A family’s loss

Lola’s last ride/Ben Spiess

Sixty years ago, a one-time trapper turned writer named Frank Conibear was presented the Certificate of Merit from the American Humane Society for inventing a body-crushing trap designed to quickly kill wild animals rather than merely hold them.

Perfected by Canadian trapper Eric Collier in the years that followed, the so-called “Conibear trap” was by the early 1970s selling at the rate of a million units per year, according to a story in Fur, Fish and Game magazine, and it was on its way to rendering one of humankind’s oldest forms of wildlife harvest more humane in the eyes of the world.

But don’t try to explain this to the Speiss family now mourning the loss of their beloved Lola.

A 45-pound, husky-beagle mix, Lola was hunting ptarmigan with Joni and son Robert not far off the Glenn Highway this winter when she stumbled upon a Connibear 330, the largest of these so-called humane, killer traps.

Outside, as Alaskans call that land to the south, this trap is usually employed to harvest beaver, and some states restrict the use of the trap to in-water or underwater sets to protect dogs.

“The 280 and 330 series (Conibear) body-grip traps are the largest sizes commonly use in Wisconsin,” state officials there note. “They can only be used in water, with at least 50 percent or more below the surface.

“The 220 body-grip trap is slightly smaller and can be used in water or on land. Dryland use of the 220 body-grip trap, includes numerous regulations that eliminate most concerns for pets. The
160 body-grip trap is even smaller, with slight risk to small dogs. The 110 body-grip trap is the smallest, and is usually no problem for dogs.”

The opening on the 330 measures 10 inches by 10 inches; the 220 is seven by seven. Many dogs can force their head into the former; the latter makes it harder.

But in the case of Lola, this is irrelevant. Whatever the size of the Conibear, she managed to push her head through it.

When Lola’s nose hit the trigger, the Conibear’s steel jaws slammed down around her neck. She would not survive.

The Conibear choke hold on Lola/Speiss family photo

The Conibear that killed Lola/Spiess family photo

Tricky to open

Over the years, too many Alaska dog owners unaware of how-to or unable to release Conibear traps have witnessed the painful deaths of canine friends.

The traps are not all that difficult to open for those experienced in their use although most people need some sort of strap – a leash, a belt, a piece of rope,  something – to compress the springs that hold the trap shut.

For those unaware of how the traps work, however, Conibears can be impossible to release.

Aware of this danger, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has produced both a brochure and videos demonstrating how to open the traps. This sometimes makes it possible to safely free a dog.

Whether the knowledge would have saved Lola is an unknown.

“The jaws snapped shut on Lola’s neck, and she yelped,” Ben Spiess, Joni’s husband, wrote on his Facebook page. “Robert left the trail to help. He and Joni were unable to release the trap.”

Ben believes the trap broke Lola’s neck, but whether her neck was broken or she died of strangulation – a common cause of death when Conibears are used – Ben said Lola was dead in three to four minutes.

Her death was not a rarity. A Minnesota group called Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN reports 96 dogs killed in body-grip traps and snares in that state so far this year. 

The organization was started eight years ago by hunter and trapper John Reynolds whose springer spaniel died in a Conibear, according to the Minneapolis StarTribune.

All these years later, Minnesotans are still feuding over how to make trapping safe for pets in that state.

“Traps needs to be made illegal, period,” a Twin Cities woman named Madisyn Czarnecki posted on the Safe Trapping MN Facebook page. “There’s no difference between a pet and a wild animal. Those traps are inhumane and barbaric.”

Or they are in her eyes.

Man v. nature

Nature knows neither humanity nor inhumanity. Nearly all death in nature is inhumane by human standards.

The bears will be emerging soon from their dens in Alaska, and the moose will begin giving birth to their calves, and many of those calves – in some places most – will end up eaten alive by bears in front of their traumatized mothers.

Nature functions not by right and wrong, but only by who lives and dies.

Humanity is a human construct, and the Conibear trap was invented to make trapping more humane. It was furthered in this idea by those who believed it would.

The bad wrap on the traditional leghold trap, which Lola would surely have survived, was that sometimes animals were caught and held for days by a leg.

If trap lines were not tended regularly, the animals sometimes died in the trap of starvation, or chewed a leg off and limped away, or were caught helpless by other predators and eaten alive with their leg still held fast.

This is nature. It is, by human standards, inherently cruel. The Conibear trap was supposed to improve on nature.

A well-intended European Union (EU) years ago banned the use of leghold traps because they were cruel and prohibited “the introduction into the EU of pelts and manufactured goods of certain wild animal species originating in countries which catch them by means of leghold traps or trapping methods which do not meet international humane trapping standards,” according to the European Commission. 

