BOISE, Idaho — Lawmakers made an initial step Monday in approving rules changes requested by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game that require wolf and other trappers to set traps farther from paths to avoid catching dogs out on walks with their owners.
The House Resources and Conservation Committee approved the rules after Fish and Game officials told lawmakers that trappers worked with the agency on the new rules.
Trappers "recognize that things are changing in Idaho and there are more people out recreating, and they just want to be good citizens, and good members of their community," Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever said after the committee meeting.
The changes come after several dogs in recent years were caught in traps while out for walks. Several more steps by lawmakers are needed before the new rules would take effect.
The rules would require traps to be no closer than 10 feet (3 meters) from the edge of any maintained, unpaved public trail. The current rule is 5 feet (1.5 meters) from the centerline. The new rules also add paved trails to a 300-foot (100-meter) distance requirement for trappers that include areas such as public campgrounds and trailheads.
Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League, an environmental watchdog group, spoke in favor of the new rules at the meeting.
"It doesn't go as far as we would like to go, but we do see it as progress in the right direction," he told lawmakers.
The Idaho Trappers Association participated in the rule-making process. None testified at the committee meeting. Justin Webb, who is on the association's board of directors and lives in Sandpoint, said in a phone interview that the new rules could avoid future conflict.
"It's kind of the trappers' way of showing the general public we don't want to have issues, we don't want to have conflict, we don't want to have a negative image of trapping as a wildlife management tool," he said.
He also said the association regularly gives demonstrations on how to release dogs unharmed from leg-hold traps, which he noted are the same types of traps biologists use to catch wolves to put on tracking collars.
"I put my hand in those traps so that folks understand they're not designed to hurt anything, they're designed to hold," he said.