Wolf Song of Alaska News

Kasilof Man Berates Trapping Policies After Dog Killed in Snare

Deadly Debate

Phil Hermanek / Peninsula Clarion / January 16, 2007

Kasilof resident Pat Murray's dog Willie was killed in a snare last month, leaving Murray questioning trapping regulations.

It's not uncommon for many people to think of their dogs as their children - at least as members of the family - and when one dies, the hurt goes deep.

Frequently the pain of the loss turns to anger when the dog doesn't just die, but is killed.

That's what happened last month to one of Pat Murray's dogs.

As he has done for many years, Murray was driving his pickup truck down a road in Kasilof while his two dogs were running along in and out of the right of way on the side of the road.

Suddenly Willie, an 82-pound, Great Dane-border collie mix, went down.

By the time Murray ran to his fallen pal, Willie was dead, suffocated in a snare set by someone on private property just outside the right of way in the Fox Hills Subdivision.

"I was 50 feet away in my pickup," Murray said.

"I've been running both my dogs there for years. No one is bothered by my dogs running there," he said last week.

Murray's other dog is a 7-year-old Husky-shepherd mix named Ally.

While there is no state law against setting traps or snares on private property, Murray said he believes it is unethical to set traps in a subdivision, and he believes the snare should have been marked with the trapper's identifying information. It was not.

Longtime Kenai Peninsula trapper Laine Lahndt does not believe the snare was set by a trapper, but rather by "a kid, or someone who didn't know what they were doing."

"I'm thinking a kid saw all those tracks from where the dogs have been running, and thought they hit the jackpot with coyotes," Lahndt said.

"I just feel like a couple of mistakes were made," he said.

First, he believes the snare - a wire with a locking mechanism that closes around the neck of an animal and suffocates it - was set somewhere it should not have been.

"It was not set by a trapper. Trappers would be well off into the woods," Lahndt said.

Secondly, he believes Murray, or anyone for that matter, should not let dogs run loose, either not on a leash or out of the control of the dog owner.

Alaska does not have a leash law, according to state wildlife protection trooper Lt. Steve Bear.

"The only thing the state requires is that dogs must be restrained while in the back of a truck to prevent them from falling out," Bear said.

"The (Kenai Peninsula) Borough doesn't have a leash law either," he said. "Most cities do."

Bear said wildlife officers do circulate a flyer during moose calving season, recommending that dogs be kept on a leash to prevent them from chasing moose calves.

"If a dog chases a game animal, troopers will put the dog down," he said.

Bear also said it is not illegal to trap - or hunt - on private property, though it is unethical to do so without first obtaining permission of the property owner.

If property owners do not want people to hunt or trap on their land, they must post notices stating so, he said.

"I don't think we could (criminally) charge someone for trapping if the land is not posted," Bear said.

State law says the owner must personally communicate that land which is not fenced may not be trespassed on or post "reasonably conspicuous" signs stating prohibitions such as "no trespassing," "no hunting," "no fishing" or "no digging."

The Alaska statute specifies that no trespassing signs must be printed legibly in English, be at least 144 square inches and contain the name and address of the property owner.

Bear said the owner's name must be on the sign to prevent someone from posting no trespassing signs at will on the property of others.

"If it's not posted, it's not criminal," said trooper Sgt. Glenn Godfrey. Hunters or trappers cannot be cited.

The "Alaska Trappers Manual," however, includes in its code of ethics: "Obtain landowners' permission before trapping on private property," and "Promote trapping methods that will reduce the possibility of catching nontarget animals."

Murray said he contacted the owner of the land in Kasilof where his dog was killed, and learned no one had sought permission to trap on the land.

He also said the snare was not marked with the owner's identification, and said it should have been.

Lahndt, a member of the Alaska Trappers' Association who has been trapping in Alaska for the past 35 years, said trap tags are only required on federal lands, although he supports the idea of tags on all traps.

"There are some who object, but most trappers aren't opposed to it," he said.

While Lahndt said he feels bad about Murray's dog being killed, he believes mistakes were made that led to the dog's death.

"Ethically it was wrong. The snare should not have been there, and Mr. Murray should not have let his dogs run loose," he said.

Murray, who has lived on the Kenai Peninsula for 33 years, said he has been told he should go before the Alaska Board of Game and seek changes in the state trapping laws, but he said, "I'm not going to stand up and make myself a target.

"Those people kill for a living."

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@ peninsulaclarion.com.

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