Northwest NEWS

October 16, 2000

Editorial

Initiative 713‹Shall it be a gross misdemeanor to capture an animal with certain body-gripping traps, or to poison an animal with sodium fluoroacetate or sodium cyanide?

by Lisa Allen
   Valley View Editor
   It was a sunny, summer morning a few years ago when I headed out with my two dogs for our daily walk along the county road not far from our farmhouse.
   About two-thirds of the way down the road, one of the dogs, a border collie, went sniffing into the blackberry bushes and suddenly became frantic ‹ she was trapped.
   I knew immediately what was holding her ‹it was a neck snare designed to catch coyotes. The snare was strangling her. The more she fought and pulled, the tighter the noose got.
   I couldn't see the snare lock through her thick fur, so all I could do was try to loosen the lock by feel, all the time getting bitten on my arms and legs.
   Finally, after what seemed like forever, I was able to force the lock loose and free the dog.
   I tore the noose from the fence and took it home. After cleaning up the dog bites, I called the state Fish and Wildlife Department and talked to an agent.
   Although I was still out of breath from the ordeal, he didn't seem at all troubled by what had happened, simply calling it "irresponsible trapping," since the snares had been placed less than a quarter mile from a county park, heavily used by dog owners and children. The agent wasn't even interested enough to take my name.
   The trapper's name and address were on the snare, and I was amazed to notice he lived in north Seattle. I was furious that he could live in comfort in Seattle but still be able to go out and play Jeremiah Johnson on the weekend. I found him in the phone book, called him and told him to remove his snares by the next day at the latest.
   He did so, but my neighbor, whose land the snares were on, told me there were some snares the trapper couldn't find.
   Although my physical wounds healed quickly, my peace of mind was shattered. I felt there were still traps out there, waiting to catch another animal. It would be years before I would feel comfortable walking along the road again.
   We on the farm have always co-existed well with wildlife, including coyotes. Over the years, I have noted that domestic dogs are much more often the villains in livestock predation than coyotes.
   Coyotes are also the front line of defense against an exploding rodent population.
   Much of their diet is rats and mice, which carry such diseases as hantavirus and bubonic plague. Raptors help, but there aren't enough of them. And raptors are also often victims of traps.
   I-713, to be voted on Nov. 7, is a statewide citizens' initiative that would ban the use of neck snares, Conibear traps (neck snapping devices used to trap beaver), steel leghold traps and some poisons for recreation or commerce in fur.
   There are some exceptions in the initiative designed to protect human health and/or property or to protect endangered species. The law is not designed to affect rodent traps.
   The Humane Society (and so do I) takes the position that traps are cruel and indiscriminate, since animals often suffer broken bones and that family pets are often victims. Also in favor of the initiative are the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the ASPCA, the Washington Environmental Council and local branches of the Audubon Society.
   It is time to be done with ancient, cruel methods of capturing animals. Voting "yes" on Initiative 713 will rid the state of inhumane traps and still guarantee predator control.