Holy TRAP! It is the peak of many trapping seasons in Montana. In our rural neck of the woods, it is unlikely for many of you to exercise your dog in town only, every day, for all the exercise it needs. Trapping seasons should not keep you from enjoying the beautiful Rocky Mountain Front’s fresh air.
Two unfortunate events have hit close to home. Eastern Montana friends had to amputate their pup’s leg because it stepped in a coyote foothold trap set close to their home, unbeknownst to them. More locally, friends in Augusta lost their dog to a snare trap while on a routine walk.
The intent of this column is to warn and prepare you for an accident that will hopefully not happen. Some simple tools I have learned may help you in said situations. The first is education. Know the parameters of trapping and compare to the location of your outing. On federal and state lands, traps can be set 150 feet from open roads and hiking trails. Traps can be set 1000 feet from designated campgrounds and fishing access sites. Traps can be set 1000 feet from public trailheads. Visit the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website for more details.
Traps are baited with deliciously smelling scents (to your dog of course) and when an animal is trapped, it is likely to be thrashing around – 2 triggers to lure your dog in closer to the trap. Where there is 1 trap, there are likely more – called a trap line.
A horse trained to have a rope around a foot is less likely to fight a piece of barbed wire around the same foot. Having a collar and leash-trained dog may discourage it from using its oppositional reflex to fight a snare trap.
Dogs in traps do not act calm, cool or collected as you approach to release. They are scared and hurt and may use a bite defense mechanism toward anyone, including the owner. Train your dog to tolerate a half-hitch loop around her nose to prevent bites.
Play games with your dog to keep her close to you. Sticks can be friends. Have a 100% reliable recall, stay, and leave it. If you walk on private ground, ask landowners of any known traps. Carry wire cutters. Environmental management is the key to success for you and your dog.