That restriction helped drive a global shift away from leghold traps to deadly Conibear traps. The EU took great pride in what it consider this step forward:

“In 1997 the EU concluded an agreement with Canada and the Russian Federation on international humane trapping standards. The Agreement was inspired by the desire to agree on international humane trapping standards as well as to avoid trade disputes with the main international fur exporters. The aim of the established humane trapping standards is to ensure a sufficient level of welfare of trapped animals, and to further improve this welfare.”

The intentions were good. But the welfare of Lola, a “trapped animal,” was not improved. It was worsened. She died.

Ongoing conflict

How to regulate trapping to protect pets, especially dogs, has been an issue in Alaska for years, and it has only become more so as technological changes have extended the off-road range of recreationists – both those who trap and those who don’t.

In Lola’s case, Ben reported, the distance off-road was not far.

The trap, he wrote, “was at the Crooked Creek trailhead at Mile 118.25 on the Glenn Highway near Glacier View, east of Chickaloon. (The) trap was set 40 to 50 feet off the trail and 50 yards from the trailhead.

“The trap was placed under a spruce tree, baited with a caribou jaw and artificially scented with musk to attract animals.”

Scents that will lure coyotes, lynx and the rare wolverine – the animals for which a larger Conibear like the one that killed Lola are used – are equally good at attracting most dogs.

Recognizing the risks and the conflicts between dogs and trapping, Ben, an Anchorage attorney, said he is writing up a proposal to submit to the Alaska Board of Game suggesting a ban on the use of body-grip style or “killer” traps with a jaw opening of more than 4-inches above ground within two miles of a maintained road in state Game Management Units (GMU) 13, 14 and 15.

An exception would be made for submerged traps so as not to interfere with beaver trapping.

GMU 15 covers the western half of the Kenai Peninsula; GMU 14, the Anchorage area and the Matanuska and Susitna valleys south of the Talkeetna River and west of Chickaloon; GMU 13 blankets the northern drainages of the Susitna and covers a vast area south of the Alaska Range from the George Parks Highway on the west to the Copper River River on the east to the north slopes of the Chugach Mountain Range in the south. 

Most of GMU 13 would be described by non-Alaskans as a “vast wilderness,” but hundreds of miles of the George Parks, Denali, Richardson and Glenn highways pass through it.

In many places along those highways, it is for much of the year rare to encounter anyone within a quarter-mile of the road, but that changes somewhat in winter.

Snowmachines are now in widespread use in Alaska, and once the snow flies, they can create trails almost anywhere. Those trails, in turn, come to be used by hunters, recreational trappers, skiers, snowshoers and even fat-tired cyclists.

Speiss’s proposal to ban trapping within two miles of state-maintained roads is sure to generate controversy as is already evident by the comments on his Facebook page.

There are those there who believe Lola should have been on a leash, an impractical reality when hunting; those who believe all trapping should be outlawed; and those who believe the exact opposite.

There is no perfect solution to resolve the conflict between free-running dogs and trapping, except maybe to return to the leghold traps pushed aside as “inhumane.”

They might break a dog’s leg or ankle. They might even lead to a dog losing a limb in some circumstances. But they don’t kill dogs.

Conibear traps have killed plenty in Alaska and elsewhere.

Two miles off the road is not a long distance to push traps off the road either. Except when it is a long distance. On a hard-packed frozen snowmachine trail, two miles off the Glenn is no more challenging than two miles on Anchorage’s Coastal Trail.

On the same trail, in a foot or two of new snow, those two miles on snowshoes are more than most Alaska couch potatoes could manage.

There are, too, still some people living along these roadways who depend on trapping as a means of income. A few of them access traplines via trails that start at their backdoor.

They once had those trails to themselves. But in these times when snowmachines have evolved to the point where they can go pretty much anywhere, almost all trails near roads connect to other trails that connect to other trails that connect to other trails until almost no trails remain unconnected.

This is not going to be an easy problem for the Board of Game to resolve because there is no easy solution sure to satisfy everyone. But everyone should be able to agree no dog should die the way Lola did.


57 replies »

  1. I respect the right to trap, but not at the expense of a dog’s life on public land which is to be shared by all. If state gaming commissions are unable to police themselves to correct the issue (such as banning public land use for body traps larger than 4″ or 5″)

  2. So dog-lover trappers cant relate to empathy for any other flesh & blood animal even if it’s in the canine species family. As far as author describing nature as, “knowing neither humanity nor inhumanity w/ all death in nature inhumane by human standards,” I don’t think he’s given this statement much thought. E.g. as the human standards of the medieval torture rack physically pulling a body apart or burning people alive at the stake or passing slow-death crucifixion sentences? Or up-to-date waterboarding to death & other assorted tortures? Not even the ‘cruelty of nature’ can dream up man’s inhumanity since In actuality, most all predator animals asphyxiate their prey by the neck before eating them. No, not even nature can dream up anything comparable to a living being languishing caught in a steel trap while breaking his teeth trying to defend himself from something he cant ever understand. At least author says, Lola didn’t deserve this, yet according to human standards, man makes no apologies for doing this to other beings who suffer no less than Lola & who’s death was mercifully fairly quick.

