Leaving the truck just off China Hat Road, we walked up a side road along a low ridge.
Not more than 10 minutes from the truck, I heard my Airedale vocalize, followed by
several coyote howls. I whistled to bring the dog back to me, but she didn’t come
in like she usually does when coyotes are around. I kept walking and whistling, and
in a few minutes circled back to the area I had heard her call from. She was sitting
under a small tree with her right front paw caught in a leg hold trap. As I got up
to her, I could see the area was trampled, blood-stained and littered with bird feathers.
I’ve never used a trap, nor had I studied the mechanism. It took me several minutes
to get the trap released from my dog’s toes. She was panicked and struggling, trying
to get out of the trap and get under me for comfort. I finally got her out of the
trap, then the damn thing closed on my glove, causing more struggle. My dog took
off, heading back to the truck. I followed, and we drove straight to the vet.
It was early in the morning, before normal office hours, and the vet kindly came
in early to see Kona. Three vet visits and $485 (and counting) later, Kona is gimping
around on a bandaged paw, and I am left contemplating.
It is perfectly legal to use leg hold traps, among other trap types and snares, in
Oregon on public land. The trapper must pass a test, buy a license and report his
or her take. I called ODFW to inquire about trapping and was informed that I had
better not have in any way damaged the traps or the trap set, because that was against
the law. I didn’t; I was in a hurry to get Kona’s bleeding stopped. There is no requirement
to mark or otherwise inform other users of the forest about the presence of traps.
Indeed, trap sets are baited, either with scent or food, to attract whatever is in
the vicinity. Leg hold traps and trap sets are indiscriminate in the extreme. Anything
from birds to canines, from game animals to “vermin,” is caught. The trapper’s motivation
is either to control populations of predators such as coyotes, or “nuisance” animals,
or financial, or both. A coyote pelt brings about $25. Let’s see, that’s about 19
pelts to pay my vet bill. The ODFW also informed me that the trapper has no responsibility
to reimburse me for my vet bill. Nor would the department tell me who the trapper
Trapping information sources discuss the ethics of this practice. Some trapping Web
sites claim that leg hold traps are humane restraint devices. While they certainly
are restraint devices, their humanity escapes me. Any creature, be it wild or domestic,
caught in such a device must experience a terror hard to understand. Imagine steel
bars snapping shut on your hand, held tight by springs so strong I, untrapped, could
barely get the bars open. Imagine sitting there in the snow, tugging on the trap
trying to pull free, in the zero-degree weather, waiting perhaps 24 hours for the
friendly trapper to arrive to finally put you out of your misery, if you haven’t
frozen to death yet.
Leg hold traps have been debated in Oregon elections multiple times in the past.
My vote has changed. Leg hold traps are just plain cruel. Please get over the image
of the hardy trapper snowshoeing miles in the wilderness to check his trap line.
This guy drove his car about a quarter-mile up a forest service road, stopped, and
walked 30 or 40 yards up a short hill to set his traps. I followed his tracks from
the trap set down the hill to the road as we left the area. Trapping may be a reasonable
management tool for wildlife populations, but leg hold traps are not reasonable in