Minnesota Man Says ‘Hidden’ Traps Are Killing Pets

MERRIFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — A Northern Minnesota man is concerned that hunting dogs are becoming the hunted.

John Reynolds of Merrifield lost his dog Penni when she got caught in what’s called a “Body Grip Trap.”

The traps are designed to kill raccoons, fishers and bobcats — but there have been several reports of pet dogs getting caught in them.

Reynolds is a trapper himself. But the type of trap he demonstrated for us is the kind he wants nothing to do with.

“You can imagine what this would do to the neck of a dog,” said Reynolds, as he springs a body grip trap.

There are several names for this type of trapping device, but Reynolds and others call it the body grip trap. It lures prey in-between the springs with grouse or pheasant meat. And it kills quickly — instantly breaking the neck or the windpipe of the animal. It’s a scenario, that last month, became all too real for Reynolds.

On Dec. 17, Reynolds and his springer spaniel Penni were walking around a lake near Emily, Minnesota. Penni ran off and got caught in a Body Grip Trap.

“It took about a half hour before I found her … and she was dead,” said Reynolds.

And he’s not alone. Reynolds says at least four other dogs in the area have been caught and killed, as well.

What worries him most is that body grip traps can virtually be set on any public land in the state of Minnesota. Including some parks.

But Reynolds isn’t out to get rid of the traps, he just wants the rules to change.

“Every time you go in the woods with your dog you are playing roulette,” said Reynolds.

Because the bait is what attracts the dogs, Reynolds would like to see the traps moved off the ground — where fishers and raccoons can still get them but dogs can’t. Twenty-five other states have that type of regulation, but Minnesota does not. And because of what happened to Penni, Reynolds now refers to body grips as ‘hidden killers.’

“All we are looking for is a change in the method. It doesn’t seem like much to ask. They are good traps, we just don’t want them set where our dogs can reach them,” said Reynolds.

In 2010, the DNR created regulations that do not allow the traps to be placed near houses or buildings occupied by livestock.

The DNR says they continue to talk with trappers and concerned dog owners about the body grip traps.

More from John Lauritsen
  • Kate

    Have these idiots stopped to think about what would happen if someones kid finds one of these traps, not knowing what it is, and gets killed in it? Seriously

    • britany

      Very true. and with what other people say that i kid shouldn’t be touching others property. Well lets think about it no maybe there not going to put there head in it but, they could easily step in it or put hand in it. there kids there curious. The traps are hidden you don’t always notice them.

      • mikle

        yeah, we all know kids small enough to get caught are always wandering around on public land alone in DEcember and jan. use your head people, scare tactics and nothing more

    • Kire

      No kid is going to stick their head in a contraption to chew on some raw pheasant. Seriously, over react much?

      • Mary Lou Platt

        A child may not stick his head in these traps, but a curious child might stick an arm in one. My comment concerns the end of the story which states the DNR does not allow these traps to be set near houses or barns. Actually, the rule is that a trap cannot be set within 500 feet of an inhabited house. Our property length is over that, and our dog was caught in a trap within 50 feet of our property line in a road right-of-way — a perfectly legal trap. Road right-of-ways are also public places where these traps can be set. This road is the only way in or out for over 20 houses and cabins, so if you want to take a stroll with your dog, this is your option. We are now afraid to let our dog off a leash even on our own property. There is nothing more horrible than watching your dog die in one of these traps. I am not against trapping. Just want them off the ground.

      • chris

        this is true Kire……..Kate is just another example of the “what if” population in this world. Its people like like her that would like to regulate everything

      • bpk

        Have you been around kids much ?

    • grikdog

      Kate you are right those idiots below can’t see farther than their own nose. Kids might not stick their head in but they certainly will poke their hands where they shouldn’t

  • Billy

    Sorry Kate but a kid should be taught not to mess with other people’s property. Also, assuming the kid is young enough to be dumb enough to put his head in it or stick an arm in there…I’m guessing they should be under adult supervision anyways. Kids get hit by cars no body wants to ban them.

