A family pet, killed by a snare set in one of the local wildlife management areas, has the family wondering whether the traps should be legal on public lands.
Last Sunday, Elizabeth Berge of Gering, along with her uncle and grandmother, were hiking near the Wildcat Hills. Elizabeth let her dog, Jupiter, off leash to run around. And when the dog didn’t return, she started searching. Coming over a ridge, she saw the dog, caught in a snare trap.
Elizabeth’s uncle, John Berge, took a closer look and discovered the Border collie mix dog’s neck had been broken in the trap. Snare traps, which use a cable or wire noose to catch wild non-game animals, are commonly used and inexpensive to set. Consequently, they can often be left unmonitored and unchecked.
According to Nebraska Game and Parks Commission documents, the goal of their furbearing program, which regulates trapping of non-game animals, is to “manage furbearer populations and their use and control in a fashion that maximizes diversity and consumptive and non-consumptive opportunities while minimizing property damage and negative impacts on habitat and other wildlife.”
Through the use of snares, the state’s furbearing program is intended to control the population of non-game wild animals such as foxes, beavers and skunks. However, other animals can also get trapped, such as pets and domesticated animals. This has led to widespread criticism from animal welfare groups.
Snares aren’t allowed to be set until the upland bird season on Jan. 31 because hunting dogs are used during that time. But the particular trap that killed Elizabeth’s dog was placed 20 feet from a foot trail.
Although signs are posted at the wildlife management areas to warn the public about hunters, the Berges said they didn’t see any signs warning about traps. And that left John Berge wondering whether the traps should be legal on public lands, where people could bring their children or pets.
Sam Wilson, furbearing and carnivore program manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said he was aware of the incident, which he occurred in an open field and waters area. “These areas are private property where the Commission has a contract with the owner to allow access to people who hunt, trap and fish,” he said. “Within these areas, we follow the same general rules and regulations for trapping that are required for Commission owned properties, like wildlife management areas.”
Wilson added the Game and Parks Commission provides signs that designate open field and waters areas. They also publish a public access atlas that shows every area in the state where these contracts are in place.
Elizabeth said she had just moved back into the area and her dog had accompanied her in all her travels. The two of them had hiked the trails of numerous local outdoor areas.
Still broken up over the loss of her dog, Jupiter, she said if landowners allow access to their land for hunting and fishing, they should post it so hikers know of the potential danger.
“There was a parking lot where we hiked, so it was accessible,” she said. “I thought it would be safe to go hiking there.”
The family has contacted representatives from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission about the incident. They will also contact state senators and other officials over whether a change in state law is needed to address the issue.