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Kayaker Has Close Call With Animal Trap on Shoreline

Hungry Horse Reservoir, Montana

December 18, 2017 at 5:39 pm | By PATRICK REILLY Daily Inter Lake

A local kayakers’ group is proceeding with more caution after one of its members got her foot caught in a shoreline animal trap.

On Dec. 8, five members of Flathead Paddlers launched sea kayaks from Emery Bay, on the north side of Hungry Horse Reservoir. After paddling up Emery Creek for a few miles, they landed on a peninsula for a break.

As they prepared to set back out, group member Deb Johnson got caught.

“We were all grabbing our stuff and heading for our boats when Deb fell with a ‘whump,’” said Flathead Paddlers president Anne Clark. “When we turned to tease or help her, we could see that her foot was caught in a trap.”

In an email to the Daily Inter Lake, Clark recalled that “Deb had fallen stretched out, head down, with her leg and the trap uphill…The toe of her rubber boot was stuck in the trap, with one of its sharp points piercing it.”

Clark added that the point had missed Johnson’s toes, and that she was able to wriggle out of her boot. “It took two men and a pry stick and some difficulty to open the jaws of the trap to retrieve her boot.”

She described the trap as being anchored by a long chain. Another group member, Tim Light, examined it. “On quick exam, he did not see any markings on it.”

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks requires traps to be marked with the owner’s licensing information.

Dillon Tabish, the wildlife agency’s Information and Education Program Manager, said that wardens returned to the area Dec. 12 to investigate.

“Once they arrived at the location they discovered that the trap had, in fact, been removed,” making it impossible to determine whether it had been set according to regulations.

However, he said that “this would in fact be a legal location to trap, pending all other regulations were followed.”

He said that the investigation is “essentially closed.”

While Tabish described this accident as “uncommon,” he urged the public to be aware that it is “the heart of trapping season, so to speak, and that there could be incidents like that one.”

Flathead Paddlers’ members are heeding that message.

“We feel it necessary to modify our emergency prep now,” Clark explained, saying that the group will bring a hacksaw and/or prybar on future journeys.

“Maybe having something like that is necessary in wilderness travel.”

For information about trapping, or to report problems with traps or further details about this case, contact Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at (406)752-5501. Visit the agency’s website,, for trapping regulations and information.

Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at, or at 758-4407.

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This story could have had a serious outcome. If the trap was a conibear, the person would have needed previous practice to release, if at all, and should carry the proper tools to release during frigid winter conditions. Know what to do by downloading our Trap Safety Brochure:

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