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Troopers Investigating Snares Set on Private Property Near Delta That Injured 2 Dogs

Meghan Orona

Alaska State Troopers are investigating complaints by members of a Delta Junction-area family that someone is setting snares around their property without their permission. Meanwhile, the Steele family wonders why the law puts the burden on property owners in these kinds of cases, instead of trappers.

Marti Steele says both Princess and Sadie are doing better now after their recent encounters with snares.

Steele’s mainly concerned about Sadie. She’s a 2-year-old pit bull-malamute mix who went missing for eight days and finally straggled back home early last month with a very bad wound around her neck.

“Sadie was the one that was stuck for eight days, and she’s got a pretty significant scar around her neck, as you can imagine,” she said. “But she seems to be doing well.”

Steele says her vet told her she’ll have to watch out for comp-lications that can arise in a dog that’s been subjected to such trauma.

The other dog is Princess, a 12-year-old mutt that was found and freed by Steele’s son when he went looking for her after they heard her yelping on New Year’s Day. He found the dog entangled in a snare that had been set on the Steele’s property in an area that was clearly posted off-limits – posted a few feet away from the snare.

“Considering that the one trap was wired to a tree right next to a tree that had a No Trespassing sign – y’know,…” Steele said.

After several such clashes with trappers, the Steeles have posted numerous No Trespassing and No Trapping signs around their 2,000-acre property located 20-some miles south of Delta, in the agricultural area.

Credit Alaska Department of Fish and Game
A moose stands next to a simple steel-cable loop snare.

State law requires property owners to post such signs on roads and trails that lead in to their property. But Steele says that doesn’t seem fair.

“I don’t really understand the concept of me having to mark my private property in order to keep people off,” she said.

Her husband, Kent Steele, called Troopers after the News Year’s Day incident.

Troopers aren’t saying much about the case. The investigating officer says he’s got suspects, but Steele says no arrests had been made as of Sunday.

Steele suspects some area residents have been setting the illegal snares. She says the family has permitted bison hunters onto the property, if they clean up the kill. And she says they’ve granted permission to neighbors to hunt moose there. But after that became a problem, the family has said to such requests.

Conflicts between trappers and property owners are fairly common in Alaska. A Mat-Su property owner is suing a state Wildlife Trooper who set snares on private property near Wasilla last fall. After investigating, Troopers declared that Wildlife Trooper John Cyr did not commit criminal trespass because the land on which he set the snares was not posted.

Other such incidents have been reported around Valdez and on the Kenai Peninsula over the last year.

Joe LeTarte is president of the Alaska Trappers Association. He says he doesn’t know much about the Delta-area incident. But he says his organization always urges its members to adhere to its code of ethics. Those require checking land records and getting property owners’ permission before setting traps on their land.

“They need to find out who owns the land, and if they’re allowed to trap on it,” LeTarte said. “We encourage people to go by the trapper code of ethics and to check it out.”

LeTarte says he agrees that the state’s laws on trespassing are often hard to interpret. And he says it’s hard for Troopers to enforce the law.