More than 600-plus snares seized, two trappers charged

Two-year investigation leads to multiple counts; court date is April 13

By Tim Spielman

Duluth, Minn. ­— Two northern Minnesota men face multiple counts of illegal trapping after officials say they failed to check traps daily, illegally caught and possessed various furbearers illegally, set snares with loop diameters too wide, and didn’t tag those traps.

In all, according to a DNR Enforcement complaint, 638 snares were seized from Douglas A. Marana, 70, and Roderick R. Kottom, 68, both of Chisholm. One of the charges – illegally taking or possessing pine marten, otter, fisher or wolverine – is a gross misdemeanor, the maximum sentence for which is one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.

There’s no limit on the number of land snares each trapper may set, but “I don’t know how you’d get to in a single day,” said Lt. Brent Speldrich, DNR Enforcement supervisor in District 8. “Ethical trappers do it in a way in which they can manage their trap lines.”

According to the complaint, the case investigation began in December 2014, when DNR Conservation Officer Kip Duncan received a call about a possible wolf caught in a trap north of Duluth, in St. Louis County. The report says that Duncan found numerous other snares in the same area, and baited the same way, as the one containing the wolf.

Since the traps didn’t contain trapper identification, as is required by law, the case dragged on for two years until the culprits could be determined, Speldrich said. “We had to figure out who the trappers were.”

The investigation involved the use of trail cameras and required a number of warrants, including those to search the homes of Marana and Kottom.

Speldrich said snares much be checked daily so trapped animals can be dispatched humanely. The snare loop diameter must be no more than 10 inches, he said, to ensure only certain animals are targeted. And owner information must be displayed on all traps.

The complaint states that the trap lines containing the more than 600 snares were in St. Louis County and parts of Itasca, Koochiching, and Lake counties.

“Conservation officers found 17 foxes, two fishers, five snowshoe hares, and one deer illegally trapped on these trap lines,” the report says. “It is suspected the aforementioned wolf and one other likely were caught in these snares, as well as numerous dogs.”

It was in January that DNR Enforcement officers executed search warrants at the homes of Kottom and Marana.

At Kottom’s residence, officers said they found five frozen red foxes with untagged snares attached, along with a frozen fisher with an untagged snare attached. At Marana’s residence, they say they located a GPS unit that contained data mapping out trapping routes. Total restitution value of the animals exceeded $1,000, the complaint says.

The nature of the alleged violations wasn’t new to northern conservation officers, Speldrich said. Rather, it was the “sheer volume” of the number of snares deployed that makes the case unique.

“We don’t see this volume of traps typically. We might see 100, but never this volume,” he said.

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