By JANE NORDBERG, Gazette Writer
CHASSELL - Matt Kiilunen is an angry man.
Kiilunen, an avid hunter, lost his rare Bernese Swiss hound, Shiela,
to an illegal snare Nov. 30.
The Chassell sportsman has offered a reward for any knowledge regarding
Kiilunen said he placed Shiela and two other hounds, Libby and Aina,
in an enclosed running pen Nov. 29 on his 14-acre property near Big
Traverse. When he returned later in the evening, he found the pen
empty and evidence a coyote had dug into the pen.
"The spoils were outside of the fence," Kiilunen said. "I
knew the dogs were smart enough to get out of the same hole the coyote
had dug to get in."
Although all of the dogs had tracking collars, Kiilunen found that
he had charged the directional finder with the incorrect charger.
As he traveled towards Gay, the batteries in the finder went dead.
"My biggest fear was that the dogs would be eaten by wolves," he
said. "I never leave my dogs out, but I had no choice. I was
never going to find them in that big bush."
After charging the finder overnight, Kiilunen resumed his search
the next morning. While traveling on Coal Dock Road toward Gay, Shiela
crossed the road in front of him. Libby and Aina followed, and responded
to Kiilunen's requests to get into the truck.
Intending to cut Shiela off at the Gay-Lake Linden Road, Kiilunen
continued on, but the directional finder indicated Shiela was back
in the area he had just left.
"I heard barking in the distance, and knew she couldn't be
more than a hundred yards from me," Kiilunen said. "Then
the barking changed to a more muffled cry. That is when she was suffocating."
When Kiilunen found the dog, she had been killed in a conibear-type
trap, designed to choke a coyote in a wire lasso. Although she was
already dead, he said, she was still warm.
Although snare trapping is legal in Michigan, the trap in question
was illegal on a number of counts. The snare was placed outside of
the legal coyote trapping season of Jan. 1 through March 1, and was
set on commercial forest land. Snares are only legal on private land,
according to the Michigan Hunting and Trapping Guide, which delineates
Department of Natural Resources regulations.
The snare also failed to contain a breakaway locking system, or
any identification as to its owner.
Matt Eberly, a Michigan DNR conservation officer, inspected the
device on-site and tagged it for evidence. The incident remains under
Kiilunen is offering a $1,000 reward through the Keweenaw County
Sheriff's Office for information leading to the arrest and conviction
of the trapper who set the snare. Sheriff Ron Lahti informed Kiilunen
recently that although people have responded to the request, they
are more concerned about the way trappers have been portrayed.
"Technically, a snare without any identification is a poacher,
not a legitimate trapper," Kiilunen said.
Having hunted moose, rabbit and waterfowl in both the U.S. and elsewhere
in the world, Kiilunen admits to a variety of hunting techniques.
But there are those who don't follow the same rules, he said.
"At least when I hunt, I bring back something I'm going to
eat," he said. "I'm not just out there shooting and letting
something rot, or just the sport of watching it die."
Kiilunen said he understands the majority of trappers adhere to
regulations, but the use of snares and conibear-type traps is inhumane,
he said, because the animal slowly suffocates until the trapper arrives
to club it to its death.
Jane Nordberg/Daily Mining Gazette