    • Actually, they don’t. And most specifically, to quote a biologist friend, “bears don’t kill; they eat.”

      Horrible way to go. Right up there with the rack and various, disgusting human acts. But nature doesn’t care. It knows neither good nor bad.

      • Grizzly bears eat insects, a variety of flowering plants, roots, tubers, grasses, berries, small rodents, fish, carrion (roadkill & other dead animals) & other meat sources e.g. weakened or young animals. Black bears are even less of meat eaters since all bears are not physically built to stalk prey or exert lots of energy for their food. (Ever watch a black bear eating salmon, stands in the stream & waits for the salmon to swim into his mouth.) Any wildlife biologist who works in the hunting business (a state F&W agency) has his salary paid for by the blood of hunted bears so is not going to give them benefit of any doubt. Ever see a grizzly stalking dandelions? Loved your FB page & Hoss, may he know how much he’s missed.

      • PS, yes most if not ‘all’ prey-stalking animals shoot for that lethal first blow, if only for reason ‘nobody’ wants their dinner kicking & screaming while they’re trying to eat.

    • I wonder How much time you have spent watching bears. Bears in Alaska eat a lot of big game, mostly caribou and moose calves. Big boars will kill brown bear sows, eat the cubs and then eat the sow (I have seen it). I have watched (personally) on two occasions where a boar hunted a cow moose to take the calf. Sometimes a bear will kill the cow and the calf, sometime just the calf and sometimes the cow is tough enough to run the bear off. Bears have hunted and eaten people. It’s way more common than you think. Many times it’s somebody stumbling into a bear with cubs or food to protect but I’m not talking about that. One year, a bear of each of our three species stalked and killed a human for food. I’m not trying to make bears evil, they are not, they are just bears and you are either uninformed, have an agenda our are just being disingenuous.

      • Craig, It says all of my posts are awaiting moderation. I assume that means no one else can see them. So my question is, is this just a one sided discussion site? If so, what’s the point? If you prefer not to include me in the discussion, please remove me from your email list.

        Thanks Mark

  3. Here’s a head scratcher to throw into the mix: AK state law does not require trappers to get permission from landowners before setting traps on private land. If I don’t post my land with signs at all access points specifically stating “no trapping” along with my contact information, trappers can legally set traps on my land. Yet trappers have no such obligation to post that they have set traps. Possibly on my land. Boggles the mind.

    • Pete,

      They changed the law a few years ago about sign posting for trespassing, signs no longer need be posted it is incumbent upon the potential trespasser to know the status of the land before crossing it for any reason.

      Specifically regarding trapping on land other than land you own, and directly from the 2020-2021 trapping regulations
      “Know Who Owns the Land Where You Plan to Trap
      Although regulations presented in this booklet may show an open season
      on certain furbearers in a specific game management unit, local regulations,
      ordinances, or state park rules may prohibit access, trapping, or the use of
      firearms, or require an access permit. It is your responsibility as a trapper
      to check with the landowner before you trap.”

      There’s that word responsibility again…too bad more people don’t know what it means.

    • Select State Laws on Hunting and Trespassing. FindLaw, 9/7/2018.

      “Alaska: Trespassing notices must be printed legibly in English, be at least 144 square inches in size, give the name and address of the person under whose authority the property is posted and the name and address of the person who is authorized to grant permission to enter the property, be placed at each roadway and at each way of access onto the property that is known to the land owner. In the case of an island, signage must be placed along the perimeter at each cardinal point of the island. The sign must explicitly state any specific prohibition that the posting is directed against.”

      2020-2021 Alaska Trapping Regulations.

      “Code of Ethics: A Trapper’s Responsibility
      … 4. Obtain landowner’s permission before trapping on private property…”

      Note: this “responsibility” doesn’t seem to be required by law.

      “State: No laws broken when trooper set traps.” Associated Press, 11/30/2013.

      “WASILLA, Alaska (AP) – A longtime Alaska State Trooper didn’t break any laws by setting snares for coyote and fox on private property near Wasilla, a review found. That’s because the area that the trooper and his trapping partner used to access the property wasn’t posted with no-trespassing signs, the agency said this week…”

    • Right, Pete, that’s still a head scratcher.

      From Alaska Statute 11.46.350: Landowner permission isn’t required for trapping on “… unimproved and apparently unused land…” unless “…notice against trespass is given by posting in a reasonably conspicuous manner under the circumstances.”

      • “Scott”,

        That’s not what the statute says now, maybe that’s what it used to say but it doesn’t now.

