Many Vermonters love to hike, especially in the fall. It’s a great way to enjoy the beauty of our state. It is also a chance to spend time with our dogs. What some Vermonters do not know is there are hidden dangers in the woods: baited leghold and body-crushing kill traps.
Traps are used to capture animals like foxes, bobcats, beavers and others. For many trappers, this is a hobby. Unfortunately, this hobby results in animals suffering in traps for hours. Animals injure their mouths and paws as they chew at the metal jaws of the trap to free themselves. Some even chew off their own limbs trying to get free. Broken bones, lacerations, dislocations and other trauma are also common. Often, trapped animals aren’t even given a humane death. Bludgeoning, choking, drowning and stomping on the animal’s chest are all legal methods to kill trapped wildlife. If the animal is “lucky,” it is shot.
Hikers with dogs need to know a lot of public lands allow trapping. Unlike other states, there is no regulation for how far a trap must be set off a trail or recreation area. Trappers don’t need to put up any signs, so people (would) know traps are there. Traps are indiscriminate. Traps can catch your dog just as easily as it can get a coyote. Protected eagles, endangered pine martin, owls and even black bears, are unintentionally trapped in Vermont. Animals, including dogs and cats, can have painful and debilitating injuries from being trapped. Despite Fish & Wildlife Department claims, animals who are trapped accidentally are not simply released “unharmed.” Many injuries aren’t readily visible to the trapper. Some trappers admit to releasing an animal that will probably die because of their injuries.
Last year, nine dogs and two cats were reported trapped. The number is likely higher since reporting was not required. Two of the dog owners were bitten while trying to release their frantic dogs. One dog was trapped at a popular dog walking spot in Waterford. In Shaftsbury, one dog was trapped just beyond the owner’s driveway. Thanks to legislation passed last year (but opposed by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Commissioner), trappers will soon have to report when they trap a dog or cat.
If you want to protect your pet, here are some things you can do:
— Keep cats inside, for their safety and to protect wildlife from your cat.
— Keep your dog on a leash. Having your dog close protects them and wildlife, too.
— Check the area before you let your dog swim or wade. Body crushing kill traps set for beavers and other wildlife in the water can trap and kill your dog.
— Learn how to release your pet from a trap at protectourwildlifevt.org/trapping-and-pets.
— Join Protect Our Wildlife and be a wildlife advocate.
Kristen Cameron lives in Stowe.