By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

TOPEKA -- Regulation changes requiring traps to be "half submerged" could help prevent cases of dogs being caught in traps.

That's happened twice in the last two years on public lands at Kanopolis Reservoir, incidents that have raised concerns about the safety of curious dogs when the traps no longer remain in the water.

Matt Peek, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' furbearer biologist, made the recommendation last week to the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission.

Peek's recommendation is designed to prevent the use of some larger body-gripping traps from being used out of the water.

"Requiring a trap to be half-submerged would prevent the use of these traps as a terrestrial trap," he said. "If you can find an inch of water to trap beavers in, you can probably find 5 inches of water. In the Kanopolis case, they could have set that in the channel a mere 5 feet from where it was and it probably would not have attracted animals going down the trail."

Although KDWP referenced only a single issue at Kanopolis, there have been two instances of dogs being killed by traps, killed as they attempted to nose through the body-gripping traps.

Peek said it's easy to tell if a 330-trap is half-submerged.

"If the 330 is set, there are two rivets upon which the jaw rotates," he said. "If the rivets are under water, it's half submerged vertically."

He also deflected the idea the change was a result of the dogs' deaths at Kanopolis, but instead simply a change to keep water-traps in the water.

Peek said the state's hunting regulation booklet will contain information on how to remove a dog that's been caught in a trap or what to do if a someone encounters a dog in a trap.

In addition to the rule change, commissioners learned that signs will be going up in areas announcing that trapping also might be taking place on public lands managed by the department.

Commissioner Gerald Lauber voiced his concern about the restrictive regulation.

"The problem I have, and I want to state it, is I always have a knee-jerk recoil from restrictions on trapping," he said. "I just want to make sure if we make this restriction, it doesn't become an annual reduction on trapping. I hate to have any restrictions. Trapping does not enjoy the best image among the non-trapping world and I hate to restrict it anymore than we have to."

Peek said most of the changes proposed were suggested by trappers.

"The main point I want to make is it should have minimal impact on beavers," he said on the ability to trap the animals. "But it will potentially reduce the likelihood of catching non-targets."

Peek also presented information and a suggestion about opening a river otter trapping season later this year. It would be limited to the eastern third of the state.

"Otters of course need water, and at some point we're going to run out of water in central or western Kansas," he said.