      • That’s what the Statute says as of 2019. I tried to post a URL to the current Statute, along with my excerpt, but for some reason it didn’t appear. The 2014 change to this Statute only removed the former specifications for how the signs had to be made and posted. Note to landowners: in order to avoid confusion, they should probably be made and posted just as they always were.

  4. 60 years ago, as a poor farm boy, I trapped extensively for cash to buy extra traps, fishing gear, and rifle and shotgun shells. I made drowning sets for mink, muskrats, and beaver whenever possible. I remenber the first Conibear trap I was able to purchase. I felt it was a humane gift at the time. All my sets were placed underwater, so the only nontarget animal I ever caught was a frog under 5 or 6 inches of ice. I took it home to prove the unbelievable incident. We usually ate froglegs in a “mess”, but that pair of legs was memorable and unique.

    I never set Conibears on dry land for obvious reasons. Most of us had beagles and coon hounds.

    Foxes had bounties at the time and raccoons destroyed a lot of field and sweet corn. They, and other predators, required leghold, land sets. My brother and I would get up before school to check these sets prior to doing chores. I dearly loved trapping and wouldn’t trade the memories for a million dollars.

    As an aside, after two years in the Army, I came home and gave my traps away and never set a trap other than for mice. The experience of being “trapped” somewhere I didn’t want to be changed my perspective. I still hunt and fish for food……….

  5. Just require 330 conibear traps to be placed either 1. Five feet above the ground or ice, or 2. Submerged in water, if within close proximity (a few hundred yards) of a multi use trail.

    Problem solved.

  6. This is one of my biggest fears, because once trap season has ended, the irresponsible ones could forget to pick some of their traps up, so one worries a little even in the off season too.

    I’m all good with trapping, just mark the damn trail to let people know, and keep it a good distance from others homes/property, and off the trail a bit, so I know whether or not my pups can bounce and play in the snow while I am out with them. If it’s your trapline then I’ll respect your season and keep my pups in tighter, but if the trail head isn’t marked with a warning sign or they’re too close to homes, I will do more than just stick a stick in em.

    Most the good trappers out here, just hang a curtesy sign at each end of the trapline trail, so you know you’ve entered a trapping area, but then you occasionally run across the nonpros.

  7. Lynx climb. Marten climb. Wolverine climb. What’s the excuse for not elevating these dangerous traps.? Trappers in many states use elevated sets for those animals.

    My fellow trappers who claim they can’t trap without risking killing someone’s dog are lazy slobs and shouldn’t be trapping. I’ve trapped in 5 states (including AK) and more than 20 seasons. It is NEVER necessary to use sets that could kill a dog in order to catch the desired animal.

    One correction to the article. We have records of 96 dogs that have been killed in MN. Mine was one of the 96. The records are mainly from 2012 when the MN DNR was forced to start keeping records. Prior to that they deliberately didn’t record the deaths so they could claim they didn’t know. They were complicit with the deaths.

  8. Mark every trap with owner info. Signage on every trapline or trapping area. I don’t play with my dog in any area that has a trapline marked. On the other hand if you find an unmarked trap near a public trail put a stick in it and move on. In general ethical trappers wouldn’t be trapping there. Chances are they will give up and move elsewhere if all they are catching is sticks.
    Recently had a trapper setting a baited leg hold and a snare just off the end of my driveway in an obviously well used spot. Fortunately I was just a few feet behind my dog when he got tangled up in the snare and slipped the leg hold after he smelled the game animal parts. I put up a game camera to catch the loser but it has been months and he has not been back to check his traps.
    I used to trap and still have them. Now I just hunt unmarked traps that are a danger to my dog or others. If you do put a stick in a trap don’t tell anyone as it is illegal.
    I find it interesting that I can go out on public trails and booby trap them yet if I was to set one inside my shop door to deter thieves I be breaking the law.

  9. I think the trapper should have to post a sign or signs, multiple. esp in a situation like u described above. where a set is near a trail head on the roadsystem. so as to alert other land users of the traps. if this was law it could potentially mitigate dogs / hunting or pet, losing their lives. I remember years ago stopping somewhere to camp with my dog, in a snow storm, by a somewhat public building. and a guy pulled up and told me that there were traps all over the place and to make sure to have the dog on the leash. I would have never known tho, because there were no signs indicating that animal trapping was going on in the immediate area around the parking lot. It seems in the case u described if its public land, and near a trail head. better skill got to be deployed. u go down a river usually there is some flagging off a tree branch or something so trapper can remember it and other people can be aware something is there.

    • Of course, the trapping lobby will point out that the problem with marking trap lines is that the “antis” (anti-trapping activists) would take advantage of the markings to destroy the traps. Yes, unlike most of the alarmist dogma of the trapping lobby, that part of it is probably true.

