The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Trappers alerted to city ordinances after mishap

Lax enforcement and ignorance of rules blamed for dog’s injury


City of Valdez

This Valdez map shows trappers – and hunters – where trapping and hunting are permitted or prohibited within the city limits.

City officials are reaching out to trappers in Valdez in an effort to highlight a local ordinance that has seen little enforcement in recent years. The issue was brought to the attention of the Valdez City Council two weeks ago after council member Chris Moulton’s dog Nukka was nearly killed after it was caught in a trap that had been set in violation of city code requirements.

In 2005, the Valdez City Council passed an ordinance requiring, among other rules, that all trappers active in the Valdez area register their traps with the city, complete an educational course in trapping, and also required signs be place to warn people that traps had been set in the area.

“There’s not a lot of management of the trapping,” Valdez police chief Bill Comer said in an interview Monday. “We’re trying to assist in educating them.”

The ordinance was created after concerned citizens asked the council to create trapping regulations within the city limits that would minimize the accidental trapping of domestic pets that had occurred over the years and head off the possibility a person might fall prey to a trap.

Before the 2005 ordinance, the city had no trapping regulations and it was not uncommon to find traps set near hiking and ski trails, which resulted in the occasional trapping of domestic pets.

That is exactly what happened to Nukka, Moulton’s Husky/Sheppard mix when the two set off on a hike on the Pack Trail on what he described as “, on the town side of Keystone Canyon.”

Moulton said Nukka got caught around the neck in a “Conibear Trap,” which he said is designed to tighten down as the animal it traps struggles.

In a write up on the harrowing experience Moulton said “When I reached her, I didn’t know what to do. I realized this trap was killer her, but didn’t know how to get the springs relaxed and the trap off her. I struggled with it for what seemed an eternity, until she collapsed; eyes rolling back and tongue hanging dry out of her mouth. I figured she was dead.”

Fortunately, Moulton was able to relax one of the springs on the trap enough to stop the slow strangulation of his dog, but was unable to free his unconscious pet.

“I was able to get one spring partially relaxed with the carabiners holding some pressure off her neck. I then gave her a good sternum noogie and saw her eyes start to flutter,” he said in the write up. “I pulled out my phone and fired off a few frantic calls to people that might be able to help, which started a chain reaction of my friends mobilizing to help.”

With the help of phone calls from his boss, Joe Prax, fellow firefighters and other friends, Moulton was able to save Nukka’s life.

After the incident, Moulton did a little research and discovered the city’s little known trapping ordinance.

Comer said there is only one active trapper in Valdez that is properly registered with the city.

“What we’re doing is trying to get the word out,” on the city’s trapping requirements Comer said, noting the animal control officer and the city’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation will be working on bringing the educational portion to the town’s trapping community. “We’re trying to assist in educating them.”

Comer also said no tickets had been issued in the recent incident, which occurred December 21.

“I think it was just an issue of him (the trap owner) not knowing what the ordinance was,” he said.

City clerk Sheri Pierce said her office will be publishing the trapping ordinance and include maps where trapping is prohibited.

The ordinance, Chapter 9.38 entitled “Trapping” can be found on the city’s website.

Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game

In addition to following city code regulations, trappers in Valdez must also comply with state regulations, which are spelled out in the trapping manual available at the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game website.

Comer said the mandated trapper education classes will be held in the near future. They will be a few hours long and will be designed to “make them (trappers) familiar with the hazards of trapping.”

For his part, Moulton said he has put together a kit to carry with him on hikes with his dog.

“I have since watched many videos on these traps and put together a few items to help get her out of kill traps: two strands of heavy duty rope with fishermen knots tied in the ends (these can be used to collapse and hold the springs), pliers (for snare traps) and a Leatherman. My wife Heidi and I are also planning on holding workshops for dog owners to see these traps and how to release them,” he wrote.

Remarkably, Nukka walked away from her near-death experience without permanent injury.

“The Vet was amazed how unscathed Nukka appeared, although she was visibly shaken and protective of herself for a few days. Nothing some belly rubs and treats couldn’t fix,” Moulton said. “Luckily.”


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