Trapping season started Monday in Interior Alaska and runs through the winter. Since recreational trails sometimes serve as traplines, both pet owners and trappers should use precaution and be cognizant of the other.

It is not unheard of for pets to inadvertently get caught in traps near Fairbanks. “I don’t want to say it’s an every year thing,” Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologist Hollis said, “but it happens.” And when it does happen, it can be the fault of either or both parties, Hollis added. It could be that the pet owner was not paying attention to the trail, or that the trapper placed the trap in a bad location.

There are a few precautions people can take to keep their pets safe. When walking on an unfamiliar trail, Hollis said it is good practice to keep animals leashed. If a trail appears well-used but is not a common hiking or skiing path, be aware that you could be on a trapline. There are typically a few indicators that a trail is being used for trapping. Pet owners should look for signs that say “trapline” as well as markers that designate where traps are located.

It is legal to trap on most state-owned land outside of city limits. There are no rules regarding how far from a trail a trap needs to be set, Hollis explained, “because it is hard to make blanket rules.” However, trappers should use good judgement when determining where to palace their traps. According to Hollis, trappers should avoid setting traps near popular trials, places people commonly walk with dogs, and homes.

The Alaska Trappers Association issued a statement with a set of recommendations for trappers. The organization urges trappers to use caution when setting traps near high public use areas, such as trail-heads, rest areas and turnouts.

Specifically, the ATA recommends that traps and snares set within 150 feet of such areas are either under ice, submerged, enclosed (four inch or less opening) or elevated four feet above ground or snow level. According to the ATA, trappers also should use caution when using call lures or bait in the vicinity of these areas, as the smell can attract dogs.

“... It is ultimately the individual trapper’s responsibility to ensure the reduction of conflicts with other trail users. We hope the other trail users will extend that courtesy to trappers in return,” the resolution reads. According to the ATA, the “primary cause of conflicts” between trappers and other trail users is loose dogs and urged local governments to adopt leash laws.

The good news for pet owners is that a trap is not necessarily a death sentence for a pet. If a dog does get caught, it is possible to remove it without injury, according to ADF&G.

For pet owners, the most important thing is to be familiar with traps and how to release them, said Tony Hollis. Trap knowledge “might help you save your dog,” Hollis added.

So people can familiarize themselves with traps, ADF&G produced a series of short videos that demonstrate how to remove pets from several different types of common traps. The clips are available at

Contact reporter Maisie Thomas at 907-459-7544 or

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