Some people might think snaring a wolf or coyote is cruel and inhumane, but Laine Lahndt thinks otherwise.
Lahndt, who began trapping mink at age 6 before graduating to otter, lynx and finally wolves, said animals face a more agonizing death in the wild than at the end of his snare.
"In the real world, any natural cause of death is much more prolonged than a snare around the neck," he said. "We're part of the food chain, too. If it's done right, there's nothing wrong with it."
Lahndt, a member of the Alaska Trappers Association, demonstrated the best snares and techniques to use in order to achieve a faster more humane kill at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge's snaring seminar Saturday. Seasoned and beginning trappers alike watched as Lahndt set his wolf snare on a spruce, showing the best way to keep the animal from noticing it, as well as making sure the snare closes around the animal's neck rather than its shoulders.
Lahndt grew upon a homestead in Kasilof and trapped with his mother. He said he can still remember the excitement he felt when he caught his first mink and his confusion when he didn't know what to do with it.
"I was bit by trapping," he said.
After trapping for mink and otter as a kid and snaring lynx in high school, going after wolves was the ultimate test of wits against nature.
"Wolves intrigued me. The wolf is at the top of the list as far as matching wits and the challenge of the catch," he said.
Probably because of Lahndt's passion for wolves, much of the seminar revolved around wolf trapping, how to avoid canine lice and how to prevent moose from being tangled in a snare. Even though many wolves on the Kenai Peninsula are infested with lice, Lahndt told trappers it seemed like the infestation was subsiding, particularly in older adult males, whose pelts could fetch between $80 and $100 at the fur auction in Anchorage.
Even though there are many people who are against trapping, Gary Titus, law enforcement officer for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, said responsible trappers help alleviate that sentiment.
"We have very few violations," Titus said, adding that few trappers on the peninsula are out to make money. "He cares about his animals. If it's still alive, he wants it dead."
Larry Daly began trapping as a kid to pick up extra money. He said he used to trap otter and martin in Southeast Alaska, and even though he hasn't set a trap in a while, the love of snaring is still there.
"Trappers are like the canary in the coal mine," he said. "(They're) in touch with animals and the first to bring in samples."
When it came to the use of breakaway traps and moose, Titus told trappers they can use any type of breakaway snare they want. He also said if a moose does wind up in a snare, the trapper should call the wildlife refuge or state troopers to come and salvage the meat and hide. One trapper advised others not to trap where moose are present, but Lahndt said if you trap in an area with no moose it's likely wolves aren't present either.
Todd Walter, who's in his sixth year of trapping, said he packages his snares in half-dozen packages. Then he uses a map to keep track of where he put his snares and as he catches his animals, he'll replace those with a fresh snare.
"It's important to get stuff out at the end of season," he said. "Those snares work forever until they kill something."
Six years ago Walter went trapping with a friend, caught a mink and became addicted to it. He said he does it because he enjoys being out in the woods without the large number of people fishing in the summer.
"Trapping is just hard work. You'll be successful if you work hard at it," he said, adding that trapping makes for many late nights fleshing and skinning the animals he caught.
"It's a hobby. I don't make money out of it."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at email@example.com.