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PA: Hunter takes action after dog dies in illegal trap

January 17, 2010

Owner takes action after dog dies in illegal trap

PATTON - After losing Maggie, a beloved family pet and hunting buddy, Steven Krug is setting his sights on illegal traps like the one that killed her.

Hoping the 5-year-old Brittany spaniel's death won't be in vain, he's telling Maggie's story to remind those who trap to follow state regulations - and to think twice about what they use and where they put traps.

Krug lost Maggie in a bird hunting trip Nov. 21 outside Patton.

"I just hate to think a good dog like her could come to this kind of end," Krug said. "But if I can make people cognizant of what could happen, maybe I can save someone else's dog - the next pet that would accidentally get caught in a trap like that."

Out for a quick hunt, the pair ended up north of town on a hillside path near River Drive. While on the path, a squared bucket alongside the trail caught their attention, and Maggie ran up to investigate.

Drawn by the scent inside, she sunk her nose down into the bucket.

"And suddenly," Krug recalled, "she began to thrash around. I thought something had bitten her."

The dog had triggered a spring-loaded metal Conibear trap. The body trap's jaws - wielding up to 90 pounds of pressure per square inch - snapped tightly around her neck. "I tried all I could to get that trap off her throat," Krug said, noting that he tried to squeeze the trap's springs to loosen the clamping jaws to no avail.

Within moments, Maggie died in his arms, he said.

"I saw the light go out of her eyes," he said, choking back tears.

Still, he struggled for 10 minutes to open the trap before one jaw released. Krug tried to resuscitate Maggie with no luck before carrying her home, where she was buried.

"It was brutal seeing her die - I had trouble sleeping for weeks," he said, describing Maggie as an "intuitive, special dog. She was absolutely part of our family."

It turned out the trap was an illegal one. Size 220 traps - with a 7-inch jaw spread when set - are larger than the state permits, guidelines show.

"If the trap was the proper size, it probably wouldn't have killed his dog," said Game Protector Shawn Harshaw, who investigated the incident.

Fines for an illegal trap range from $75 to $200. There is also a similar levy for unlawful taking of animals, he said.

The trapper didn't have tags on the trap - another requirement - but apparently after the story spread through town, he heard what happened and turned himself in, Krug said. "People heard," he said. "I must've received 20 sympathy cards from members of the community."

The trapper was cited a few days later, but Krug didn't identify the man, saying he's only trying to make an example of what recklessness can cause.

"I'm sure he wasn't trying to kill my dog, but there are plenty of good trappers out there, and if people are using illegal traps, it makes everyone look bad," Krug added.

Harshaw agreed. When doing their jobs properly, trappers are providing a valuable service, he said.

"Trapping is necessary - it's one of the only ways to control populations of some of these animals, like raccoons, skunks and muskrats," Harshaw said, adding that, like hunting, there are rules to follow.

With Conibears, for example, only a few small sizes are legal in the state. They should also be set in buckets - and underwater - or at least away from paths, he added.

"Usually the traps are underwater, so if a dog gets caught up in one, it's usually their leg," Harshaw added. "You don't see too many dogs putting their heads underwater. So this kind of case wouldn't normally happen."

While calling Krug's situation very rare, he said it also can serve as a reminder to hunters that they, too, should ensure they are familiar with traps.

"It's important to know how they work so that if something happens, they can release the animal safely and quickly," Harshaw said. "The faster you can react, the better.".

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