Learn to avoid traps on Chugach trails

Morse: Trappers can help by setting traps at least a quarter mile off the trail

When traveling on winter trails in Chugach National Forest, particularly in years when snowfall is abundant, hikers should be very cautious about going beyond areas where roads are plowed, to avoid getting themselves or their pets caught in traps, a veteran U.S. Forest Service official advises.

“This is probably the year to be very cautious about going beyond the plowed section,” said Andy Morse, the Forest Service law enforcement officer assigned to Cordova. “Right now, because of the amount of snow, the Copper River Highway is only plowed to the landfill, so most of the trails are inaccessible without snowmachines,” he said.

Many public lands in Alaska, including Chugach National Forest, are open for trapping, and also popular with hikers, bikers, snowmobile drivers, and their pets, which is why the Forest Service advises pet owners to exercise caution with pets in these areas.

“You need to have your dog under control,” said Morse, himself a recreational trapper, who takes his five-year twins along at times when trapping. “Most dogs in national forests are off lease and it doesn’t seem to be a problem.”  I also have a retriever,” he said. “My dog is very important to me. And I like recreational trapping, so I understand it from both perspectives,” he said.

Trappers, who are out there in all seasons, can help by setting their traps at least a quarter mile off of the trail system, and those out recreating can help by staying on the trail, he said. 

If it’s not a designated trail, very likely very likely that someone’s trapping there. Typically they check those traps every couple of days.”

Morse recommends that those hiking on the trail system carry in their backpacks a pair of trap setters so if their pet should get caught in a trap they can quickly release the trap and rescue their pet, as some of these traps need to be released very quickly to save the pet’s life.  This equipment is available for purchase at trapper supply and sports stores.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game website offers a lot of information on sharing the trails, including a new brochure and videos on how to release pets from traps and snares. The brochure “Trap Safety for Pet Owners,” produced by ADF&G and the Alaska Trappers Association, is online here.

The idea of producing the video grew out of trapping awareness seminars the ATA has delivered in various Alaska communities, when it became apparent that more outreach was needed, according to Steve Davilla, past president of ATA.

ADF&G has also developed a series of short videos on how to release pets from specific kinds of traps, including a coilspring foot-hold trap, longspring foot-hold trap, jump trap and snare. Find them online at https://vimeo.com/84344143 and https://vimeo.com/84344144.