By MIKE CORN
The trapping death of a dog on public land at Kanopolis Reservoir is an unfortunate turn of events, members of the state's wildlife agency agree.
But, it appears everything -- including the manner in which the trapper set out traps -- was legal.
That was the report from Kevin Jones, chief of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' law enforcement division to the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission, which met earlier this month in Lawrence.
It was at that meeting when word of a trapping incident involving a dog at Cedar Bluff Reservoir surfaced.
KDWP Capt. Mel Madorin, however, said the Cedar Bluff incident was markedly different from Kanopolis because the dog was snared in a foot trap
"So far as I know, it wasn't hurt," Madorin said, "in any long-term manner."
A check showed the trap had been set legally.
In the Nov. 27 incident at Kanopolis, a dog happened upon an 8-inch conibear trap set for beavers. The conibear is designed to kill an animal.
Apparently, Jones said, the trap had been submerged, but beavers in the area were so efficient they cut off the supply of water surrounding the trap. That's why the trap was out of the water and accessible to a passing dog.
The concern initially focused on the apparent lack of identification on the trap, but once the trapper was found, an identification tag was pointed out to KDWP officials.
The tag, Jones said, was located on the chain connected to the trap, and contained information required by law.
The game warden, he said, "could not justify any charges and considered the trap set in a legal fashion.
Still, wildlife commissioner Shari Wilson voiced concern.
"It just seems like we're getting a lot of these reports," she said. "Maybe we should be a little proactive and gather a little more information about what our trapping community might think about these traps."
Furbearer biologist Matt Peek said a survey was conducted, but said some information might be unreliable.
Jones said it might simply be an unfortunate event.
"We do, unfortunately, have these types of situations that do occur and we need to consider the balance of trapping wildlife and management," he said. "I have thought this through quite a little bit and I don't know what rule, regulation or direction we could take that would prevent this kind of situation. I think as long as you have these kind of activities going on, there's the potential for this going on."
"I hate this happening," said Commissioner Gerald Lauber. "Having said that, I'd hate to see trapping eliminated on public land as there's a right of people to do that just as people bird hunt. I'd just like to preserve trapping and public land. And I'd hate to see this get out of control and be limited by people who don't have the dedication to trapping."
Peek said the agency will be looking at trapping regulations and will discuss the options available.
"I think we've studied both sides and would appreciate if our constituents would consider both sides," said Commissioner Frank Meyer. "I would just ask that everybody look at both sides, as we are required to, and realize it's not a simple answer and probably not a perfect answer."
"It's obviously a terrible thing when a dog is killed on public land," Peek said. "There's basically no risk whatsoever to people with these traps. It's a risk to dogs. But obviously that's something that we want to avoid."
Meyer went on to say that there is a responsibility of dog owners to know where their pet has gone.
"We don't want to do away with the privilege of being outdoors," he said.
"It seems to me the choice is not as stark as losing a few dogs to being able to trap on public lands," said Commission Chairman Kelly Johnson.
Something as simple as a sign might work, he said.
"It seems to me we ought to provide that information to the citizens of the state that trapping is taking place," Johnson said.