Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
February 2006

Sharing the Trails With Trappers

By Rley Woodford
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Pete Buist, narrator of the new video "Sharing Alaska's Trails," during the taping. Photo by Keith Bayha.

No one wants to see a dog caught in a trap intended for a marten or a wolf. But it happens every year.

Many of Alaska’s communities are adjacent to prime wildlife habitat. Trappers are drawn to these areas, as are dog walkers, snowmachine riders and hikers. Some residents close to these areas allow pets to roam free, and pets sometimes wind up in traps.

To address this issue, the Alaska Trappers Association has produced a new 30-minute video, “Sharing Alaska's Trails.”

“We want to be proactive and constructive about this,” said Steve Davila, past president of the ATA. “This is part of our effort to eliminate or reduce the risk of pets getting caught, and conflicts on traplines.”

Veteran Fairbanks trapper Pete Buist is the narrator on the video. Buist, a hunting guide and former state game board member, is also a former president of the ATA. Buist has trapped for 40 years, and for 20 years he used a dog team to tend his trap line.

The video doesn’t show dogs caught in traps, or feature any footage that pet lovers might consider disturbing. It doesn’t promote trapping, but deals with the practicalities of sharing the trails.

“If you're of a mind that trapping is just a nasty business and has no place in modern society, we are not here to try to change your mind,” Buist says in the opening. “Because no matter what laws and ordinances our government passes, there will always be irresponsible pet owners and irresponsible trappers and where these two low-life forms clash, we unfortunately end up with dogs in traps or snares.”

“The content was largely dictated by some of the comments we’ve heard over the years from people who have had dogs and cats caught,” Davila said.

The video highlights signs that a dog walker might see if he or she was near a trap line, such as a bird wing fluttering from a pole, survey tape or flagging and piles of bait. Trappers sometimes post notices alerting others to the presence of their line.

“Sharing Alaska’s Trails” also features Buist going over different types of traps and snares and how to release dogs from those traps. He also offers suggestions for subduing and handling dogs in traps.

“He demonstrates how to open them up, how the locks function on snares, diagrams of traps and what a set might look like,” Davila said. A ‘set’ refers to a set trap.

“It’s primarily directed at folks with dogs, but we talk about shared trail use and other issues,” said ATA vice president Randy Zarnke. Zarnke said trappers targeting wolves will sometimes cut a trail and set wolf traps in the trail. “If recreational snow machine riders ride down that trail, that will put the traps out of commission.”

“It’s good for folks who are snowmachining to recognize that they are on a trapline, as opposed to just any other trail,” Davila said.

The trapper's association spent about $7,000 to get the video made. A small Anchorage-based firm produced the video, Davila said.

The video grew out of trapping-awareness seminars the ATA has delivered in various Alaska communities. As time progressed, it became apparent that more outreach was needed. It’s not always feasible to have a warm body in place to speak to groups in Alaska’s far-flung communities, Davila said.

Zarnke said the video is circulating. Some groups request that an ATA representative show the video, then answer questions, and others just want the DVD. Zarnke recently showed the DVD and then spoke to a group affiliated with Alyeska pipeline service.

“It was well received and they asked intelligent questions,” he said. “If anyone who wants to view this wants a warm body there to answer questions afterward, we’ll try to make that happen.”

The trappers association had 50 copies of the DVD made. Anyone wishing to request a seminar from the trappers association or to view the DVD can call 457-1774 or e-mail There is no charge for borrowing the DVD.

“We let them out for about 30 days, and ask folks to send them back to us. Folks also have the opportunity to purchase them if they want one to own,” Devila said. The DVD is for sale for $15.

Riley Woodford is a writer and editor with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Wildlife Conservation. He trapped as a teenager in Oregon but was not particularly dangerous to furbearers or dogs.

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