Local Publisher’s Pet Snagged in Trap

by jhwygirl

Lacking an identifying tag, the thing’s illegal, right?

Publisher, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of NewWest Publishing Jonathan Weber was walking his pet in his families subdivision – in the open space area owned in common with all of the homeowners – along a trail used by many when his dog got snagged in an untagged trap placed 10 feet from the trail.

Fortunately, Weber’s Norwegian elk hound is fine, save for some bruises – and the trauma inflicted upon Weber and his son.

All the more shocking is that when Weber went back to check the situation out further – once boy and dogs were back home safe – the trap had already been reset.

His report on the Thanksgiving day incident, though, brought out all sorts of utterly shocking and senseless accusations against Weber as having staged the event. While it’s not shocking – it the same tactic trapping advocates and enthusiasts, some of them from out-of-state, have done around here when we’ve mentioned other irresponsible trapping behavior – the attacks have been taken to heart, understandably so, by the Weber family who have had to experience the trauma of their family pet (and it could easily have had far tragic results) being caught in the trap.

While I get that advocates of trapping would pay attention to the story – they are currently mounting a massive effort to defeating a ballot initiative by Footloose Montana that would halt trapping on public lands here in Montana – but to accuse an award-winning journalist of having staged the event does their cause no good that I can see.

Fact is, I suspect it’s the same out-of-state interests that have trolled this site when we’ve posted about trapping in the past…none of it positive. It’s amazing to me the money that is poured into this state by out-of-state interests on a variety of issues – guns, coal, trapping are a few examples – and our state legislators listen to these lobbyists who are doing nothing more than using Montana as its pawn for its national interests. A win here chalks one more up on the map for these folks…many who parrot talking points that include ‘facts’ not even applicable here in Montana.

And aside from all that, it really bugs me how trapping advocates seem to toss aside any animal, whether it be bald eagle or threatened Canada lynx or the neighbor’s golden retriever, as something that didn’t belong there or ‘that’s the way it goes sometimes,’ defense.

Point is folks – attacking a bona-fide nationally respected journalist on his home turf of an award-winning online news media site has little chance of bringing trapping advocates the positive press they are going to need so badly. Recognizing that there are jackasses out there doing what responsible trappers would never consider is one way to move forward a reasonable dialogue regarding laws and regulations that protect both the trapping public and the general recreating public.

But defending every documented negative trapping-related incident isn’t going to get those advocates anywhere.

  1. Bruce

    Can you really be surprised when the picture of the trap made it look so obviously staged? If it was or not is pretty hard to prove but given similar staged events like this in the past the warning flags are going to go up.
    To top it off he never mentions anything about calling in the authorities to investigate this illegal trap. No, the first thing he does is publish before all the facts are in or any independent witnesses get to see anything.
    Maybe he didn’t stage it but it sure looks like he has an agenda and that doesn’t sound like a “nationally respected journalist”.

    • You missed every single talking point made in this post.

      Every. Single. One.

      • Bruce

        I addressed why trappers are suspicious of the whole incident. The talking points in the comments seem to focus mainly on name calling and I’m not going to respond to that.
        Also the dog wasn’t hurt so you can forget about all this talk of lawsuits.
        What should have been done is the guy should have let his dog out of the trap and went and called authorities. Let the law figure out who set the trap and what laws were broken. Instead it’s a race to publish so a one sided story will benefit Footloose.
        Yea. I think trappers should compromise on a few things but it is pretty hard to meet a group like footloose halfway when there comments vow to steal your equipment beat the crap out of you and ban you from use of the public land not to mention calling you a-holes, neanderthals, sadists and other more vulgar things.

        • Jim Lang

          No sane person could read that story and believe it was ‘obviously staged’.

          • klemz

            Seriously. The problem is density more than cruelty, to my mind. There are just too many people on public lands these days for this kind of selfish behavior.

