Headlines in the media about alleged cases of dogs being taken in bodygrippers have been fed to the public and enthusiastically distributed by those in the anti trapping crowd.
Those heartless evil trappers are at it again!
Let's be realistic, no one wants to catch a dog in any trap let alone a bodygripper and most trappers take this concern very seriously and choose their set locations carefully to avoid potential conflict. Most trappers know how to selectively take the furbearers we're after without having a single dog incident in any trap for years and years. Some have never caught a dog.
Certainly there are a few trappers out there either through inexperience or lack of common sense make some risky sets and accidents can occur but this is certainly the exception rather than the rule.
Those trappers that are simply breaking the law to begin with are another matter entirely and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law if they are ultimately found responsible for a dog/bodygripper fatality.
Where exactly does that leave the rest of us? Accidents can and will occur despite the best efforts of all involved. Free roaming dogs, uncontrolled animals and even some routine hunting situations have resulted in unfortunate accidents over the years.
During last year's legislative session, common sense legislators in cooperation with MTA drafted and passed some self-imposed restrictions on our use of bodygrippers to further reduce the chances of dog/bodygripper incidents. The regulations currently on the books, for public land demanding a seven inch recess to the trigger of the trap on cubbies, was reasonable enough to deter most dogs from accidently being caught while providing meaningful opportunity to consistently take target animals as well.
Before the ink was even dry on the new law the opposition insisted that the new regulations would have no positive impact and promised that they would continue to demand the restrictions they supported in the last legislative session: Bodygrippers must either be set five feet elevated from the ground or completely underwater. They have proved true to their word.
On January 19th Gary Leistico and I represented MTA at a meeting facilitated by MOHA (Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance) which was also attended by Ray Sogard and Wayne Thom representing the Minnesota Forest Zone Trappers Association. Representatives of the Minnesota Trail Hounds Association as well as Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping were also in attendance.
Although the meeting was conducted in a civil fashion, there was little agreement across the board on most issues with the exception of the fact that the completely underwater provision of the bill draft was unnecessary and beyond the scope of this particular issue and should be removed from the draft language.
The MTA is open to further discussions with this panel regarding other areas of concern at a later date, but as of right now there has been no other issue of agreement between the participating parties.
The DNR implemented an Incident Report to be used in the case of domestic animal/trap conflicts with the primary focus being dog/bodygripper incidents. Although initially I was doubtful that this data collection would be of much practical use, I'm beginning to change my mind. The information contained in these reports is somewhat useful in its current form but unfortunately, many of these reports left out some much important information, the most critical being: "Was the trap legally set as defined by current law?"
If anyone is serious about evaluating the effectiveness of these new regulations, wouldn't it make sense to have this one of the primary questions answered? After thoroughly reviewing these documents, it is readily apparent that many if not most of them were not written by Minnesota Conservation Officers. To insure complete documentation, all further reports should be completed by CO's or other law enforcement officers exclusively.
Undocumented "media accounts" shouldn't be included at all although some were put into these incident reports as well.
If the trap was legally set this needs to be stated plainly on these reports and conversely, if the trap was not legally set- a citation should be issued and the matter settled.
Illegal sets cannot legitimately be taken into consideration when evaluating the new trapping regulations.
Legal sets on private land should not figure into the discussion either no matter how emotionally charged as an uncontrolled "trespassing dog" is on the wrong side of the law to begin with.
The incident reports suggest that the current law is making a positive impact and that is good news. However trap and trap site selection still is still firmly in the hands of the individual trapper. Always use discretion when placing bodygrippers and choose to error on the side of caution when in doubt.
On another positive note, the public service ad in the MN Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, How to Release a Domestic Animal from a Body Gripping (Raccoon) Trap is getting the word out as well. Of the three incidents documented involving hunting dogs caught in bodygrippers two were successfully released by the accompanying hunter.
Although certain segments of society will never accept trapping in any form, those that are neutral can be swayed to oppose trappers and trapping which can make all the difference politically.
Now more than ever before it is absolutely essential that trappers contact their representatives at the legislature and demand that no further trapping regulations be considered at this time. Those that oppose the wolf trapping season are eager to piggy back their bills on anything related to trapping if given the opportunity. When speaking with your legislators, please stress the importance of not giving our adversaries that opportunity. Information on contacting your legislators is available in your local phone book, the MTA website www.mntrappers.org and the internet.
I'd like to personally thank Harry Kuefler of Chisago City for his generous contribution to MTA's Legal Defense Fund as recent headlines and the bodygripper issue confirms that many battles lie ahead for Minnesota's trappers. Let's do all we can to adequately prepare for them.
Remember that our annual convention will be held in Litchfield this year hosted by Pete Jonas and Jerry Larsen and the rest of the folks in District Five. Further information is contained in this issue of the Newsletter magazine with more to come in other publications. Be certain to make lodging reservations as early as possible because other events will be taking place in the area around the same time as our convention. A week before the convention will be far too late in most cases to find a room so reserve yours early!
On a final note for this issue, another friendly reminder that Trish Coons would like to retire from MTA Treasurer. She has exercised extreme patience anticipating an eventual replacement.
If you think it's time you assist your Association in this role, please contact Trish for additional information. She'd be glad to answer any questions about the position.
Drop me a line if you'd be interested in reading yet another bobcat trapping story from me covering this past season. If so, I'll get one to Trish for the next issue!