Vermont woman warning others after her dog was killed in a trap

Published: Dec. 26, 2022 at 5:59 PM EST
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EAST CORINTH, Vt. (WCAX) - A dog owner is sounding the alarm down in East Corinth after her dog was killed in a likely illegal trap on private land. Trapping season comes to an end at the end of the year in Vermont, but given the circumstances, she wants all pet owners to be extra careful.

“I’ve been coming up here since I’ve lived here, about 12 years,” Anne McKinsey said.

A normal evening walk turned tragic for McKinsey and her recently rescued dog, Clara.

“I was walking along, kept my eye on her and all of a sudden I heard a yip, a yipe and I was like, ‘Ah, jeez, she’s got a porcupine,’” McKinsey said.

But McKinsey says a porcupine would have been better than what she found-- Clara was caught in a trap.

“Pulled her out limp, I could see the metal around her neck and I knew right away she had gotten into a trap,” she said.

McKinsey says she tried to free her but couldn’t figure out how to release the mechanism, and Clara died there in the snow. She was able to bring Clara back to her car, documented the incident and called the local game warden the next morning.

“He wanted to document the site, got the trap off her and said, ‘Yes, the trap was not tagged,’” McKinsey said.

She says the responding warden told her the lack of a tag, the size of the trap for the season and its location on private property all could be violations.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife would not comment on the open investigation.

“Everybody knows to be careful during hunting season, but I think the state could do a heck of a lot to try to just alert people, you know, ‘Hey, be careful,’” McKinsey said.

“The numbers certainly ebb and flow like everything does, but yes, it happens annually. We do get complaints of folks getting their domestic pets caught in traps,” said Maj. Sean Fowler of the Fish and Wildlife’s Warden Service Division.

Fowler says most of the land trapping in Vermont ends at the end of the year, and bobcat has a significantly shorter season in the first half of December.

Fowler says trappers need to be licensed and are required to get permission to trap on private property.

On public lands, other than wildlife refuge areas, permission is generally implied but trappers should be conscious of where they are setting traps.

There are no setback laws off trails, so Fowler says those walking dogs in the fall and early winter should be extra careful and strongly consider leashes.

“It’s something people should take a little extra time to think about,” Fowler said.

He also recommends checking with landowners if you plan to walk on their property to see if they have allowed any trapping.

Fowler says there are instructional videos online that other states have published about how to release traps, something Vermont Fish and Wildlife is also considering producing.

“I think it would be great, I think it would be a good thing for the department to do, and hopefully we get there,” he said.

Legislation to ban recreational trapping will likely be reintroduced this legislative session according to a wildlife advocacy group.

Back in East Corinth, McKinsey sees signage in trapping areas as a possible solution.

“Meet somewhere in the middle and have a compromise,” she said. “We are not living in the 1800s anymore, people like to go out.”

But most important for her, she wants people to be conscious of traps so other dogs don’t suffer the same fate as Clara.