It's a Trap!


For most Hunters there is no bigger fear than having their dog stuck in a trap. Unfortunately, some of us share hunting areas with trappers. I have one area I hunt in particular where traps are not uncommon. I avoid that area but it opens my eyes every time I hear about someone finding one. Most of us that hunt state lands will only ever run into a leg hold trap which is fairly easy to free a dog from and hopefully, will not cause permanent or irreversible damage.

However, the threat exists of encountering the dreaded body traps, otherwise known as conibears. The conifer 220 trap is a nasty beast that can certainly kill a dog in the right circumstances. Luckily for those of us not running hounds, we are close enough to the dogs that we should be able to free them. The caveat is that we should all be educated on how to free our animals from these traps should we be unfortunate enough to have the need. 
There are a few basic tools every bird dogger should have handy in case this happens....
Zip Ties
Short Nose Cable Cutters
Short Nose CABLE cutters

The zip ties and rope easily replace one another yet you should find someone who has a few traps and practise using both of them to see which method you prefer. I like the zip ties personally and carry a handful of 24 inch 125lb zip ties. They will come in handy if you run into a big long spring-foothold trap as well A lot of people prefer the rope or a leash when it comes to the conibears. Cable cutters should be carried in the event you run into a snare and I would also use them to cut traps free from their tethers. Now lets discuss removing our pups from the different traps. 

Leg hold traps are fairly straight forward. They function when the animal steps onto a pressure plate which releases the jaws from the springs and slams them shut. Most legs hold these days are padded but its possible you can run into a few that are not. There is a lever on each side of the trap that must be depressed to open the trap. The best way to do this is to put one foot on each of the levers and press down into them until they open enough for the dog to free its foot. Smaller traps may have only one lever that you can squeeze open with your hand. Another preferred method is to position the dog so you can pick up the trap, sit down and place the underside of the trap on the bottom of your boot, than reach out and pull against both levers and the dog's leg will pull free.
Single Long Spring Foot Trap
Double Long Spring Foot Trap
Coil Spring Foot Trap

I personally feel like everyone should play with these to get a good feel for how to get them open quickly. On a body trap there will be a spring on each side. Smaller traps or old traps can be compressed with your hands but its a really good idea to have a rope or zip ties on hand in case you run into a bigger trap. To open these traps you start on one side and compress the spring. The spring will have a locking lever that you rotate into place to hold the spring closed. Once you have done this rotate the trap if possible to get pressure off the dog's windpipe so that it can breathe. Than you move to the other side and repeat the process after which the trap will free and you can wiggle the dog free. To use the zip ties or rope on a heavy trap its simple enough. In the photo below you can see that each spring has a ring on each end near the main body of the trap. Slide the zip tie through each one and connect it, than cinch it shut. Do this on both sides. If using a rope, double it or go through the rings twice. Stand on one end of the rope and pull the other until the spring compresses. Once done you flip the locking lever into place.
Body Trap with the springs open
Body trap with the springs closed

After writing this I found this great video from Idaho fish and game that clearly goes into how to release each type of trap. You really should check it out.

A great video of a good samaritan releasing a dog from a foot trap

This video is hard to watch but shows a dog who actually has his head stuck in a conibear being released from the trap.

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