Last August a Gresham family’s border collie named Maggie was caught and killed in a lethal trap set 45 feet from her backyard. A husky named Bella chewed off her own foot after being caught in an unmarked trap in the Boise National Forest.
These incidents and others like them spurred Predator Defense, Cascadia Wildlands, the Humane Society of the United States and other groups to petition the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to strengthen its trapping regulations. The ODFW Commission will listen to public comment on June 7 and make a decision, but most of the staff recommendations are not to change the regulations.
Scott Beckstead of the Humane Society, who will be testifying at the meeting, says, “I can’t even say they are throwing us a bone; they are not even throwing us a scrap.”
If an animal is caught in a trap, the trapper can wait 48 hours to seven days before going and checking, Sally Mackler of Predator Defense says. This means, if it isn’t killed outright, an animal, whether it’s a coyote or a pet dog, can suffer for two days to a week before someone comes along to find it.
The groups asked that the time between trap checks be reduced to 24 hours. In its June 7 “Oregon Furbearer Regulation Proposals” ODFW responded that staff proposed the time between checks not be reduced, citing issues such as travel costs for the trapper.
“The majority of states have 24-hour trap check time, and there’s no reason we can’t as well,” says Mackler.
Beckstead says at least seven dogs and one cat have been caught in traps this year, but the number is probably higher because “let’s face it, when trappers catch pets in their traps the incentive is not to report that at all.”
The groups also proposed that traps be set back 100 feet from public trails. ODFW proposes to make the setback 50 feet from trails, 300 feet from public trailheads, and public campgrounds and picnic areas. ODFW says in its document that roads and waterways would not require the setback and adds an exemption conservations say renders the setback useless.
The trap that killed Maggie was set to kill nutria and was 45 feet from her back gate, along a waterway. “It’s like landmines out there,” Mackler says of the trapping on public lands.
Tagging the trap with the trapper’s name and phone number was another of the suggestions the conservation and animal groups put forth. Currently traps are marked with the owner’s license number. ODFW sees “no law enforcement advantage” for this change and the document says trappers fear people would Google their phone numbers and harass them.
Finally, the groups petitioned to have signs posted within a 5-foot radius of the traps, warning of the dangers. ODFW writes that 33 other states do not require signs to be posted and the other states had questions about increased trap theft and the difficulties of enforcement, as well as whether the signs were “littering.” ODFW staff recommends not making the change to post signs.
“They can put these deadly devices out there that constitute a known risk and a known safety hazard, and they call signs littering,” Beckstead says.
He says, “Hopefully the commission will heed their statutory mandate and make a decision that is balanced,” adding that the staff recommendations are “completely in favor of the trappers, letting a small minority put all of Oregon at risk.”