COEUR d'ALENE - The day after Christmas was a sad one for Pat Boland and his family.
Their 4-year-old black lab, Billi, was killed in a body-gripping trap. The incident occurred when Boland's wife, Kim, took the dog running with her on state endowment lands near their home in the Cougar Gulch area.
"My wife heard a horrible yelp and called me for help," Pat said.
Billi was caught in a conibear trap, which quickly killed her.
"Any animal could have walked into that trap," Pat told The Press. "I have always thought of my wife and the dogs' safety when she runs. They all wore orange during hunting season and my wife carries a firearm and a cell phone, but it never occurred to me someone would have a 'kill trap' set."
The trap snapped on Billi's neck and its grip was so tight Pat had to ask a friend to help him unlatch the springs to release her body.
"I've done a little bit of research and these traps are designed to kill," Pat said. "If it was a foot trap, she'd be alive today."
Pat reported the incident to Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer Rob Morris, who contacted the owner of the trap. That particular trap, which was removed, was baited to catch a bobcat.
"It's a difficult situation because we have areas where people are lawfully trapping," Morris said.
He said the trapper, whose name was not released, was not in any violation of Idaho's fish and game laws. The trap included the owner's identification, it was adequate distance from a maintained public trail and the trapper was legally licensed.
"It's unfortunate that this particular incident happened, because I'm a dog lover as well," Morris said. "It was just a bad set of circumstances where the dog was able to catch wind of the bait and put her head in."
A body-gripping/conibear trap consists of metal rectangles hinged together midway to open and close like scissors. They are meant to bring a swift death to the animal by snapping on its spinal column at the base of the skull.
"Our family has lost a good friend," Pat said. "We miss the silly things she would do on a daily basis, bouncing up and down when I got home, then dropping a ball at my feet to play or finding the towels she had dragged away from the laundry room for something soft to lay on. We miss that positive energy in our home."
Because of this year's lack of snow, Morris said people are recreating in areas where they wouldn't normally have access. Morris encourages people to keep their dogs on leashes and be cognizant of their surroundings.
"People just need to be aware this time of year because late fall and early winter is when people are trapping," he said.
Winter is when fur-bearing animals such as bobcats have full coats. Morris said there's a high demand for animal pelts as the prices have risen, and almost all trappers in North Idaho are seeking fur. People should also be aware that trappers do not have to post signs in areas where traps are set.
"Nothing can bring my dog back," Pat said. "I just don't want anybody else's dog to get hurt."
Pat said he was clear that he has nothing against hunters. He is a lifelong hunter who has a neutral stance on trapping. He is just hoping Billi's death can help bring awareness to the danger that traps pose to pets, and he said he doesn't really see a need for a "kill trap" on public lands that are frequently used by people and their domestic animals.
"I want other outdoor users to be aware of this danger," he said. "I will never feel the same about walking my dogs in the woods and that is sad."