HOWL Colorado

Idaho wolf trapping starts Nov. 15 – protect your pets!

While we wolf advocates are not in a position to stop trapping at this point, we can certainly make sure people who are in trapping areas know EXACTLY how to disable any trap which has gotten hold of your pet.

It is, of course, illegal (and potentially dangerous) in Idaho to interfere with a hunter’s snares or traps. If an undomesticated animal is trapped, they will likely be scared and in a great deal of pain.

HOWLColorado is not recommending you use the following instructions to free wolves or any other wild animal, even if they would clearly work – the risk of personal injury and possible legal entanglements are clear.

However, your pet dog is a different story altogether.

1) Dogs should be under your control at all times when out and about in a wild area – traps should only be laid in approved areas, but trappers may not obey these rules and your pet could pay for that law breaking activity. If you believe a trap is illegally laid, don’t use the instructions in this story to disarm the trap, instead call the appropriate DNR or other officials.

2) Make sure your dog is comfortable with being collared and leashed – it may save their life.
Snares use looped wire to trap an animal around the neck and throttle them to death. It does this by using a slip locking system that tightens as the animal struggles. A dog that is trained to do well on a leash if caught in a snare trap will often sit and wait for their owner to unleash them – much as they would for their own leash. This behavior will buy you time to cut the snare or better still leave you with a pretty much perfectly calm dog who will let you do whatever is necessary to remove the snare. 

Snare Traps

– Carry Wire cutters with you at all times.

If you know you are going to an area with snare traps especially (but the tool could be useful for many situations) make sure you have wire cutters! These can be used on an occupied snare trap just as well as it would work on a vacant trap, they are just loops of wire.

To release your dog, cut the wire as close to the slip lock mechanism as possible. The calmer the dog, the easier it will be.

Leg Hold/Foothold Traps

The only good news here is that these traps are rarely fatal. This isn’t much comfort if your dog is caught as it will likely panic, and be very distressed. Your only job here is to calm down your dog and remain calm yourself so that you can quickly extricate your dog and get it to a vet to treat the wounds.

1) Remain calm yourself – in the face of a yelping, crying, possibly biting dog, you must be the calm in the situation

2) Calm your dog as best you can – the more the dog struggles, the trickier it will become to remove the trap.

Most leg hold traps will seem familiar to you. This is the type of trap you have seen poked with sticks or set off in similar ways. They are generally disguised (placed under snow/leaves) which means even a controlled dog is at risk (as are you though they are far less threatening to a boot) of tripping the trap. Therefore, a careless trapper could certainly put the trap on a trail and you could walk your dog right in to it.

More often, the dog will leave the trail and trip the trap while being off leash.

Foot hold traps usually have a lever action on either side of the jaws which you can use to loosen the trap. It is recommended that you place a foot on each of the levers and press down. The trap is a little harder to spring completely, but you should be able to get the paw removed before letting the trap close again.

If you are not able to open the trap yourself and no one is around to help you, you can look to find the anchor to which the trap is attached. Removing the trap from it’s anchor, and the relative small size of the trap itself, you would be able to take the dog and trap with you and find help to release your dog.

Larger foot hold traps are opened in a similar fashion, but the tension is much higher and the weight greater. Many of the same principles apply but it is much more likely that you will need at least 2 people to release the pet.

The evil known as a Conibear Trap

These evil, nasty devices will probably just kill your dog outright. I don’t believe that Idaho allows for the trap to be used – but legal or not, being aware of these nasty things is worthwhile as there is a small window of opportunity to release a pet.

This trap is a full body trap. Based on the size of the target animal, you will be dealing with a head or full body being trapped in a device intended to kill quickly.

Conibear Trap

Conibear Trap

Your dog leash or a belt offer you the only real way of defeating these brutal contraptions.

This convoluted walkthrough makes a lot more sense when you are looking at the trap:

1)  Place your foot through the loop end of the leash or a belt you have created a loop in one end

2) Take the free end of the rope or leash and feed it through both eyes of the spring. Many times these traps have 2 springs, one on either side. You are looking to remove the tension from the spring and activate it’s locking mechanism to unlock the trap’s jaw.

3) Loop the rope or leash over the spring eye farthest away from you and feed it back through the eye closest to your foot.

4) Stabilize the other side of the trap with your foot by standing on the lower edge of the spring.

5) Pull up on the rope or leash with both hands until the spring is compressed.

6) While still holding the rope, secure the safety hook in place to lock the spring in the compressed position, taking pressure off the jaws. If the trap has a second spring you will need to repeat these steps. With both jaws compressed, you will be able to remove the trap from the dog.

A reminder

Once again, we remind you that this is not a step by step guide for you to go out and trigger/interfere with traps. This is a guide for you to know how to save your pet if the worst happens.

Keep your dog on a leash – don’t let trappers kill your best friend.

Learn more about the horrific practice of trapping at

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