            Hunting, ATV use, mountain biking… any careless carrying out of the following activities is also selfish. However, there are enough people using the public lands these days that trapping alone rises to the same level. The reason I loathe trappers is because you walk out and set this trap to fulfill your lame Davy Crockett fantasies and either don’t think or don’t care that other people might want to use that land.

            Even if I suspect that think you might be a monster or a sadist, that’s just conjecture (I can’t imagine why people would find trapping enjoyable). Yet, I know your a jackass if you trap on public land.

          • 120 years ago the Flatheads were picking camus near the Good Food Store and trading fur and beads down in what is now the Rosauer’s parking lot. I assume they were hunting their food somewhere in between – which, clearly, no one can legally do now.

            Using the lame-ass defense trapping advocates are putting forth, they want to be able to trap any public place they please, regardless of the proximity to development and ordinary daily human activity.

        • Pronghorn

          I don’t feel compelled to defend Footloose Montana, but this is just obvious: This is an open forum where anyone can post. So comments about stealing traps, name-calling, etc. can no more be conclusively attributed to Footloose than to the Man in the Moon. A lot of people who are not directly involved in the initiative find trapping to be a reprehensible pursuit and for differing reasons. Also, and you might consider this merely semantics, YOU are not going to be “banned from use of the public land.” But let’s recognize that this particular use creates an increasingly frequent conflict. Trap-free public lands just make sense–the vast majority of public land stakeholders should not be held hostage by a relative handful of trappers.

          And then there’s the cruelty issue.

  2. Jim Lang

    ^^^ I think you should think about returning to planet Earth.

  3. Pronghorn

    Trapping is, by its very nature, irresponsible. Traps are loaded, baited, unattended concealed weapons scattered around our public land. This might have worked 200 years ago when life was all about subsistence and no one had free time to wander the woods and backcountry with their dog for recreation, but hello, we live in a different time, yes even here in Montana.

    Trappers are doing their darnedest to hitch their wagon to the legitimacy of hunting, but come on–one hunter, one gun never left unattended, fired intentionally at one target animal vs. one trapper, tens of traps set to fire, baited and left unattended, with a “suggestion” of checking them every 48 hours? This argument even ignores the fact that many traps that have recently injured or killed companion dogs have been set in frontcountry areas of heavy foot traffic or recreational areas that get heavy visitor use, making it even more dangerous.

    And then there’s the cruelty issue. Weber’s dog might have ended up with a sore paw, but imagine the stark terror, frantic attempts to escape, the cold and dehydration and blood loss suffered by a coyote pinned by the foot for 24? 48? hours…a dog no less intelligent and feeling than someone’s domestic canine companion.

  4. klemz

    You know, you hear about these stories all the time involving dogs or endangered animals, and everyone always says “what if it was a kid.” But it never is. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if a kid did get caught in a negligently-set trap because (a) the punitive set by the jury would be off the charts, even in Montana (like x9 the actual damages) and (b) any family members there as bystanders could sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress (can’t do this with dogs).

    The most the owner could sue for now is the economic value of the dog, which is not enough to deter negligent trapping. The fines are not that much. Even if you banned trapping on public land it would be hard to enforce. So here’s my idea: ban trapping on public land by statute and, in the process, prescribe a cause of action for owners to collect for negligent infliction of emotional distress when their animal is injured by someone violating the statute. Naturally you’d have to show actual emotional harm, but based on these stories (check out the one about the Rottweiler Grizzly in the Anchorage Daily News), that shouldn’t be too hard.

  5. problembear

    might be time to spend some quality time out in the woods springing traps and spraying the trapsets with WD-40 (drives animals away and soaks into the metal- ruining it for trapping) i don’t recommend this. just sayin’………

    agree with pronghorn. there are better ways to manage wildlife that are safe for the public. it is time to step away from this primitive and stupid pastime.

    by the way- if you do the above, it is important to know what you are doing. How to find them etc….so seek expert help and knowledge- don’t go alone and don’t get caught. the laws are not on your side! laws regarding meddling with traps are pretty stiff and the people who do this are pretty primitive themselves so use extreme caution.

