Hunting Accident File > Safe Trapping?: > January 9,2005


By RON TSCHIDA Chronicle Staff Writer

Just before Christmas, Big Sky resident Rick Reed was driving up Swan Creek Road off of Gallatin Canyon and let his dog, Bull, out of the car to run for exercise.

After a bit, Reed saw the dog veer off into the woods, but figured Bull would soon loop back to the road as he always had before.

But the dog didn't show up. So Reed turned around, headed back up the road and then back down again without finding Bull.

At that point, with darkness falling, Reed grabbed a flashlight, found the dog's tracks and followed them into the woods. A short distance in, he found the dog fatally caught in a snare trap. Reed retrieved an axe from his truck and cut the snare as quickly as he could but it was too late.

"I hunt and I fish for a living," said Reed, who grew up in Wyoming and works as a guide. "I'm not opposed to trapping. I'm opposed to irresponsible trapping, close to trailheads, close to subdivisions."

The trapper had set his snare in a legal location, said Mick Chesterfield, a game warden with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Regulations spell out where traps can be placed near roads on public land.

While it was a legal set, Reed estimates it was less than 100 feet from the road and that's too close, he said, especially along a popular road like Swan Creek.

Reed would like to see an increased awareness and responsibility by both trappers and residents.

"People are coming into the area who are not familiar with life in the West," he said.

Newcomers need to know that hunting, fishing and trapping occurs and is legal, he said.

But trappers need to realize the area's changing fast. It doesn't make sense to trap next to popular trails, he said.

Since his dog died, Reed has learned of a couple of other instances near Big Sky where traps were set near trails, and at least one instance of a dog being caught, but not killed, this winter.

"A family should be able to take a dog for a walk on trails without having a leash," he said.

Paul Schmidt, president of the Montana Trappers Association, said the Reed's experience was unfortunate.

"I'm really sorry that happened," Schmidt said. "We try and tell the guys to stay away from areas that are heavily used. It's just common courtesy. There's lots of backcountry we can trap in."

The association conducts classes every year to teach trappers the right way to go about their business, Schmidt said. Members subscribe to a code of ethics and if a member violates that code they can be kicked out of the group, he said. If the association learns of a member breaking the law, the trapper is reported.

On the other hand, he said, pet owners need to take responsibility by keeping an eye on their pets and knowing how to release them should they be caught in a trap. FWP has brochures available that tell recreationists how to release pets from traps.

Reed said he knows some people won't understand why he's not ranting against trapping completely.

"I did find my dog dead in a trap," he said.

It was a tough time. But trapping, just like the hunting and fishing, has a long heritage, he said.

"I don't want trappers to get punched in the nose, so to speak," he said.



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