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Beaver Trap Catches Man, Irks Humane Society

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Predator Defense and other wildlife advocates have long protested what they say are lax trapping laws in Oregon. A Dec. 15 incident in which a man’s leg was broken in a beaver trap, in conjunction with a press release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife saying “dog owners share in the responsibility to keep their pets safe during trapping seasons,” has strengthened HSUS’s resolve to make ODFW tighten its trapping regulations. 

Oregon state director for HSUS Scott Beckstead says Oregon’s current trapping laws are “backwards and cruel and against the humane values most Oregonians embrace.” He says that Oregon has among the worst trapping regulations in the Western U.S. and says that “depending what you are trapping for, you don’t have to check some traps for up to 30 days,” potentially leaving animals to suffer.

In its press release, ODFW says that “dogs running loose have accidentally been captured in legally set traps, causing injury or even death to the dog” and says that traps for bobcats, raccoons and coyotes are most likely to catch a dog. Winter is a big season for trapping because “pelts are in prime condition at this time,” according to ODFW. The agency suggests that pet owners keep dogs in sight, on a leash or under voice command, to “be mindful of where and when trapping activities may occur — on public lands and on private lands by permission” and to remember lures and baits used by trappers can attract dogs too. ODFW also suggests people “carry the appropriate tools,” which are a wire cutter and length of rope, “and know how to use them to release dogs from a trap.”

According to The Coos Bay World, a man who was trying to catch his dog stepped in a beaver trap in a marshy area near Sturdivant Park, along Hwy. 42. He was found by passing drivers who said “the man was screaming ‘Help me! Help me!’” They were unable to free him until the fire department came with bolt cutters; his leg was broken.

The trap was set legally, Coquille police say.

ODFW spokesperson Michelle Dennehy says any time you are in the wild with your dog there are risks, not just traps but also rough terrain, things that dogs shouldn’t eat, young wildlife and nesting birds that a dog shouldn’t disturb. These are all reasons a dog should be kept on leash or under voice command, she says. ODFW refers dog owners to the website utahpaws.org for information on how to release a pet from a trap.

Oregon’s furbearer regulations say that traps can’t be set within 50 feet of any designated public trail or within 300 feet of any designated trailhead, public campground or picnic area. “Killing traps” with a jaw spread between 7.5 and 9 inches set on public land cannot be placed more than 50 feet from a permanent or seasonal water source. These are the tightened regulations that were put into place in 2012 after HSUS and wildlife advocates petitioned for reform in the wake of the trapping deaths of several pet dogs in Oregon.

Beckstead says those regulations are still too weak, and he says that telling the public to carry “bolt cutters in our backpacks so we can free ourselves” doesn’t put the onus on trappers to be responsible and exercise caution. 

“We will never stop pressing for trapping reforms in Oregon,” Beckstead says. “And we will continue to explore every available option,” including petitioning the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, going through the state Legislature or via a ballot measure.