  10. Anyone remember when paper bags at the grocery line were frowned upon if not out right vilified? Paper bags were tree killers years ago, now they are sustainable…turns out cutting trees down is better for the environment than plastic bags. Maybe traps that almost instantly kill the animal it traps are great in areas where people can’t check their traps all the time and leg traps are better in areas where they can be checked more frequently or are higher use and we don’t need to ban everything everywhere all the time right now!!!!

    If my dogs died in a trap I would feel like shit because I allowed them to die in a trap. As their owner it is my responsibility to keep them safe and to also make sure they don’t cause problems. I’m not saying Lola’s owners did that, but far too many Alaskans seem to think their dogs have a right to roam freely wherever they want.

    When will we stop blaming the inanimate objects and start blaming those who are at fault, whether it be the person setting the incorrect trap for the area, or the dog owner letting their dog roam freely?

    The only answer is people taking responsibility for their actions, blaming others is easier and guiltfree.

    • Steve-O,good point, but blame and/or responsibility doesn’t come close to stopping bad actions.Same goes for arms too,its a numbers game.At some point the tipping
      Theres a whole lot more voting, wage earning dog people in any urban setting in this state than there are trappers.
      Now how do you think thats going to play out?
      Just as most likely there will be over time, more anti gun(or at the bare minimum, more stringent requirements for ownership) in the country,becuase basically a decent sized minority of users dont want to police themselves,whethor guns, traps or drinking,etc.Thats how society works,whethor you think its fair,constitutiontal or otherwise.
      Its not that hard to see what’s coming,you can blame this or that side all you want, but basically its bad behavior ruining things for all.
      In my mind thats what “A home for Readers and Thinkers “,is all about,dialogue.Break bread sometimes for unsavory societal subjects.

      • No doubt Dave, nobody has any personal responsibility anymore. Instead of taking responsibility for our own actions or placing the blame on the person whose actions are to blame for the problem we will socialize the problem and blame everyone for the problem of the few who cannot be expected to follow societal norms.

        Like I said the only answer is people taking responsibility for their actions, blaming others is easier and guiltfree.

        Until we get back to the point that we understand we are all in this together and not against each other nothing will change. The subject doesn’t matter whether it be guns, traps, drugs, cars, whatever it is if we pretend personal responsibility does not matter then we will never be able to actually face the problem, as uncomfortable as it might make some of us.

        Everything is always someone else’s fault…always.

      • Good point, Dave; by definition, “irresponsible” trappers won’t take “responsibility” on their own–they’ll only take the small measure of “responsibility” that could potentially, under improved trapping regulations, be assigned to them by the justice system.

        All that’s generally proposed as penalties for rule-breaking trappers are the withdrawal of their licenses to trap (and maybe also to hunt), and some small financial liability for the monetary value of veterinary treatment, or for the “replacement” of a pet with another of the same type. Minor penalties such as these shouldn’t even be considered as arguments against improved trapping regulations; but when they’re brought forward by “emotionally offended” etc. trapping lobbyists, politicians do seem to consider them.

        Good try, “Steve-O,” in calling for irresponsible trappers to take personal responsibility for their actions. I’m almost tempted to be “emotionally offended” along with you.

      • “Scott”,

        The personal responsibility I was speaking of is a two way street, trappers and dog owners should both show more responsibility. You are very clearly “emotionally offended” about this subject, is it because you have failed to be responsible and allowed something horrible to happen and now you are striking out against those who you blame in an effort to hide your own lack of responsibility?

      • In reply to “Steve-O” about my personal perspective (as if that would matter in a technical discussion of problems and solutions): my goal is to help find solutions to the problem of dogs–like Lola–being unnecessarily killed by traps. I’ve lost a dog to a trap, and I’ve discussed problems and solutions with trappers, trapping instructors, and their representatives in the Minnesota Trappers Association (MTA). MTA instructors and officials, and the neighboring trappers themselves, have agreed that the trap in my case shouldn’t have been set in the area or in the way that it was. I support the solutions proposed by DogLovers4SafeTrappingMN; and every year I talk with my Minnesota legislators about them (MN 2021 HF 2086 / SF 2142).

      • “Scott”,

        I’m sorry you lost a dog to a trap, that is horrible. As I previously said, if my dogs died in a trap I would feel like shit because I allowed them to die in a trap. The fact that you have lost a dog in this manner is very much pertinent to this discussion, your personal experience obviously sheds light on your opinion and who you blame for the loss of your dog.

        I’m sorry for your loss and I can only hope you’ve learned from that horrible experience.

      • Anyone who’s had the patience to read this far into the comments is probably not expecting much from the commenter under the pseudonym “Steve-O,” but I’ll take this opportunity to add something, maybe significant, in response.