    • bpk

      You can trap on public land too, even some parks

  • Lillie

    If you’re “just walking” with your dog and you are not capable of training it to stay close, then you need to keep it on a leash. If you are a hunter, then you should have trained your hunting dog NOT to go into one of these traps before ever first taking the dog hunting.. Dogs are Very trainable.
    To me, it appears Mr. Reynolds’ Springer Spaniel was either too young & not yet trained or just not well trained to have wandered that far away & out of sight. A dog can have it’s “freedom” but doesn’t have to have “free reign” of the entire area. I see this as a preventable accident in this case.

    • britany

      Well your response is very untrue. The fact that a dog is trainable is true but it had pheasant meat in it. If the dog is trained to hunt pheasant then if it smells the meat of course its going to go there. That is what they are trained for. Obviously you do not hunt at all.

      • Red

        I am with you britany

    • Tou

      This is such a stupid comment to say the least.

  • steve roepke

    one, its not legal to use grouse/pheasant for a biat!! how can u even report this!!??? 2. the EDUCATED trapper would know what baits/scents to use to not get domesticated animals to it!!! he said he was a trapper!! not so.. !! fishers and bobcats not even caught in those traps… at least the cat!! the fisher is more likely going to be caught in a tree!! the bobcat on a snare or #4 coilspring!!! wich catches the paw!! this story was blown way out of porportion!! the norm go figure for a citiot, or pro PETA society!!! you guys need more education on trapping before you knock it!! i live just west ( 2mi.) of merrifield!!

    • sue

      caught by the paw?????? What is wrong with you??? My husband and I both hunt with two dogs, they are ahead of us, nose on the ground, in the air, looking for grouse. We are not against hunting, eating meat, or supporters of PETA.
      We are against trapping.

      • Careful....

        Then move! Trapping is the history of this state. Trappers needed to think about where they are putting traps, but a hunter shouldn’t just tromp unknowningly into an area either. Public land is just that… PUBLIC. If you can hunt birds there, a trapper can trap there. Careful what you ask for, you’ll end up losing your hunting land too. :(

    • @ Steve

      Way out of proportion? I did what the person above recommended, and Googled conibear trap. It was all pics of domestic dogs caught in these this. I think that makes the point of the story exactly, And by the way, legal or not, you know people are doing all kinds of things they should not when it comes to trapping, hunting, baiting, etc.

  • Jeff

    In my opinion all trapping is cruel and pathetic so called sport.

    • bubba136

      Trapping is not a sport,its an income,same as a job.

  • svea

    So true, Jeff. It’s disgusting. It’s not as black and white as you either trap or you’re a PETA member, either. Trapping is cruel, simple as that.

  • Sue

    Ttrapping should be banned completely. This trap is at least fairly humane, most traps leave animals to die a slow, painful death. There is not one reason to trap animals. I guess we all will have to stop hiking with our small children and dogs so a few inhumane people can trap all those vicious animals.

    • @ sue

      please do and do us all a favor who are sick of cleaning up dog poop and picking up kid’s wrappers and trash……oh wait. The trash came from mommy you say ?! me bad

    • bubba136

      Another idiot speaks,yup, they are out trapping your small children and dogs.It scares me that you reproduced.

    • Citizen

      Most traps leave animals to die a slow, painful death . . . Would you care to back that one up?

      I’ve trapped a lot of years, most traps that I use either kill the animal immediately or are rigged to kill the animal within a minute to two. Slow painful death would be about as far from the truth as it gets. If you don’t believe me, you’re welcome to come join me next fall.

      By the way, what is Ttrapping?

