STAR VALLEY, WYO – It was last weekend. Christy Stewart was with family walking her dog up Wickiup Knoll Trail outside of Afton same as she’d done almost every day for the past four years. Her dog, a 3-year-old Pyrenees named “Sage,” practically grew up on that run.
On Sunday, Sage died on that trail.
Out of sight for just minutes, the dog caught a scent of fresh meat used to bait a bobcat snare. It didn’t take long. Sage suffocated, hung in a trap just 20 feet off the trail.
Afton Game Warden James Hobbs investigated the incident and reported the trap, baited using a cubby set, was legal. It was not signed in any way that Stewart noticed, and that was her main complaint.
“To me, it’s common sense of not setting a snare so close to a popular recreation sight that would have avoided this nightmare. We all have our rights but there has to be a better way of avoiding senseless injury or death. Warning signs of “TRAPPING IN AREA” would be a good start,” Stewart said.
Stewart added that she wasn’t against trapping, per se, and is not interested in seeing laws changed in that regard. She just wants a heads up on any ongoing trapping so she or any other dog owner could be made aware.
“Nobody deserves a heartache like I have,” she said.
Trappers sometimes do not like to sign their traps for fear of vandalism from members of the public unsympathetic to the practice. Others don’t like to advertise where their traps are set to other trappers or opportunistic fur-gatherers.
Lisa Robertson formed the advocacy group Wyoming Untrapped in 2012. WU is dedicated to creating a safe and humane environment for people, pets and wildlife through education, trapping regulation reform and compassionate conservation. The organization keeps the only statewide database of pet/trap conflicts.
WU has documented an escalation in incidents since fur prices began rising a few years ago. Recently, WU reported several trapping alerts in the last two months, including another snare trapping in Star Valley up Strawberry Canyon where a dog almost suffocated. Reports of traps near popular trails have also been reported in Shell and Ten Sleep.
“Traps are indiscriminate and deadly, causing pain and suffering to those who lose a beloved friend and family member,” Robertson posted on WU’s Facebook site.
With legal traps set so close to popular trails and little to no signage, and considering many dogs are allowed off-leash on the trails, Robertson said, “Basically, there are no safe areas for the public.”