Hunting Accident File > Safe Trapping?: > January 5,2005

Local hunter seeks info in death of dog killed in illegal snare

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 the device.

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 investigation.

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



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