    • michael O'Brien

      Sue, you are very uneducated when it comes to trapping. first of all if a trap in the state of Minnesota is uncapeable of killing an animal quickly by drowning or by the use of a coniber it needs to legally be checked every 24 hours, so no slow, long, painful death.

      secondly, no trapper wants to hurt the animal, as an injured animal wil fight the trap and there is a better chance of it getting away. I know guys including myself who spend thousands of dollars on modifying their existing traps and buying new traps that will hold the animal wit no or very little discomfort. I’ve released countless animals that were or poor quality or out of season and they were all uinjured.

      Look, just because you dont rap and know nothing about it doesnt make it wrong. Some of you act like all trappers are barbaric cavemen wanting nothing less than to club every living thing to death, and you ouldnt be more wrong.

      I am a trapper, a hunter, a dog owner, a father and someone who also just loves to take walks outside with my family. There is plenty of educational materials out there to educate you o how to release a dog out of aconibear, and i suggest you read them.

      As far as getting images off the internet and believing that is how it is I woul hope the people of MN are smarter than that.

      Next time you are at the fair or a sports show or home show if you see a booth there with wild furs I beg you to stop in and chat with the people there. Most likely it will be the MN Trappers Association, andf I am 100% positive if you give tem 5 minutes of your time you will in fact be impressed.

      As far as this news report went there were some factual errors such as a conibear kills instantly, which isnt true. they dont “crush the windpipe” or snap the neck. Also evreyone who traps knows you can not use grouse meat or pheasant meat for bait. Not only is it delicious meat that no trapper would waste as bait, but it would also be illegal uinder the wanton waste laws of this great state.

      You also made it sound like the is a conibear around every tree in our state parks, which couldnt be further from the truth. At least around here it is illegal to trap in parks.

      As a trapper, I am fully aware that many of you have never been exposed to trapping and know nothing about it other than what you hear from a friend of a friend, but I a assure you the stories and images of barbaric practices are nothing more than a fallacy. Trapping is already HEAVILY regulated and Minnesotas conservation officers to a wonderful job of keeping everyone in check. So please, before you let your emotions take over research this on your own, dont take someones word for fact till you know. Speak to a couple trappers for yourself and I bet you will have a change of heart.

      • LJ

        In reading your own posts on Trapperman, I am not even slightly impressed by trappers if they are all like you….luckily I have also read that many of them are not like you. Many of the trappers on that forum post very intelligent and rational comments in an effort to protect dogs, as well as their own trapping heritage. When you post comments that give an impression that you are not even willing to consider a change or show even the slightest bit of compassion toward a dog or a person who owned it you make trappers like yourself look very heartless and self serving. Your comments tend to have a condescending tone on trapperman also. I recall you writing that you trapped 3000 animals in 12 months. That is going to seem excessive to most people. Also, claiming that others are lying is not an effective way to defend trapping.

  • kevin

    You ALL are missing an important fact, firstly you are all being ignorant, the dog is running loose, so what!! Who gives a damn, it is a DOG, and nothing more. Let themn run and pay the consequences fools.

    • Red

      Your a fool

    • @KEVIN


  • Mark Kirkpatrick

    The problem is that the story is a set up.
    If the public knew what REALLY happened, they would tar and feather the dog walker.

  • agree

    Reynolds – you are so cute!

    Sorry to hear about your dog! That is horrible!

  • GMA

    Don’t want something to happen to your dog, keep it on a rope or home!!!
    Tired of people leaving their amimals run all over.

    • Red

      They were hunting for goodness sake. That what dogs are suppose to do!

  • rw

    I hate to see a grown man cry. very sad but on the other hand you need to be responsible if you are a pet owner. it is your job to keep your animal safe.


    the responses so far against the trapping prove it!! pics on google??!!! of course!! all they show is the neg. stuff!! slow and painfull? not hardly!! the conibear is designed to kill the right sized prey in a way that is instant!! and for those who( and yes i have a chocolate lab for grouse!) hunt with dogs…. yes, your always going to have people that have illegal traps.. but was this reported.. no!! like i said.. bad p.r. for the ETHICAL trapper… that guy is obviously ingnorant to trapping and shouldnt call himself a trapper!! i trap on a daily basis round here ina residential area on my 20 acres!! not once have i gotten a dog or cat in a trap!! with dogs across the road that run free!! get a f@%kn clue people… without hunting or trapping… and the ethical hunter should know better!, that without it, there woulld be disease, overgrazing.. and who know what else!! this is why i say the “PETA” BS!!



