Last Saturday my springer died in someone's 220 set for bobcat. I was just a couple of hundred yards away setting a couple of quick fox traps on the lake. I noticed that she wasn't checking on me as usual but continued to make the sets. When I finished a sick feeling hit me in the gut. Somehow I knew that she had been killed. After searching more than 1/2 hour I found her lying dead with the 220 on her neck. I don't remember much after that other than stumbling around in a daze snapping my traps so I wouldn't have to come back.
She was a great dog. Endless energy and a desire to please that didn't quit. I could not imagine a better dog. We hunted grouse this fall dozens of times. I only dropped 3 but this was one of the best seasons I've ever had because of her. I felt so lucky to have found her last spring at a springer rescue group in OH. I could bring her to work so we've spent almost 24 hours a day together since I adopted her.
Several times when I would be walking towards my car strangers would tell me "Boy she's sure happy to see you". Her little tail would be going a hundred miles an hour. The feeling was mutual.
220's have always been my greatest fear when we were in the woods. They are like land mines and kill indiscriminately. All fall when she would be out of sight my heart would stop until I could hear her crashing through the brush. I even wired up a 220 to my electric fence and tricked her into getting shocked but it didn't save her.
She didn't deserve to die this way and it wasn't necessary. Trappers have very good alternatives to 220's. There are dogproof coon traps that are faster, lighter and easier. Some trappers make big coon catches using 155's. They are only 5" and don't kill dogs. 220's can be set in trees for fisher and marten. Actually 160's make a better fisher trap and bobcat can easily be taken in footholds or snares. It isn't necessary to kill dogs like this any more.
Nothing will bring my best friend back but I intend on trying to get 220 ground sets banned so that no one else has to suffer like this.
In the long run it will be better for the sport of trapping too.
Here in grouse country there is no safe place on public land from late October to early January. Even if your dog hunts close like 20 yards away the odds are that it will die before you can find it and release it. This should not be happening.
Tonight I guided our CO to an illegally set 220. Last Friday we got about 1/2" of snow and I was able to track a trapper about 200 yards into the woods. I wanted to see what kind of trap he had set. It turned out to be a cat (and dog) trap set in a plywood cubby. As I looked at it I heard loud chirping coming from behind the trap. I looked into the box and saw a small bird moving quickly. It sounded so lifelike I had to stare at it for a while. I honestly expected it to come barreling out of the box.
The bird was electronic and that violates the "unattended electronic device" ban. The 220 was also untagged but a foothold trap in front of the box was tagged so the trapper will be ID'd.
Even though the trap was 200 yards into the woods it was close to some nice grouse cover and a few winters ago I hiked through that spot with my border collie.
Many trappers use grouse parts as preferred bait for these killer traps. You can imagine what would happen if your grouse dog comes close enough to pick up the scent. In the winter skunk essence is commonly used for a long distance call lure. Your dog can smell that for at least 100 yards.
Tonight when I got home there a message on my machine from a guy over in Todd County who just lost a dog in a 220 on Monday. He found the dog right away because of a pointing beeper but couldn't save it.
This isn't just about hunting dogs because lots of dogs have died in these traps that were just going for a walk. I know of one that died at a boat landing while the owner launched his boat. He never found it and the trapper threw it in the brush. Another died within 30' of the Paul Bunyan hiking/biking trail while on a late evening walk.
So far the petition has gotten over 1,500 signatures and is still growing.
Many people want to ban body grip (killer) traps entirely and quite a few want to ban all trapping. That is not my goal. I support trapping and I support the use of killer traps SET OFF THE GROUND OR UNDERWATER. Taking our dogs grouse or pheasant hunting or a walk in the woods should not force us to play roulette with their life.
So far we've documented 20 dogs that have been killed and I am still getting emails and cards from people who've lost their dog to a killer trap almost daily. Sometimes it feels like being in a MADD survivors meeting to read the emails and cards from people describing how their dogs were killed. In many cases they had to watch the dog die.
If you think you can protect your hunting dog from finding a hidden meat baited killer trap you are wrong. Their nose and speed will beat you every time. You also have no chance of keeping them out of a trail set killer trap.
In Maryland trappers who set any trap on land are liable if they kill a dog. I have to wonder if recklessly setting a trap baited with meat where a hunting dog can find it wouldn't make a MN trapper liable too. Hopefully a MN attorney will take this case on.
In a closed door meeting this weekend the DNR and MN Trappers associations will decide if they will accept any changes in the way body grip traps are used in our state.
Two likely proposals that won't stop dogs from dying are:
1. Reduce the size of the opening of the box that holds the trap. Here's a video of two full grown beagles walking right through a 6"x6" opening. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLy-VwxbKOY
A 35 lb dog can easily put it's head through a 5"x5" hole. Basically any opening that allows a bobcat or coon to reach the trap will allow your dog to reach the trap and be killed.
2. The second most likely proposal will be to "recess" the trap from the box opening. Even a 12" set back will still be within reach of your dog.
Rep. Tony Cornish may think that hunters should just accept our dogs getting killed in body grip traps set on the ground but I don't know any hunters that think their dog dying is a fair trade off just so that a few trappers don't have to change to other dog safe equally effective trapping methods.
We have very good dog safe methods of trapping bobcat, coon, fisher and marten. It is NOT necessary to kill dogs. Even the MTA trapping instructor wrote an article in the April 2011 Fur Fish Game that shows how he catches coon in an elevated body grip box that he says is very efficient. Google "dog proof coon traps" and you'll see coon traps that are lighter, faster to set and very effective at catching coons and NO DOGS. Many of the bobcat trappers who use body grips do so because they don't have to check the traps every day. Why should they risk our dogs because it's more convenient and saves them effort?
220 killed my dog - - -
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People who fish for food, and sport be damned, are called pot-fishermen. The more expert ones are called crack pot-fishermen. All other fishermen are called crackpot fishermen. This is confusing. ~ Ed Zern, 1947