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A History of Cruelty: Problems surrounding Oregon's fur trapping are nothing new 

The high desert's history of trapping and killing wild animals is a concern to the people of Central Oregon.

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By now everyone is familiar with the push to change the rules on recreational trapping in Oregon—a movement that got started thanks mostly to the trapper who left a deadly trap so close to a hiking trail on the banks of the Metolius River that a hiker's dog stumbled into it and was almost crushed to death. Since then, newspaper and TV stations have published more than two dozen stories focusing on the current regulatory system.

That 1,200 or so people can kill—for fun and profit and largely without regulation—the wildlife treasures known as "furbearers" has always been a mystery to me.


But in all my years of following and observing trappers around the high desert and forests of Central Oregon, I never thought I'd see the day that some degree of legal limitations would be placed on trappers.

For a meager $47, anyone can kill wildlife for fun and profit. Juveniles younger than 14 are not required to purchase a license. To trap bobcat or otter, a juvenile only has to take and complete the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) trapper education course.  (Doesn't say, "pass," just "complete.") What a deal that is when you consider that it costs $200 for a bird banding permit, which has nothing to do with "killing."

Those in favor re-writing the state’s trapping regulations believe present rules unduly put all other Oregonians—as well as pets and other non-target animals—at an unreasonable risk. Based on the dire evidence presented at the recent anti-trapping meeting at the Environmental Center in Bend, they have a good point.

The current petition calls for trappers to:
• Stay more than 100 feet from trails on public lands.
• Post clear warning signs in the vicinity of traps.
• Check traps every 24-hours.
• Place a tag with the trapper's name and telephone number at each trap.

Current rules require trappers to check their traps every 48 hours on public land and at least every 30 days for lethal traps set for predators on private property. There currently are no rules for trap locations—or placement boundaries—on public land, and no signage is required to warn the public.

"These are very modest, common-sense rules," said Scott Beckstead, Oregon director for the Humane Society of the United States. "We're not putting trappers out of business."

The irony is that Oregon has some strong anti-cruelty laws. But in the realm of wildlife trapping, which is about as "cruel" as anything can be, "we are woefully behind," Beckstead said. An understatement if ever there was one.

As just one example, a while back I received a call from a distraught woman in Sisters who saw a raccoon dangling from a chain on the fence in her backyard. When we went out to see what was going on, we noticed a piece of pipe attached to its front leg with a chain that was caught in the fence, preventing the raccoon from going anywhere.

When I approached the snarling raccoon, it was obvious the pipe was actually a wicked looking steel boot held in place by a spring-operated lock. After about an hour of trying to find some way to remove the trap without getting an arm chewed off, we placed a blanket over the struggling raccoon's head and torso, and a Good Samaritan got hold of the powerful spring lock holding the animal's paw in the trap, and was able to release it.

The device is know as a Duke Dog Proof Raccoon Trap. It’s made in Korea and costs $24.99. It does, without question, fit the definition of cruelty. The proof can be found on Duke's website ( Take a look at Picture 009, a cross-legged raccoon with two paws clamped in two traps. The spring-loaded lock holding the animal's limbs in the cylinders is so tight it comes close to amputating the animal’s feet. That would appear to be in direct conflict with Oregon's anticruelty laws.  In fact, the steel trap, even if checked every 24-hours, would seem to violate any sense of anticruelty.

Another factor not admitted to nor taken into consideration in ODFWs' so-called "management" of wildlife, is the non-target species caught and killed by trappers. The most insidious example of this tragedy was a phone call I received from a bobcat trapper in the ‘70s that started out this way, "If you promise not to call the cops, I'll give you this big eagle I have in my garage."

During the discussion as to how he came to possess the "big eagle" the man said he was a bobcat trapper who had placed a "sight-set" in a juniper tree and caught the eagle instead. That type of “set” uses a rabbit carcass that hangs from a low branch, about six inches above traps buried in sand. The idea is that a bobcat sees the rabbit, makes a dash for it and is caught in the steel jaws.

The problem with this type of set is that the first animal to spot the rabbit is usually a magpie. Magpies rarely miss food, no matter how it's presented. In winter (the season to "take" furbearers), eagles keep an eye on magpies as they usually announce food. Eagles, being the larger bird, usually get that food. In this case, the eagle was caught by one foot in one of the traps. My caller said his fellow trappers often killed and buried eagles in such situations. So much for "management."

This particular bird was a very large, robust, fighting-mad female golden eagle. She so impressed the trapper with her "will to live," he said he, "couldn't kill her." Instead, he threw a blanket over her and brought her home. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that a large, angry eagle banging around in the garage might attract some attention, hence the call to me.

Taking the eagle's plight into consideration, I went along with the guy's demands. After safely securing the eagle, I took it to a vet in Bend who amputated the mangled foot, and away we went, with no charge for what was a very professional job of saving an eagle's life. I banded the remaining foot for tracking purposes and turned her loose.

Am I against the archaic past time of trapping "protected" wildlife for fun and profit? You bet your sweet bippy I am.


CRANE PRAIRIE RESERVOIR: rainbow trout, brook trout, kokanee, largemouth bass. Opens for fishing on April 28. Ice is off the lake and fishing is expected to be good.

CRESCENT LAKE: rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout and kokanee. The lake is accessible at the resort only.

CROOKED RIVER BELOW BOWMAN DAM: redband trout and mountain whitefish. Anglers are reminded that angling methods are restricted to artificial flies and lures until May 26.  Flows have been ramped up below Bowman Dam which will make fishing tougher and wading unsafe.

DAVIS LAKE: redband trout, largemouth bass. Water is much higher than normal, and all boat ramps are accessible. Please note this is a fly-fishing only lake. Please check your synopsis for the regulations for this water body.

DESCHUTES RIVER: steelhead, redband trout. April is a great time to fish the lower Deschutes River. Rising trout, spring chinook and wildflowers can all be found along the Deschutes Canyon during April. Trout Anglers should try fishing from late morning to mid-afternoon because bugs and fish will be the most active during that time of the day. Fishing nymphs will be productive while watching for mid-day hatches to occur.   Anglers can begin fishing for spring chinook below downstream of Sherars Falls on April 15. The daily limit is 2 adipose fin clipped adult and 5 adipose fin clipped jack chinook. Angling is prohibited once the daily limit of 2 fin clipped adult salmon is obtained.

FALL RIVER: rainbow trout. Fishing below the falls remains closed until late May. In the meantime, the river above the falls is open. One angler recently reported fair fishing and the best luck with nymphs. If you’ve fished the Fall River recently, let us know how you did through ODFW Fishing Reports.

LAKE BILLY CHINOOK: bull trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, kokanee, smallmouth bass. Fishing for bull trout has been fair. The majority of the fish caught were less than 24 inches, but some keepers have been caught. There are a lot of legal-size bull trout in the reservoir so fishing should be good this year.

Samples of bull trout have been tagged with 2 different types of tags. Some of the fish were tagged with anchor tags and others were tagged with PIT tags. A PIT tag is a small chip measuring ½ inch long that was placed in the fatty tissue along the fish’s back. Anglers should be aware that a chip may be present and should avoid accidental ingestion of the chip.  Anglers who catch a tagged fish are encouraged to report the catch to ODFW in Bend (541) 388-6363 or Prineville (541) 447-5111.

LITTLE LAVA LAKE: rainbow trout, brook trout. Open to fishing; however, there was still ice on the lake as of April 24.

METOLIUS RIVER: redband trout, bull trout. Trout fishing has been good. Insect hatches should offer lots of opportunities for good dry fly fishing.


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