Family shoots their dog stuck in wolf trap north of Stanley, Idaho

August 17, 2002


Because I couldn't contact Curt Mack or Carter Niemeyer, I didn't initially do a story on the dog in the wolf trap, but rather I put it on my news briefs page. This is a bit late, but might offer some perspective.

Family shoots dog stuck in wolf trap in recreation area. Biologists place traps along trails wolves travel on. By Pete Zimowsky. This story appeared on the front page of the Idaho Statesman (Boise) on Aug. 13. I would say the story was "hyped." The incident sparked a number of letters to the editor at the Statesman.

Despite this misfortune, which I will not comment on, most dogs are a risk and at risk in the backcountry, at least dogs that roam unleashed. Just yesterday, an outfitter with a pack string encountered a woman with three dogs on a blind curve in the Teton Wilderness (Cub Creek) near where I was backpacking. In surprise a horse kicked her (I heard knocking her out). I don't know all the details, but I do know the Teton Wilderness with all the grizzly bears, cougar, and wolves is no place for dogs. Some of my friends won't like this, but leave your dogs at home when you go to the backcountry for their safety, yours, and the wildlife!!

In the latest gray wolf progress report (August 16) Ed Bangs wrote:

An unfortunate series of events in central Idaho occurred the weekend of the 10th. Biologists were trapping for the Landmark pack (consisting of 12 wolves) as part of the routine wolf monitoring program. One (beagle) of three dogs belonging to a couple that was camping and horseback riding, was caught in a trap set for wolves. The couple released it unharmed but they were understandably upset. The field crew immediately began pulling all the remaining traps when they came across a distraught man, woman, and young child. They had been walking on an ATV trail with their dog (Queensland Heeler) and it was accidentally captured. They were unable to remove it from the trap and the man shot the dog. This all happened about 10 minutes before the biologist arrived. The dog was removed from the trap and didn’t appear to have any injuries caused by the trap. The biologist helped them bury the dog nearby. The people had been camping next to the "wolf trapping in progress" sign but reportedly didn’t see it. The Service has occasionally captured dogs in the past and although none have been even moderately injured, it is always a very difficult and highly emotional issue. The Service deeply regrets that this incident ended so tragically. In hindsight the biologists involved realize they shouldn’t have continued any trapping when people began to come into the area. They had already removed all traps along the road because of concern over conflicts but left traps set off road because the pack was still in the immediate area.

We have contacted other state and federal government wolf trappers throughout North America to learn about their experiences and suggestions and are re-evaluating the need to trap and radio-collar wolves in certain areas and protocols for trapping. We (Bangs, Meier, Fontaine, Niemeyer, and Mack) had a interagency conference call on Thursday morning to discuss trapping issues and safety. A summary of responses to our inquiry and our discussion was prepared and sent out to all agency biologists that are involved with wolf trapping. That summary has also been attached to this weekly report. Our deepest sympathies and regrets go out to the dog’s owners and we are doing what we can to improve our trapping and wolf radio-collaring procedures.

We have contacted other state and federal government wolf trappers throughout North America to learn about their experiences and suggestions and are re-evaluating the need to trap and radio-collar wolves in certain areas and protocols for trapping. We (Bangs, Meier, Fontaine, Niemeyer, and Mack) had a interagency conference call on Thursday morning to discuss trapping issues and safety. A summary of responses to our inquiry and our discussion was prepared and sent out to all agency biologists that are involved with wolf trapping. That summary has also been attached to this weekly report. Our deepest sympathies and regrets go out to the dog’s owners and we are doing what we can to improve our trapping and wolf radio-collaring procedures.

The following was the result of the discussions.

Recommendations for improving wolf trapping and radio-collaring procedures


Email addresses for members of Congress, the media, and other officials.


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