COEUR d'ALENE - The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is in the process of seeking input from stakeholder representatives to address issues surrounding trapping, according to IDFG Panhandle Regional Supervisor Chip Corsi.
Coeur d'Alene resident, avid hiker and dog lover Kathy McNelis contacted Corsi in response to two recent Press articles reporting the deaths of two family dogs who were inadvertently killed in body-gripping traps on North Idaho lands about one month apart.
"The five-foot-from-the-center-of-the-trail rule is insane and just asking for trouble. It's unconscionable not to post warning signs on publicly owned land on which the state allows trapping," McNelis told The Press.
"That (the traps) could actually be that close to a trail is stunning," McNelis added.
She said the deaths came as a huge shock, even to people who are longtime residents of the area.
Troubled by the incidents and curious about Idaho's trapping laws, McNelis emailed several questions to IDFG on Jan. 30, such as, "Why is it not mandatory to post signs on publicly owned land where traps have been set to identify their location and warn of the danger?"
"Most trappers prefer to not 'advertise' where they trap, to avoid the potential for theft from, or disturbance of, their traps," Corsi responded in an email Feb. 8. "Until very recently there has been little if any call from the public for rules requiring posting of areas where trapping is occurring. There are means of recognizing if trapping activity is occurring in an area, and IDFG is working on providing that information on our website."
Corsi stated in the email that trapping is a protected wildlife management activity in Idaho and it is in everyone's best interest that it occur in a way that minimizes the potential for conflicts with recreationists and their pets.
"With this in mind, department regional supervisors have pulled together representatives from stakeholder groups (trappers, pet owners, other outdoor recreationists) affected by this issue to develop proposals for minimizing conflicts to be forwarded to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission," Corsi said.
The commission is the gubernatorial appointed board responsible for setting Idaho's rules governing hunting, fishing and trapping. It meets about every two months and trapping rules are reviewed every two years.
Corsi told McNelis that state and national parks do not allow trapping, but it is legal on private land with permission from the landowner.
"Trapping is also allowed on most all National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands (federal lands), as well as state endowment lands and Idaho Fish and Game lands," Corsi said. "Some Fish and Game Department lands may have trapping restrictions during certain times of the year."
McNelis asked Corsi about the rule that it is not permissible to set traps within five feet of the center of a publicly maintained trail.
"This rule will be one topic among many discussed and may result in recommended changes going forward to the Fish and Game Commission," he said.
The recent accidental trapping deaths have sparked conversation in the community, online forums and letters to the editor. Longtime Coeur d'Alene resident Sue Spafford hikes with her blue heeler Scout and her daughter and grandkids in areas such as Mineral Ridge and Chilco Mountain. She said she was horrified when she heard the news about the domestic dog trappings.
"Having a dog means I can go out. I find that otherwise I probably wouldn't," she said. "A lot of times there isn't anyone else who wants to go for a hike. You'll always have your friend ... I can't even imagine the poor people who had to contend with that."
Spafford said hikers have a tendency to let dogs off leashes when they're out in the middle of the woods, and it's a natural thing for kids and dogs to wander. She said she thinks its kind of shocking that just a few people can hold other peoples' personal liberties hostage, but she understands that Idaho is a place where people come to hunt and recreate outdoors.
"I always thought if you were going to find traps, they'd be way out in the middle of nowhere, not close in, where people were," she said. "I think it's important that everybody is aware they're out there ... it's kind of nerve-wracking to think there could be something under the bushes."
Phil Cooper with IDFG said the group of stakeholder representatives will be meeting in the near future. The commission will be meeting March 19 and 20 in Boise. Info: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/