    • It would be illegal to fool with legally set traps as you point out, pb, and as much as a abhor the practice, the way to make the changes are to work through the legal system.

      placing a notice at trailheads or somehow marking a trail so that people know there are traps set might be a better warning, for now? Only i guess you’d have to be careful about putting the signs on public lands as there’s probably some law against that. I can’t fathom why that would tick off a trapper, given that the little critters they’re after can’t read.

      Klemz? Footloose has had its initiative to stop trapping on public lands (CI-160) certified for the 2010 election.

      • klemz

        Yeah, I know (I don’t think this is the first attempt, right?), but the point of my post is that I want it to include a mechanism that allows for, say, parents to collect for a kid’s therapy bills after the kid watches his dog suffocate in an illegal trap.

        • A criminal component isn’t necessary for a civil action, though it does help, I guess.

          In other words – is there really anything legally preventing someone like Weber searching and finding out who set this trap (remember – it wasn’t tagged and that’s required by law, pretty sure) and suing? I mean, given that it was done on the HOA common space, owned by all (and likely not officially authorized) a skilled attorney might be able to establish some sort of negligent behavior that could be held against the errant trapper.

          • klemz

            Nothing prevents him from suing, but he can only collect for the economic value of the dog before it stepped in the trap minus the economic value of the dog now. In other words, nothing. No judge or jury in the US has the authority to impose any further damages unless a statute says they can.

            A dog is property. If your lawnmower is broken by a conibear trap that your neighbor accidentally set on your back acre, you can still only collect for the value of lawnmower, even if you were really, really emotionally attached to it.

  6. …You’re right j-girl ….that would be wrong……

    I am a problem…
    Don’t listen to problembears. Ever.


  7. Somewhere in the blizzard of comments over at NewWest (111 comments at last count) is a very sensible question – what does it say about the trapping community that it doesn’t express outrage at this incident?

    I suspect that the trapper is a novice, didn’t have much experience in setting the trap (which may, or may not be new), and was dead scared about snagging a dog. But, none of that excuses the harm to the next pet that strolls along in exactly the same place.

    As long as trappers excuse this sort of behavior as just par-for-course, they can’t expect much support from the general public.

    Besides, trapping seems to be losing popularity and I would guess the average age of trappers would be about 50 … they’ll die out soon enough and we’ll all wonder why we didn’t put an end to the practice on public lands sooner.

    • while clearly anecdotal, Binky, the bald eagle caught in an illegal trap in Clinton was the victim of a trapper who had repeatedly put out illegal untagged shiny traps out. I had asked into this particular situation, and note in that post that 2 bald eagles had also been caught up. Neighbors believe it was a guy who disliked dogs.

      In another incident I wrote about – the fawn – that, too, was an illegal snare.

      Between untagged traps and non-targed species, Pronghorn’s got it exactly right – these things are like ticking timebombs or landmines scattered around our public lands.

      Binky – too – go read that story. That was no novice. The trap was reset within minutes of Weber taking his dog home.

      Frankly these traps placed so close to where the general public is recreating is the equivalent of throwing rat poison out in your back yard because you want to rid the place of mice. That type of behavior is not only irresponsible, it’s borderline sadistic.

  8. Pronghorn

    Binky sez, “I suspect that the trapper is a novice…”
    Quite possibly, and the trapper education program is voluntary. Even if it was mandatory, it would only cover those who trap so-called furbearers, since those MT trappers are the only ones required to purchase licenses. MT residents trapping predators (coyote, weasel, skunk) and nongame animals (raccoon, red fox, badger) don’t even need to purchase a license, so there’s no way to track them. BTW, a nonresident willing to cough up $250 can come to Montana and trap predators and nongame animals.

  1. 1 problembear’s tweets « Problembear’s Weblog

    […] trapping is not cool…. 4and20blackbirds.wordpress.com/2009/11/29/local-publishers-pet-snagged-in-trap/ time to ban it in MT […]

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