ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Avid outdoors-men, women and children who regularly hit the trails with their canine companions learned a back-country survival hack at the Eagle River Nature Center Sunday.
The lesson -- how to rescue your dog if it gets caught in a fur trap. ERNC says this is an important skill to have in a state where trapping is such a popular activity.
Only a handful of people showed up for the training at the outdoor education center; but a smaller turnout means more practice, and less taking turns.
Eagle River resident Aurora Kreiner, 7, returned to the program for the second year in a row.
"I learned how to rescue my dog named Connie from a snare and other traps," Kreiner said. Connie the blue-eyed husky can rest assured that if she ever gets caught in a fur trap, Kreiner will be there to save the day.
Kreiner’s sister, 5-year-old Dehlila Kreiner, is going to have to grow a bit before she can reliably save Connie like her big sister. Both of the sisters were brave to speak on-camera, but Aurora Kreiner was also honest about how often she's actually on the trails with her pup.
She paused to think: "Not very much," Kreiner admitted with a giggle.
But she says she does get out enough to justify showing up for class at her favorite nature center. "They're kind and caring and playful," she said.
How do dogs get trapped by fur traps in the first place? The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates there are between 2,500 and 3,500 trappers in the state. It's popular for sporting, and also important for subsistence in Alaska villages.
Long-time trapper in Alaska, and owner of Alaska Range Trapping Supply in Eagle River Jim Portch says dogs being caught in fur traps are an unfortunate exception to an otherwise ethically-practiced activity.
"A true trapper is a very ethical man, or a woman," Portch said.
Portch says there needs to be an open discussion between fur trappers and dog owners about how to avoid this happening. He says dog owners should obey leash laws rather than let them run free in an area that could potentially have traps set up; and trappers need to always be aware of regulations and remove their trap lines at the end of season.
"I tell my trappers, any place on the road system where you can pull off, park your vehicle and go set traps, people can run their dogs,” Portch said. “There's dual responsibility here. Trapping has been in Alaska forever, and it is a supplemental income to a lot of people."
Portch says most trappers in the state are ethical, and they remove traps at the end of season -- but there are numerous explanations why a trap might catch a dog out of season, and dog owners and trappers should always be aware.