ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hikers beware: Trappers share those Sandia Mountain foothills, as two Albuquerque women learned Sunday when a dog caught its leg in a trap on U.S. Forest Service land.
The women were walking their dogs near the Embudo Canyon trail when Miko, a pit bull-heeler mix, got her right, front leg caught in a foot-hold trap.
A trapper later told the women it was intended to catch coyotes.
New Mexico Game and Fish rules say land-set traps are allowed on U.S. Forest Service land if they are set more than 25 yards from a designated trail.
Katherine Winski and a friend were among hundreds of hikers who took advantage of warm, sunny weather on Sunday. They and two dogs hiked a loop trail that veers north from Embudo Trail into a canyon. Neither dog was on a leash.
The women were alerted to the mishap when Miko began crying loudly, Winski said.
“She was just screaming and thrashing and biting,” Winski recalled. “It was a real panic.”
Winski struggled to pry open the steel trap. Several minutes passed before Winski discovered how to open the trap using a pair of levers at each end.
Miko recovered quickly after she was freed, although she has a swollen paw and a limp, Winski said.
The women took their dogs home and called a veterinarian, then returned to the site to find information about the owner of the trap. State Game and Fish rules require trappers to obtain a license and mark traps with an identification number.
While there, they were approached by a man wearing a large knife on his belt who said he was the owner of the trap.
“We were actually grateful that he was out there checking his trap like a responsible trapper,” Winski said. State rules require trappers to check their traps at least once every 24 hours. “At least he was doing what he was supposed to do.”
When the women pointed out that the trap was located only a few feet from a well-used trail, the trapper replied that the trail was not an official, designated trail and that he had a right to set traps throughout the area. The trapper did not identify himself.
“We were totally intimidated by this guy,” Winski said. “He had a knife. We weren’t going to get into a confrontation with him.”
State Game and Fish regulations prohibit trappers from placing traps within 25 yards from any U.S. Forest Service trail “designated by the agency on a map provided for the general public” or within 25 yards of a public road.
A U.S. Forest Service map of Sandia Ranger District trails identifies Embudo Trail, but it does not show the loop trail the two women hiked on Sunday.
A New Mexico Game and Fish spokesman said Monday that no appropriate official was available on the Veterans Day holiday to discuss the case.
Winski said many hikers use the loop trail, even though it is not designated on maps. The women encountered the trap about a quarter mile east of the trailhead at Indian School NE, just inside the U.S. Forest Service fence line.
“This guy was trying to say it wasn’t an established trail, so he was allowed to put (traps) anywhere he wanted,” Winski said. “But while we were talking, there were at least four or five people that went by on the trail that he said wasn’t a trail.”