  • Ron

    If you want to see cruel look up what Mange and Distemper do to animals.

    • steve roepke

      X2 RON!!

  • bubba136

    You let your dogs run loose,you have it coming,stop your whining.

    • @bubba136

      It was not running loose. Its called hunting and it is allowed idiot.

  • steve roepke

    again.. only true trapper education will prove what im sayin.. not matter who you are or what you think.. it will open your eyes to the northwoods way of life!! no hunting/trapping and you all will be begging for us to take em out in a yr or two!!

  • Bambi

    I don’t trap but sheesh – all you over the top ban everything in the world moron types need to stay in your little city and within your tiny little huts and read Bambi. Okay – I am sounding almost as bad as you…sorry.
    And leave it to this state of media insanity to have this in the paper and here….it’s a non-story and life. Move on and shutter your windows – the sun is about to shine and we all know that can cause cancer. not sorry at that. lol

  • S.E.MNBeagler

    Here we go. The trappers are going to call anyone that is against what they do a PETA member. I do not support PETA in any way, shape or form, I am a hunter. Actually I think that PETA has become the trappers best friend, they use Peta as their rallying cry in an attept to get other sportsmen to support their cause. Well not this time…. I am a very avid rabbit hunter and run Beagles in there pursuit. Late last fall while hunting on state land my hound was caught in a bodygrip trap and only by the grace of God did she survive. The trapper had six of these traps set on a twenty yard stretch of trail makeing it almost impossible for my dogs to do what they have been trained to do without being caught. I am not against trapping but you trappers are makeing it very hard to deffend you when you support this method….

  • bob

    Find the traps, and take the traps.

    • mike

      and get arrested…

    • mike

      and get arrested…

      • bob

        not to worried, mike

    • mike

      and get arrested…

    • Grow up

      @Bob, yea, thats right steal Bob. Great answer! Come on people. Hunters complain about people not understanding their sport, but they aren’t willing to understand anothers? Correction… Most Hunters are willing. Your Private Country Club, pressed outfit wearing, shiny gun toting, look at me Hunters, are the one’s not willing.

    • Joe Tenor

      Trap Tampering
      • No person
      may remove or tamper with a trap or snare legally
      to take fur-bearing
      or unprotected
      wild animals
      without authorization
      by the trapper, a DNR agent, or the owner or lessee of the land
      where the trap is located.

  • John Reynolds

    One more thing. Penni was a very well trained dog and kept a close eye on me. We spent almost 24 hours a day together from the day I adopted her until she was killed 6 months later. She was killed within 50′ of my car and was NOT running wild.

    • james


      arent you sick and tired of lying yet? when are you ging to tell the truth?

      did the trapper not see you on the road and warn you about his conibears, and where they were?

      Why would you let your dog out to go near these so called land mines or hidden killers that you knew where there?

      sounds to me like you have been on this warpath for a while. Yoiu dont sound responsible enough to be a dog owner if you ask me.

    • Mixed thoughts

      So she was leashed then JR?
      Or not?
      If not she was running wild…un- leashed/contained and maybe under voice control and maybe not.
      Just stating the facts – I am mostly with you on this whole thing but let’s look at the facts too as they (f)actually where.

      I had a dog, my all time favb, shot – illegally mind you – here in Minnetonka. Thing was he was out wandering the woods out back and off my property. Two issues – one you cannot shot an animal or discharge a gun inside city limits. Two – he had left my control and property.
      I was mad as hell but still recognized I have a right to control only on my property. After that if things are legal I have no right to anything.
      Time will heal the anger, temper the loss and also hopefully never happen again. Remember the word leash – saves a lot of heartbreak I have learned

      • @Mixed thoughts

        you do not go hunting with a leash on the dog. 50′ away is not a wandering dog. There is nothing wrong with a dog being off a leash where its allowed.

