Danger - State biologists caution owners to keep their pets on a leash during fur-bearer trapping season Sunday, January 28, 2007
LA GRANDE -- The relatively mild snow conditions in Eastern Oregon this winter are tempting dog owners to let their pets venture off roads and trails.
But that might be a trap -- literally.
Fur-bearer trapping season is open and runs through mid-March. State wildlife officials say there's been in increase in dogs finding their way into snare and leg-hold traps meant for bobcats, coyotes and other animals.
Three dogs in Union County and one in Baker County have been caught in traps over the past month, said Leonard Erickson, a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in La Grande.
One dog died after being caught in a snare in the hills of Union County. Two dogs in Wallowa County have been trapped in the past month, said Pat Matthews, an ODFW biologist in Enterprise.
The biologists say people should keep their dogs on leashes and not let them chase deer, elk or cattle. Dogs often find traps when running off alone.
"Don't let your dog wander," said Erickson, adding that dogs are attracted to traps by bait and scents meant to lure fur bearers.
Erickson said it is often easy to tell when a dog has found a trap: "If your dog is sniffing hard and intent on one spot, call it back immediately."
Traps can be set anywhere outside city limits. Most traps in northeast Oregon put dogs at risk because they are set for bobcats and coyotes, so they are large enough to capture canines.
Leg-hold traps are less of a threat to dogs because they do not kill and are less likely to injure. The traps have a feature that prevents leg circulation from being cut off, and people can free dogs by pressing a release mechanism.
Snares, however, can suffocate a dog struggling to free itself because movement causes the trap to be drawn tighter. A dog can be released from a snare with wire cutters or by pulling it in such a way to reduce pressure.
Trapping season for bobcats runs through Feb. 28, and trapping season for all fur bearers -- such as river otters and raccoons -- ends March 15. Dogs won't be completely safe from the devices because coyote trapping is allowed year-round in Oregon. But most coyote trapping is done in the winter, when the coats of coyotes, like those of all fur bearers, are worth more.