Trappers will be able to set marten traps closer to some Juneau trails next winter, the Board of Game decided Monday. The board also added five trails to the 13 where trapping is restricted in the Juneau area.
"We think this is a great idea," said biologist Ryan Scott, from the Department of Fish and Game. "The compromise of the proposal addresses the public safety concern for both pets and people."
The new rule goes into effect for next winter. Traps with less than a 5-inch spread, commonly used to catch marten, will be allowed 50 yards from the trails, instead of a quarter-mile. The traps must hang at least 5 feet above the snow and ground, a measure intended to protect dogs.
Larger traps will still be restricted to a quarter-mile from the trail.
Trapping isn't restricted near many of Juneau's trails. But since 1987, trapping has been closed within a quarter-mile of 13 popular Juneau trails. The city of Juneau also doesn't allow trapping within a half-mile of public or private roads.
Trail use has increased over the last 20 years, according to state park Southeast superintendent Mike Eberhardt.
The setbacks left little room for local trapping, said Barry Brokken, a longtime Juneau trapper who asked for the quarter-mile setback to be reduced.
Brokken typically sets 30 or 40 traps at a time over a couple of days, then goes back every few days to check them. With a quarter-mile setback, he said, he has a long way to go.
Brokken and the Department of Fish and Game, which recommended his proposal with some changes, were hoping to encourage more young people to get into trapping.
"By the time a guy can get out there and make even a handful of sets, in the dead of winter, in snowshoes, it's just daunting. A lot of 10, 11, 12-year-old kids, they're not up to the task."
Between 18 and 25 people trap in the Juneau area each winter, said Ryan Scott, a Fish and Game biologist. They take mostly marten, whose fur is called sable. Southeast furs went for about $95 each in international markets, Brokken said.
Board members said the proposal struck the right balance between protecting dogs or children and encouraging trapping.
Both dog owners and trappers were obliged to follow the rules, they said.
"Dog owners need to take some responsibility and not let their dogs run all over the country and chase wildlife," board member Ted Spraker said.
The board voted unanimously to narrow the buffers, though one member, Ben Grussendorf of Sitka, questioned in discussion whether 100 yards might be more appropriate than 50. He said snowshoers and other winter hikers often veer off the trail.
"Most people that use these trails have been under the concept of a quarter-mile for close to 20 years," he said, "And for every trapper there probably are 500 users of that trail or more."
Gary Miller of the Juneau Area State Parks Citizen Advisory Board spearheaded the proposal to restrict five more trails to trapping, which the board adopted unanimously.
Miller didn't approve of the narrower buffer for trappers.
"They don't have to set traps along a trail," Miller said. "They can just go across country and set their line that way."
Miller's Labrador, Chance, was caught in a trap earlier this year.
That was 50 to 75 feet from the Montana Creek Trail, he said. That trail is not restricted to traps, but the steel trap was illegally set out of season. The dog avoided being crippled by a half-inch, Miller said.
Biologist Scott said he would educate the public on the new setbacks, including adding new signs to trailheads, before next winter.
* Contact reporter Kate Golden at 523-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org