Trapping Reform in Wyoming

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Trap Pet Release Workshop, Jackson, WY

In response to several reported dog trapping incidents in the last week, WU has received requests for a trap release workshop. We have responded by arranging a workshop for this Saturday, scheduling the date and time to also accommodate our Idaho friends.

Carter Niemeyer, author and retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator for Idaho, has graciously agreed at last minute to travel to Jackson for the workshop. He will demonstrate how to release pets from a variety of traps, using specific tools or by improvising using items such as dog leashes.

Carter will have his first memoir, “Wolfer”, and his second collection of stories, “Wolf Land”, at the event for purchase and signing.

This event is for the benefit of all dog and pet owners, and others who are exposed to traps, snares, and other killing devices littering our public trails and landscapes.






Emeritus wolfer: Be vigilant for traps
Some furbearer traps can afford pet owners plenty of time, others just a few minutes.
By Mike Koshmrl

Carter Niemeyer demonstrates how to use a leash to free a dog from a Conibear trap Friday during a workshop hosted by Wyoming Untrapped at the Teton County Library. Niemeyer, who worked for more than 30 years as a federal government trapper, showed the audience a wide range of legal traps often set on public lands.

A conference room full of onlookers gasped at the sharp, loud snap of the 330-Conibear trap setting on the upper torso of a stuffed hound dog.

The percussion of the fast-closing body gripping-style trap was serious, a violence customary for a device that’s often used to capture beavers underwater. Carter Niemeyer, a veteran federal wildlife professional who was simulating the accidental capture, emphasized the importance of taking fast action were a real dog to be in the same set of circumstances.

“Unless you’re herculean in strength, you’re going to have a hell of a time getting these to compress,” Niemeyer said at the Saturday gathering. “And if you’ve got a small dog, all bets are off what kind of shape they’ll be in just from the concussion.”

The tall, longtime trapper from Idaho, who was integral to gathering and transporting the Canadian wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone a quarter century ago, wielded a “safety gripper,” also known as a “set tool,” capable of disarming a Conibear, a device that cannot be undone intuitively.

“For speed, effectiveness and the best outcome, I would want one of these right here,” he told the crowd. “If I were God or Solomon, I would not allow this on dry land.”

Niemeyer spoke at the Teton County Library, where the advocacy group Wyoming Untrapped was holding its latest trap safety workshop. Over the years the group has convened more than a dozen such gatherings in Jackson, but also in places like Laramie, Lander, Casper, Cody, Pinedale, Rock Springs and Dubois. This past weekend’s was the best-attended yet, said Wyoming Untrapped founder Lisa Robertson, who surmised the packed room was the result of a rash of recent accidental pet trappings on the west slope of the Tetons.

“There were three incidents: one in Darby Canyon, one in Victor and one in Tetonia,” Robertson said. “All three of those dogs were taken to a vet.”

Not just in the West, but all around the country, trappers regularly encounter “non-target” wildlife in their sets. Occasionally that bycatch is pets, and as a result it’s the public, and not the trapper, who must have the skill and calm to operate devices to release their animal.

Accounting of such incidents is imprecise, and in states like Wyoming reporting of non-target species like domestic dogs is not required. There are sometimes fatal outcomes that turn into high-profile incidents, but more often dogs are caught and released unscathed or with some injuries.

Foot-hold traps, the most common for dryland furbearing species, can be left out on the landscape for up to 72 hours before they must be legally checked. Quick-kill devices like Conibears can be set without checking for up to a week.

Jackson Hole resident and regular fur trapper Mike Beres said he’s never caught a dog in 20 years of trapping in the valley. Still, he agreed with educating pet owners and the goals of the Wyoming Untrapped workshop, an event he’s attended in the past.

“The best thing you can do for your dog,” Beres said in a phone interview, “is know how to get your dog out of a trap.”

Discussion at the Wyoming Untrapped workshop turned toward regulations meant to prevent non-target trappings. Most who spoke perceived the rules to be horribly lacking, and too deferential to a historically significant outdoor pursuit that nowadays is practiced by relatively few.

“If you don’t like what’s going on, change it,” said Niemeyer, who no longer recreationally traps. “It can be done.

“You far outnumber the people who are enjoying the privilege,” he said, “I’ll tell you that.”

Beres resists more regulation, like trap-free setbacks along trails.

“The dog that gets trapped and released doesn’t make the news, but the dog that got caught when there wasn’t an owner around and killed in a snare does,” he said. “Whose fault is that? Is it the trapper that set the legal snare? Or was it the dog owner who wasn’t around?”

At the workshop Niemeyer stressed how some areas can be minefields of traps. In his 32 years as a federal trapper, he personally caught five dogs. Nowadays he no longer lets his two poodles run off-leash on public lands. If pet owners aren’t willing to make that sacrifice, he advised talking with game wardens to get a better idea of where traplines are set out, and carrying specialized tools such as the safety gripper or wire cutters.

“You’re never going to know if they’re out there,” Niemeyer said.

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Wyoming Untrapped teaches pet safety after traps catch dogs
By Billy Arnold Jackson Hole Daily Nov 21, 2019

Wyoming Untrapped Workshop
Dave Pauli demonstrates how a common snare trap works during a trap release workshop in 2016 at the Old Wilson Schoolhouse Community Center. Wyoming Untrapped will hold another trap released workshop this weekend in light of recent incidents in Idaho.


Wyoming Untrapped responded to three dog trappings in three days over the past month, the organization’s co-founder and president, Lisa Robertson, said. All three were in Idaho: one in Victor, one in Driggs and one in Tetonia.

“The phone’s ringing off the hook,” Robertson said. “This is trapping season and things pick up.”

In response to the busy stretch, Wyoming Untrapped will offer a workshop from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Teton County Library. The session will focus on trap safety for pet owners.

The event has come together — details are still being ironed out — in less than a week as the nonprofit responded to the recent incidents.

The aim, Robertson said, is to educate pet owners about regulations like those that allow traps to be set almost anywhere in Wyoming, including along trails.

Carter Niemeyer, an author and retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator for Idaho, will host a portion about what to do if a pet is trapped.

Niemeyer will show people how traps work, what kind of traps are out there and the damage they can do. He will also focus part of his presentation on showing attendees how to release some traps.

That sort of hands-on experience is key, Robertson said.

“That’s really what you need,” she said. “If you got the tools and the knowledge and you practice it and you know what to do, you’re going to handle it a lot better.”

In one of the recent incidents, Robertson said, a trapped dog bit its owner when they tried to release it. She suggested that could have been avoided by putting a jacket over its head.

The workshop aims to provide people with that sort of practical knowledge.

“There’s a lot you can do that’ll make it easier [so] that you don’t have to go through that trauma,” Robertson said.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7062 or

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