dog running loose without supervision this time of year.

If there are snares or traps in the area, there is a good chance your dog will find them and possibly get caught in them. Most trappers use some sort of bait or attractant for coyotes, wolves, wolverines or lynx. The attractant that draws these animals also will draw your canine companion.

Outdoor treks this time of year can also land you in areas where trappers are plying their trade. On the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge there are regulations that prohibit trappers from using traps larger than No. 1, which is a fairly small trap, within a mile of a road or a trailhead.

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Snared in trapping debate — Chugach National Forest sees overlap of trapping, dog owner recreation

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Skiers pass on a busy day at the Russian River Campground groomed ski trails in Cooper Landing earlier this month. The trails are open for people to bring along their dogs, but groomers worry about the potential for problems with trapping also allowed in the area.

Redoubt Reporter

Sitting inside, chatting on the phone or sipping coffee while having a conversation about the conflicts between trappers and dog owners, cool heads can concede that a middle ground exists with reasonable precautions and common sense applied on both sides.

But opinions and tempers can tighten and snap as quick as the mechanism of a trap when the topic is sprung in the field, by a four-legged friend yelping in fear and pain at being snared, or by trappers’ realizations that the time, effort and expense they’ve invested in establishing their trapline have been wasted by someone stealing or tampering with their equipment.

Those situations can start heads scratching over a more official approach — specifically, whether or not to institute regulations and, if so, what, when, where and how.

On the Kenai Peninsula, Cooper Landing has had an up-close experience in that debate. Though the community is home to less than 300 year-round residents, those residents and growing numbers of visitors have become increasingly active in wintertime outdoor recreational pursuits, such as skiing and snowshoeing, oftentimes bringing along their dogs. At the same time, the area also is traditionally popular among trappers, both from the area and beyond.

“The trapping around the Cooper Landing area is not exclusively done by Cooper Landing residents, but also people from Seward come in, Moose Pass, people from Anchorage and Girdwood also come down. They come from far away. I had people all the way from Fairbanks come down and set traps here,” said Robert Gibson, owner of Kenai Lake Lodge in Cooper Landing, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Trappers Association and a member of the Cooper Landing Fish and Game Advisory Committee. “It’s a rural activity for the residents that live there (in more urban areas). Where there’s lots of people, I couldn’t imagine somebody setting traps there. Here, there’s not so many people.”

Not so many people in residence, certainly, but, especially with the advent of groomed ski trails in Cooper Landing and also in Moose Pass in recent years, there are more people out and about in the backcountry than there used to be. The trails are open for skiers and snowshoers to bring their dogs, as well.

“There have been a number of dogs that have, in the last couple of years, either been killed or been snared and/or injured by trapping. There was a dog this year right off our ski trails at Russian River caught in a snare,” said Ed Holsten, part of the volunteer crew of ski trail groomers in Cooper Landing. “There are some people who are adamantly against trapping and other people, like me, I’m kind of 50-50 on it. I’m not against it but I think, especially in Cooper Landing and also Moose Pass, where the last few years we put in a lot of time and effort into increased winter recreation use by grooming ski trails at Trail River Campground, the Old Sterling Highway, Russian River Campground and Resurrection Creek Trail, we’ve seen more of an increase in recreation use in the wintertime because of these groomed trails. We open the trails up to skiers, skijorers, snowshoers, people skiing with dogs or without dogs. This issue needs to be explored.”

Proposals for increased trapping regulations, such as requiring that traps and snares be set back a certain distance from recreational trails and around homes, have been proposed to the Cooper Landing Fish and Game Advisory Committee, which has supported them to the Board of Game, to no avail. So, the debate continues over whether an elixir of awareness, common sense and good behavior can soothe this issue, or whether a dose of regulatory action is needed.

“The local Fish and Game Advisory Committee is wrestling with this, the balance between what’s legal and what should be ethical. I think as Alaska grows up, there’s often this conflict between the way it’s always been and the way it’s going to have to be,” said Chris Degernes, who lives with her husband, Bill, in Cooper Landing.

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