Bringing Light to an Under-Exposed Issue
WU volunteers were out on the trailhead this past weekend, handing out public comment forms and collecting petition signatures. Even though it was raining, there were a handful of local dog owners getting their four-leggeds out for exercise.
Most of the dog owners we talked to were well informed. Many had heard about the issue, many knew a friend whose dog had been trapped, and one group we talked to had their own dog trapped not long ago. Unsurprisingly, we had not heard of this particular incident. There is no requirement for trappers to report, and when incidents are reported to Wyoming Game and Fish (usually by dog owners themselves), the department does not keep an official or public record of the report.
How many more stories of dogs being trapped are out there?
Wyoming Untrapped has launched a new, interactive web map that displays the dog trapping incidents we know about, as well as incidents of concern and furbearer harvest statistics.
One of the interesting things about the map is that it is apparent that the dog trapping incidents we know about are concentrated in the Teton County area. Teton County has extremely high trail use. Jackson, Wilson, and the surrounding towns are urban areas surrounded by public lands. Locals love using public lands to hike, bike, snowshoe, ski, and otherwise enjoy the outdoors- often with their pet at heel. Because traps can be set directly on trails and roads (with the only exception being that quick-kill traps cannot be set within 30 feet of roads), and because trapping activity is increasing in Teton County, trapping incidents are happening here and will continue to happen at an increasingly greater frequency unless land and wildlife managers take preventative actions now.
Truly, Teton County needs trapping setbacks now. The few incidents we do know about are the tip of the iceberg- more have happened, but there is no way for anyone to know about them. Trapping can happen anywhere on public lands except the National Parks and Elk Refuge- places where dogs aren’t allowed on trails anyway. Having places where user groups with the potential for conflict are separated (much like how some trails are designated for horseback riding separately from mountain biking) is simply responsible management. It’s a small change, but it could make a big difference in mitigating the conflicts this map illustrates.
If you or someone you know has had a pet affected by trapping, please share that story to help us raise awareness. Perhaps sharing your story will help prevent it from happening to someone else.