Palmer-- Mary Ann Cockle never saw the powerful trap buried beneath a scrum of dead leaves covering a trail near the Eklutna Power House.
Cockle and her brother, strolling in early January along an angler's path off the Old Glenn Highway, stopped to check out a beaver lodge. Zoe, Cockle's 8-year-old German shepherd, walked unleashed nearby.
Suddenly, Cockle heard Zoe squeal.
A Conibear 330 trap baited with half a salmon engulfed the dog's head, crushing the heavy ruff at her neck.
Cockle's brother muscled open the trap to free the dog. But Zoe looked dead: Her eyes had rolled back, her tongue was blue, she wasn't breathing.
"As I was grieving over her, I felt her heart flutter," Cockle recalled recently, petting Zoe in the downtown Palmer arts and gift shop she helps run. "So I immediately jumped on her, trying to do CPR."
Compressing the dog's big chest with her entire forearm, Cockle put her face to the dog's and tried to force air into her lungs.
It worked. Zoe's body twitched, her legs flailed, and she came back, wobbly but OK. Her neck remained swollen for a month. Today, she looks perfectly healthy.
But the incident left Cockle, as well as some other trappers, wondering what the person who buried that Conibear on a trail had been thinking.
"Even if I'd had her on a leash, she would have been sniffing the ground and she would have been in the trap," Cockle said. "The trap was buried under some leaf litter and it was on the trail."
It is legal to trap in the area, state biologists say. But trappers are supposed to follow a code of ethics, one that's actually printed on the back of state regulations.
"It's to the ethics of the trapper to determine where to place and where not to place traps," said Gino Del Frate, the state's wildlife coordinator for Southcentral. "It's logical you don't set traps around trail heads."
The trap Zoe ran across is a large, square "killing-style trap" designed to render animals unconscious in less than a minute.
Kenny Barber, a Butte resident and longtime local trapper, said he didn't know who laid the trap on the trail along the fishing area known as the Eklutna tailrace.
The most likely target was beaver or river otters, critters that frequent the slow waters of the tailrace that carries powerhouse outflow to the Knik River, Barber said.
"It would have been a good set if it was under water," he said. "It wasn't. That's just unethical."
Cockle said she's got no problem with trapping in general. But she wants other dog owners to hear her story about an unethical trapper and be warned.
"We respect trappers' rights," she said. "I do hope that trappers respect those of us that walk the trails."
Reporter Zaz Hollander can be reached at the Daily News Wasilla office at email@example.com or at 907-352-6711.