Public Outrage Over the Trapping Deaths of the Cardenas’s Three St Bernards is Calling for Trapping Reform in Casper, WY.
Ken Ball was walking with his two yellow Labrador retrievers in the “boonies” of Natrona County on Sunday when one of his dogs put its head through a loop. Ball looked down, quickly grabbed the leash, and pulled his dog away.
It was a snare trap.
Ball had never seen one before, but he knew what it was thanks to the Cardenas family, whose three St. Bernard dogs were killed last week by legal snares at the base of Casper Mountain, within a mile of their home.
“If it hadn’t been for their story, I probably wouldn’t have known what was going on,” Ball said.
Even though Ball was far from a residential area, his close call echoes the lack of awareness about trapping in Casper and across the state. The Cardenas family went public with their story to gain awareness, and now, they are pushing for a rule change.
“My family and I, we are not against trapping, we are not trying to ban it,” said Savannah Cardenas, the 20-year-old daughter who watched two of her dogs be trapped and killed by snares. “Now that we’ve seen what can be done, we would support regulations being changed and updated to help keep people safe.”
Trapping is regulated, with rules governing the types of traps you can use and areas where you can use them. The hunting method is legal anywhere on public land, meaning hiking trails or areas near homes are fair game. However, there are no rules mandating signs in areas that are being trapped.
“The traps that killed my dogs were less than a mile from my house,” Savannah said. “Maybe a notice, if you are going to be trapping close to a neighborhood, maybe let the people in that neighborhood know so they can keep their children safe.”
Ryan Voelker has been a trapper for 20 years in Newcastle. He used to be the vice president of the Wyoming State Trappers Association. Like most in the trapping community, he’s aware of the incident that occurred to the Cardenas family.
Voelker does not know the man who set the snares that killed the three St. Bernards, but he did voice his concern for the trapper’s tactics.
“(The trapper) didn’t do anything (legally) wrong, but it’s more of an ethical situation,” Voelker said. “If you’re walking down a trail and you see dog tracks, most trappers aren’t going to put traps there.
“If they are that close to a house and they know there are pets, and it’s federal land but nobody knows you’re in there, 90 percent of trappers would not set in those areas.”
Voelker has spoken with other members of the trapping community. The main consensus is that something is “probably going to have to change” as a result of this incident. He does not want to see the trapping community lose any of its rights, but he would not oppose changes to regulations to prevent a similar incident.
“I think signage would be a good place to start,” he said. “If you’re (within a certain distance) to any housing, or anything like that, I wouldn’t have an issue with signage in there.”
Lisa Robertson agrees. She is president of Wyoming Untrapped, an organization she helped found two years ago to push for reforms in the state’s trapping regulations. She has spoken to many families that lost pets due to trapping, but has never heard a story like that of the Cardenas family.
“If there’s an area that can’t be closed (to trapping), at least let the public know that traps are in the area, to be aware,” she said. “If you look at the area where these dogs are trapped and killed, it’s too close to neighborhoods.
“We don’t know what too close is. We don’t know what that definition should be. But we should determine that definition and let the public know what it is.”
For trapping regulations to be changed, they must go through the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Public commenting for furbearer trapping is a three-year cycle, and it just so happens that 2015 is the next open period.
“If we had changes (to the regulations), it would be changed to the next trapping season, which would be next fall,” said Brian Olsen, Casper region wildlife supervisor at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
If trapping regulations were to be changed, letters and comments to the Game and Fish Department is the next step in the process – a standard protocol for any regulation change within the department.
If people send letters, the Game and Fish Department will use those comments, along with its own, to decide whether to draft a change to the regulation. If it does make revisions, there will be a formal period for the public to make comments on the changes, and then they would go in front of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission for a decision in July or September of next year.
“Any letters that we receive now will help us draft that regulation,” said Janet Milek, public information specialist at the department. “Any letters that are received (after the changes) will then be seen by the commission in the decision-making process.”
If you would like to write a letter, address it to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Attn. Regulations, 3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY, 82604.
“It takes something like this to come up (for a discussion to occur),” Olsen said. “Unawareness is what it comes down to. And then getting both parties in the same room by writing letters and finding out a compromise in how we can make things work.”
3030 Energy Lane
Casper, WY, 82604.RICHARD KLOUDA – President – District #7
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Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner
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