        When we’re faced with an event like this one–the death of the Spiess family dog, Lola–we have the chance to understand the issues that are involved in it; including problems with non-target catch in trapping, especially by lethal traps in mixed recreational areas; and including practical, proposed solutions to those problems.

        This article, and some of the discussion in these comments, is about all of the above. Unfortunately, these comments can also be confusing: off-topic, biased, incorrect, etc. But that’s how the discourse tends to go on the subject.

        If you can wade through, good for you.

  11. In this world we live in, there are responsible people and irresponsible people. This simple fact trickles down into every aspect of life. It means there are responsible trappers and irresponsible trappers. It means there are responsible dog owners and irresponsible dog owners. If responsible trappers mark their traplines, responsible dog owners don’t let their dogs run out of control in those areas. Out here on the KP, I have encountered marked traplines in Cooper Landing on Stetson Creek and even at Tern Lake. So I don’t let my dogs run off lead there during trapping season. Does it suck? A little bit, but there are plenty of other places to let my dogs run safely. Now, if irresponsible trappers don’t mark their traplines in high traffic areas, that’s a completely different story… I have no solution other than to say try to be a more responsible person.

    • As I replied above to “Steve-O”: good try, “Pete Snow,” in calling for irresponsible trappers to take personal responsibility for their actions. I’m almost tempted to be “emotionally offended” along with you.

  12. The “Wisconsin State Officials” who were (anonymously) quoted here were being overly optimistic, on behalf of the trapping lobby. A #160 body-gripping trap will kill a Jack Russell terrier. A #220 will kill any sporting dog that’s motivated to go for the bait.

  13. Thank you Craig for a well write thoughtful article. My heart goes out to the family’s lost. No, there is no easy remedy to this conflict. I can only think back a few years ago when the Valley was a rural community on a road system. When the only stop and go light from Fairbanks to the turn off to Palmer was found at an intersection in Wasilla. There were many trapline trails maintained by trappers. There were also trappers who set along the highway.
    As people migrated to valley, they also brought their ideologies with them. They want trails to recreate on, pull outs, rest areas and so on. In the spring, summer, and fall months people found trails. No one ever really wounded why the was a trail there, who made this trail? They only though wow look what i have found. This trail is great for access. For hunting, fishing, berry picking, hiking and even to get to a remote cabin site.
    Really wasn’t much of an issue when the valley was just starting to grow. winter actives were minimal. But as we know winter actives grew. People had more time and money and wanted to do things in winter. The valley/Anchorage residents wanted assurances that they would have trails to use/ state parks. Trappers who were enjoying their opportunity (they made most of all the trials used today), far from residential areas, Are now call “lazy” “slob” and “recreational” trappers. All because of urban sprawl.
    How many trails are made by non trappers, that trappers now use? I would guess very very few if any. How many trails are being used by non trappers, from the sweat effort of a trapper? I would guess most of them.
    Name calling really is unnecessary. Alaska law only recognizes trapping as subsistence, even in the non subsistence area a resident can participate in the “subsistence uses”. The BOG just can not make subsistence regulations in a non subsistence area.
    There are many trappers who make good money trapping along road systems. More than you think. There not lazy or slobs. In some aspects they are smart. Many animals die from highway vehicles which attract target game for trappers.
    I guess Craig, we have come full circle as they say. Frank Conibear designed a trap that the public was earning for, that was a humane way of killing an animal. Now were we need a trap that won’t kill our family members as we recreate were once a trapper was alone.

  14. I lost my dog last January 2020 to a conibear trap off of trail 6 at Big Lake. It was 30ft off of the groomed snow,machine trail/ It took me a week to find her. The trap was pure laziness and the area was so dangeroulsy close to where people gp regularly/

  15. 2 miles from roads is not adequate though it will help for sure. Common use trails and trail heads must also be removed from allowed trapping as well as any thing within 10 miles straight line of a permanent residence. . I cant say it strongly enough. – safe functional sensible legislation is needed. I would say part of the problem is the trapping culture has changed from semi pro and professional lifestyle trappers to recreational trappers. Imo the recreational trappers lack the knowledge , time, common sense and dedication it requires to put a trapline in the correct places away from high traffic usage areas. They often set traps along roads trails drive wsys ect . They cut corners and place traps in quickest easiest access places available that a professional would never utilize due to odds of catching pets , incorrect animal, poor quality pelts or even children. Trappers i knew in my youth forged their own paths and heavily marked their trails/ trapline with warning signs and the lines were often transferred to the next generation or even traded or sold . It was known who trapped where . There was a lot of pride . Serious Trapping was mostly done in very remote areas. You definitely didn’t want to catch someone’s important animal or dog . Animals were often life and death important to their owners. Common sense legislation is now reasonable considering the change in the culture of usage . Definitely dont ban trapping. Just guide it to appropriate areas . Irresponsible trappers who make others look bad is really sad . Its such an admirable and respected profession and place to develop life skills and utilize this great state . I could see making some allowances for children to trap more locally but only if completely safe trapping methods were used . Such as live traps or development of a hold trap that could neither maim nor kill. Snares that are set inside out are much easier to remove and much less likely to strangle. As in it reduces lethal and increases time allotted to save the animal. There could be zones for specific types of traps.