        • @@Mixed Thoughts

          nor nothing wrong with using a trap as permitted.
          I suppose we could ban traps
          I suppose we could ban dogs too. lol

          • @Mixed Thoughts

            Yes, conibear traps should be banned . They are notorious for killing indiscriminately unlike hunting. But why ban anything? who needs laws, right?

  • LJ

    Why are some trappers so against making a change to how they use a body grip traps? Even if this change saved one family dog it would be worth the change. How many furs would you lose by making this change to set body grip traps up and off the ground by 5 feet? And using dog proof traps as well? I appreciate that some trappers on the trapperman website are encouraging other trappers in Minnesota to make this change on their own. For those of you wanting to learn more about the trapping industry go to the trapperman website and click on trapper talk and then trap talk and scroll down and look for posts with Minnesota in the title. They are talking a lot about this issue and there are many rational trappers posting and many who are not willing to even consider a change.

    • Linda

      Really? Talk to a trapper? Bottom line, trapping is cruel and inhumane, no matter how you cloak it under the guise of legality or factual errors. Nature is cruel, we don’t have to be. Why on earth would someone enjoy killing animals for sport OR profit. We don’t need furs anymore. How is it that one animal is a pet and is loved and protected and a wild animal is just to be “harvested” as the DNR calls it, as if they were plants that don’t experience pain or suffering. Like Ghandi said, a nation’s moral progress can be judged by how we treat those that are less than us.

  • b

    now days people are so messed up that they treat there pets like a kid its a dog you can replace it

    • gordokong

      You can’t just insert a new dog and call it a replacement. You have to spend countless hours training and spending time with the “replacement” to get it where your previous dog was. Much easier to replace a snake as a pet than a dog.

    • @b

      Usually the way people treat their pets is a good indicator of how they treat their kids and others b.

    • jerry

      you can replace a kid to.

  • john


    the trap that killed reynolds dog was set for bobcats. you arent ever going to catch any bobcats in a dog proof trap, and would most lkely never get any in a tree either.

    also, every single year there are rights trappers give up, when is it enough? when are these dog owners going to take some responsibility?

    • LJ

      I read that dog proof traps are for raccoons, not bobcats, so mentioned them for that reason. Bobcats, fisher and pine marten can climb. You many not get a bobcat every time you set a body grip in a tree, just as hunters do not get to shoot or take home a bird, deer or bear every time they go hunting. It is not suppose to be easy is it? What would be the point if it was easy?

  • John Reynolds


    The story about the trapper warning me are false. I know the trapper who killed my Penni and had talked to him earlier in the week about selling furs. He never mentioned anything about traps in the area and I never saw him the day he killed Penni.

    He did tell me about warning some people about his traps north of Kego Lake on the Pistol Lake trail. That is many miles from where he killed Penni.

    • come on john

      whoa dude – he didn’t kill Penni. A trap set did.
      you taking this was to personal and full of vengence like ….
      and he frankly didn’t have to tell you a thing….
      sorry for loss but dude you need to take a chill pill

      • 2cents

        Personally I don’t think it should be legal to trap unless on your own property.

        • 2bits

          I agree and also think that it should be illegal to take any dog off your property. Dogs kill and maim people and things way more than any traps ever had. And with all the PETA folks out there we’d hear and know anytime a trap is involved. Frankly – this is not even worthy of a story. It was a sllow news day again it seems

  • John Reynolds


    I’ve never seen anyone suggest that dog proof coon traps could substitute for other bobcat traps. Most experienced cat trappers know that foothold traps are far more effective than killer traps but some trappers use the less effective killer traps because the MN DNR encourages them to use those traps by allowing them to go 3 days before checking them. Convenient for them. Deadly for our dogs.

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