In late November, Calmar, Iowa resident Candi Nelson experienced a tragedy no dog owner should ever have to go through — and that every dog owner needs to hear.
Terrified, Nelson worked at freeing her dog from the noose-like snare, which she said pulled so tightly around Skylar’s neck that it nearly embedded itself in his skin. She dug her fingers under the line, pulling and prying, frantically searching for a way to free her best friend.
But it was already too late.
“He suffocated in my arms when I was unable to loosen the trap,” a heartbroken Nelson told The Decorah Newspaper.
Nelson hopes that by telling the public how her dog lost his life, other dog owners will educate themselves about the dangers of hunting traps and take the proper precautions before walking or hiking with their canine companions.
“I want to implore all dog owners who walk or run their dogs off-leash on public hunting ground, or out in the country, to carry a side cutter with them — a new one that is capable of cutting through high-tension cable,” Nelson urges. She says the tool could be the difference between life or death for any dog who unknowingly walks into a snare trap.
Hunting dog owner Brett Harberts told CBS Minnesota that all dog owners — not just those with hunting dogs—should be prepared for the worst.
“If there is public land and there [are] trails, do not assume there is a trap, expect there is a trap,” Harberts warns.
Idaho veterinarian Dr. Darrin Everett of Broadway Veterinary Hospital in Boise is very familiar with the kind of serious injuries caused by hunting traps. He recently treated a dog who was rescued from the side of the road near Boise.
“Just by looking at it when he walked in the door, it’s a significant crushing injury just below the wrist, which really fits with a trap,” Dr. Everett told KTVB.com. Though the veterinary team had to remove the dog’s front leg due to the extent of damage caused by the trap, Everett expects that the mixed breed dog will make a full recovery.
Everett says that often, trapped dogs caught in conibear or foothold traps will take drastic measures to free themselves, despite the pain. “Typically, when they get their foot caught, they will chew it off,” he explains.
Use of snares, conibear, foothold, and other hunting traps are legal in many areas of the U.S. and Canada, but their use continues to create controversy as pets lose their limbs — or their lives.
Manitoba officials have since suspended the use of traps in Grand Beach Provincial Park after the November 22 death of resident Rob Shura’s dog Pippin, who stepped into a trap only 10 meters off of the trail where the pair was hiking. Pippin died in her owner’s arms that day as Shura tried to free her.
In Oregon, where trapping is a popular method of hunting and earning a living, a series of dog deaths prompted the Oregon Trappers Association and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to amend their trapping rules in an effort to protect pets.
Despite the tougher rules in his state, President of the Oregon Trappers Association Doug Nichol still urges dog owners to take precautions.
“We’re trying to educate people to try not to create and event that doesn’t have to happen,” Nicols told the Mail Tribune. Nichols recommends that dog owners keep their pets on-leash while taking walks on public lands and hunting grounds.
Despite the fact that trappers are required to hold licenses, some illegal traps have been springing up in rural or wooded areas, like the one that seriously injured Labrador Retriever mix Monte along Montana’s Bitterroot River. Monte’s owner, Pete Ramberg, was able to pry the bolted trap from the ground, then carry his dog to the veterinarian with the trap still attached to her paw.
“What is a beaver trap doing in a public fishing and swimming area?” Ramberg asked during an interview with Helenair.com. “My best friend had to go through something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”
For more information on hunting traps and safety tips for your dog, contact your state’s Department of Natural Resources office and ask if they offer trap-removal demonstrations.