    • My deepest condolences to Lola’s family.
      This has always been my concern as it seems traps are everywhere throughout this state.
      I have found traps with dead Marten not checked in weeks.
      Trapping is inhumane to me and anyone who would leave a trap near a trailhead knowing it can get a family pet is sick…and mental health is not AK’s stronger attribute.
      My only solution is to keep my huskies attached with a lanyard and ski jor with them through the woods.
      I have friends who lost pets to traps near Skwentna and I have had my dogs come close as my remote neighbor tossed marten boxes all around his yard.
      What a mess in society these days…one side wants to enjoy life & view wildlife, while the other side wants to kill all the “critters” in AK?
      The battle of good & evil I presume?

  16. Craig,

    you covered the subject well. There have been many similar Board of Game proposals submitted in the past on the same subject. Some trappers use a highway vehicle as their primary means of transportation to trapping areas.

    In the winter nearly any pullout or parking area along a highway is likely to be used by numerous groups of people and their dogs. A trailhead and / or restroom parking area along a highway is likely to generate even more use. Trapping in one of the highest use areas is considerably more likely to catch dogs — and often while the owner is nearby experiencing the trauma.

    I readily agree that no dog should have to die the way Lola did —

    The rub comes in finding a well- defined solution that a broad majority of the public can agree on — such a regulatory solution should also be easy for well-intentioned trappers to follow. As mentioned in your article a specific distance from a trail or road type regulation can be confounding if a person is not aware of all trails or roads in the area. Further confusion would be caused attempting to “estimate / guess / determine” if one was indeed the appropriate distance from a trail or road.

    Just like our highway safety measures don’t solve all highway safety issues — there is likely no solution to perfectly solve this issue.

    • never heard of a GPS Andy? Proposal sounds good to me. My dog was trapped twice in snares. Once within 100 ft of paved road while taking a walk with my kids. The other time was while we were following a game trail miles from the roadway. I know both trappers. The first incident the trapper was a fat lazy couch potato. The second trapper was making an effort not to trap neighborhood dogs and was besides from the desire to kill animals was out in the mountains for the same reasons as me. This proposal still allows for people to pursuit a trapper lifestyle while getting rid of the people that give trapping a bad name.

  17. Let’s face it, if you have to put a 330 or any trap of that size 50 feet off a trail and 50yds from a regularly used trailhead then you are a lazy slob and a disgrace to trapping. Same goes for highway hunting.
    With that said, I think the 2 mile requirement is a bit extreme. A half mile or mile at most seems resonable within select areas.
    I mean, if you are going to let your dog (not specifically pointing to Lola, I addressed that above) run “wild” a half mile or more unseen throughout the wilderness than you should accept some responsibility for the consequences. Dogs have been trudging the Alaskan wilderness for thousands of years suffering all kinds of fates.

    • A key term here is “select areas.” The “2 mile requirement” proposed here would be a ban on the use of a body-grip trap more than 4-inches in size, set above ground, within two miles of a maintained road in state Game Management Units (GMU) 13, 14 and 15.

      Yes, it matters that a trap is “set above ground.” It also matters how it’s baited, and how far dogs in “select areas” will be attracted to the bait. It matters how the trap is elevated, or enclosed in a dog-proof enclosure. See Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping MN for more about that.

      • Scott, I am curious, can I fire a rifle “within two miles of a maintained road in state Game Management Units (GMU) 13, 14 and 15.”?

      • In reply to “Bryan” re. Alaska firearms-hunting regulations: although I haven’t attended an Alaska Hunter Education Course, I assume that 1) yes, a hunter can legally fire a rifle in an Alaska Game Management Unit (GMU), as long as he’s not firing from a public road right-of-way (ROW) or other prohibited area; and that 2) yes, a hunter would be liable for the damages he might cause in not taking precautions against firing into the area “behind his target” (precautions that I’m sure are included in the Alaska Hunter Education Course). Duh.

      • “Scott” are you from “Minnesota” and trying to tell Alaskans how to trap because you are “emotionally offended” at how people trap in Alaska? Sure seems like it.


        To answer your question here in Alaska, not “Minnesota” like “Scott”, you can fire a rifle as long as you are not standing on the maintained road surface, so you can do so within 1 inch of the road.

      • In reply to “Steve-O” about how easily Alaskan trappers seem to be emotionally offended: “HaHaHaHa.”

