The Board of Game this week decided against proposals that would’ve restricted trapping near trails and campgrounds in portions of the Kenai Peninsula. While our hearts go out to anyone who has had a pet injured or killed in a trap, we think the board made a reasonable decision in this case.
The proposals from the Cooper Landing-based Committee for Safe Public Lands and Trails would have eliminated trapping entirely in certain areas around Seward, Moose Pass and Cooper Landing, and forced trappers to move at least 250 feet back from several trails in the area.
Committee members say they approached the Alaska Trappers Association to begin a dialogue to seek a non-regulatory solution; representatives from the trappers association say they made a good faith effort by posting signs that caution both trappers and pet owners.
While we agree that trappers should not set traps in areas where they are likely to catch something other than the target species — pets included — we also agree with the board that pet owners hiking with their dogs in areas where the trapping season is open need to take responsibility for their dog’s safety. While there is no leash law on trails, Chugach National Forest posts recommendations on its website that dogs be under control or on a leash during trapping season, from Nov. 10-March 31. A dog 200 feet from the trail would have to be exceptionally well trained to still be under voice control. What’s more, there are dangers other than traps or snares — dogs galumphing through the woods run the risk of encounters with all sorts of wildlife, among other things.
That said, we hope trappers use an abundance of caution when operating in areas with high public use to minimize conflict. It’s easy to vilify trappers when dogs are caught up in a trap just a few feet from a trail, and with a growing population and changing recreation trends, there are more people accessing the peninsula’s trails year-round. State regulations call for trappers to act responsibly, but don’t provide a specific definition, for example, of where it’s appropriate to set traps in relation to recreational trails or campgrounds. Signs such as those posted by the trappers association seem a reasonable step to alerting trail users of the presence of traps, and according to game board members, they have been used in conjunction with good communication between users to mitigate conflicts.
We encourage the dialogue between trappers and other resource users to continue, regardless of the recent Board of Game decision. Understanding and empathy on all sides are key to ensuring that everyone is able to continue to enjoy access to the Kenai Peninsula’s wild places.