        No, I’m not proposing Alaska legislation; just supporting Alaskans who are.

      • “Scott”, I will take your response to my question as a “yes”.

        For what it’s worth, I’m not a trapper nor am I “emotionally offended” at your dislike of trapping. I do, however, dislike outsiders telling Alaskans what is best for them based upon nothing more than their outside opinion.

      • Steve o , I disagree with the concept of being offended or irritated by “outsiders opinions” a good opinion is valid regardless of where it comes from . Removing 7 plus billion people from the thought pool truly limits your intellectual base . ( his opinion is good or bad on its own merit) now if he stopped by to vote on the subject without residency thats another story. As it’s going to be tough for an outside resident to be fully versed on local concerns but that doesn’t mean his opinion isn’t full of usable insight. Discouraging discourse is a slippery slope. I for one appreciate outsiders opinions because often someone distant from a problem can bring a 5,000 ft view especially if they are not emotionally involved. Just a thought. Also im not disparaging your valid statement.

      • DPR,

        You misunderstood what I said, I’m not offended or irritated by “outsiders opinions”. I dislike outsiders telling Alaskans what is best for them based upon nothing more than their outside opinion, as I said. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but trying to force your opinion on people who don’t ask for it is an entirely different discussion.

        I don’t tell “Scott” that his state is stupid because they think they are the “Bold North” or that 10,000 lakes really isn’t that many lakes. “Scott” might have a valuable opinion that we here in Alaska could contemplate upon regarding the use of traps and how dogs find themselves in them, he just has yet to share it here in his comments. Instead he is trying to force his outside opinions on how we should do things in this state.

      • Steve o, im sure you are right as to what you meant. My apologies for misinterpretation of your words . Obviously it’s important dog owners act responsibly . whats your opinion on a happy solution being as its pretty unrealistic to expect pet owners to bear the 100% burden when traps are used near common civilian areas ,unmarked and put near trail heads ,driveways,homes and common use trails and occasionally even left set beyond trapping season? Often with bait or scent lure that is formulated to be irresistible to canine type minds who can smell from very long distances as well as set in places that funnel animals to the trap or even sticks/ objects put in such a way as to funnel creatures to a trap ? At some point in a civil society there has to be middle ground? Especially when dealing with pets who have their own minds , escape, get loose or frankly act naturally and follow their instincts. Historically dogs and cats have spent a lot of time off leash. Farm dogs ran free , sled dogs in summer used to often run free probably at regular peril , cats almost always ran free, companion dogs often ran free . You know what I mean. Now that the population density is larger and trappers less thoughtful what is a good solution? Dogs are not as useful nor as happy if they are forever leashed. Personal responsibility is paramount and obviously imperative. Yet a civil fair society must have some middle ground? What is it?

      • One quick way to learn about the “2 mile requirement” discussed here (for those who might not want to read or understand the article) would to search the article for the phrase “Ben, an Anchorage attorney, said he is writing up a proposal to submit to the Alaska Board of Game.”

      • DPR,

        Accepting responsibility for ones own actions is the first step that need be taken. Sadly some people should not take on the responsibility of owning a dog, a cat, or even a gold fish. People who leave traps in areas that are frequented by loose dogs, cats, and gold fish are certainly a problem in certain areas. How many dogs, cats, and gold fish are hit by vehicles every year, should we ban cars and trucks from roadways because pet owners can’t be bothered to be responsible for their pets?

        Here is Alaska if your dog is in my yard I can shoot it, if it charges me while I walk down the road I can shoot it. I don’t want to shoot my neighbors animals, because they cannot be bothered to take responsibility for their animals, but I am allowed to. Instead of people pretending that their domesticated dog is a wolf and should be free to roam all over creation, how about in this civil society you speak of, take some measure of personal responsibility and stop blaming others for their own failings.

        I love my dogs, I even love some other peoples dogs, most of the time the problem is the people who own the dogs.

      • Steve o , you make some good points. Granted it’s difficult to mix self defense or private property with the current issue. As you are without a doubt correct about those specific issues. In ancient times if a brick/ roof tile fell from a building and killed someone the home owner was responsible for death even if pedestrian chose to step there without a helmet. If a neighbors loose dangerous dogs kill someone that chose to be unarmed whose fault is it ? The owner of a dangerous dog is similar to having unmarked traps in a common public use area . So some form of civil balance needed created better than we have . Are we going to blame parents for allowing their children to run amuck and letting them get injured/caught in traps ? It will eventually happen in public use areas. So yes personal responsibility but there must be a balance to reduce disasters and or legal dilemmas.

      • DPR,

        Some people believe in personal responsibility, accountability, and limited government others do not or simply pay those concepts lip service. Some people even think their own failures are reason enough to restrict others. To each their own.

      • Steve o , you definitely have an important position especially in this era .

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