Snare Length
Snares have always been an important part of my predator work. There are a lot of different opinions on what to use, and I can appreciate that. I've learned a lot over the years, from listening to people in the know, and also by paying attention to the lessons I've personally learned in the field.

Locks, cable types and sizes, supports, and anchoring systems, all have their individual nuances and varieties. A lot can be said on any of these topics, but right now I'd like to focus on the one thing that is easily controlled, but rarely talked about. That is cable length.

Like many people, I tend to enter into endeavors with some pre-conceived notions, and snaring was no exception. Before I even saw a modern snare, I thought that an animal simply walked into a snare, pulled it shut, and expired. No muss, no fuss. I also thought that snares were about 3 or 4 feet long, and never really gave much thought about anchoring and supporting them.

In 1983 I was introduced to snaring by Keith Gregerson, of Gregerson Animal Snare fame. Keith gave me a crash course on snare methods in his yard in Roundup, Montana, and when I left the pickup bed was loaded with snares, wires, and the fore-runner of today's disposable stakes, the earth anchor. I boiled some of the snares in baking soda and water on a Coleman stove. Another batch I simply soaked in a mixture of vinegar and water, and then let them lay in the Bighorn River overnight, to "rinse them off". (The vinegar idea isn't a good deal, please don't try it.) After the weather turned cold in late November, I was off and running.

Snares at the time were pretty short, with most being 5 feet or under. The Gregerson snares I bought were 42 inches, a length that Keith had settled on after many years of snaring, and harvesting literally hundreds of coyotes and cats yearly. The snares had a swivel on the end, which served not only to prevent the cable from twisting after a catch, but also as a way to support the snare. Keith is a very innovative guy, and he perfected the 14-gauge wire method of supporting snares for use in fences and trail alike.

I followed his advice, and loaded up with 14-gauge wire and 3/32-inch cable extensions to make the snares a little longer. I tried some of the snares in fence crawl-unders, and paid attention to Keith's advice and added cable extensions and anchored to a secure point. When I used the 14-gauge wire to anchor snares I doubled it, and became quite fast at running lots of wire to a tree or sagebrush.

Another of my pre-conceived notions was that drags would work on snares. That idea was quickly dismissed when I rode along with a friend to check snares he'd set on a ranch in the Missouri River Breaks in central Montana. He was using good 2-prong drags that worked great on footholds, but even with 8 feet or more of cable the snared coyotes were able to get fairly long distances. I was no stranger to the use of drags on coyote traps, so I thought I knew what to expect, and to say I was surprised is putting it mildly. After a few trips with him, I vowed I would never anchor a snare with a drag.

I saw the value of longer cables early in my snaring days. In the arid West with its sparse vegetation, suitable snare locations or 'gaps' can be hard to find, and it really hurts when the best two or three spots in a draw or trail became unusable after just a few catches. Coyotes that were basically 'picketed down' with only a few feet of cable sometimes ruined the gap after one catch, and that meant long walks farther up drainages to find more spots. Longer cables let them get away and tangle up far enough from the set location so it was not damaged, and could be used repeatedly.

And, even with the snares that had the best dispatch locks available at the time, shorter cables had a higher percentage of live coyotes. Coyotes alive in snares tend to chew cable, and I wanted them dispatched quickly. I still have that opinion today. Longer cables produced better opportunities for good entanglement, and thus more dead coyotes.

As I got into control work, I found the snare more valuable than ever. Coyotes that couldn't be caught easily in footholds were snared many times. Fence snares were employed not only as a preventive tool to keep coyotes from accessing fenced sheep, but also as a great way to catch those coyotes that had their own way of entering and leaving a pasture, some of those spots being very different than the usual ones that even a blind man could find.
For a number of years I had over 1,000 fence snares operating at any given time, over many hundred miles of sheep country fences, and I learned quickly that they needed to be anchored off to the side as far as possible, to help preserve the crawl-under.

It took a few years, but I weaned myself from using wire as extensions, and went to longer snare cables. Even though cable was expensive when compared to wire, I really liked how a simple loop at the end of the cable allowed you to feed the loop, lock, and the rest of the cable through it, and with a quick pull make it tight around the anchor.

I used the 14-gauge wire to support the snares, though, and still use it in fences on a fairly high percentage of my spots. It's easy to work with, and it works in fence snaring.

Although livestock on the range kept me from using snares in trails in the summer months, during fur trapping season, trail snaring became one of my main fur methods, and I ate, drank, and lived it. I searched out suitable snaring areas in my spare time, or in spring and summer when den hunting or calling. Some of those areas I ventured into every winter for almost 20 years. Cedar 'breaks' and high sagebrush turned me on, and I spent a lot of time putting in stakes and cables, in preparation for when the cattle and sheep were moved out of the rougher country, closer to home to be fed through the long winter.

Again I saw the value of the longer cables, and at times had 6, 8, or more feet of cable looped around a stout tree or brush, ready for a snare to be added to it quickly during the season. Pre-season work took on new chores, and cutting extension cable and pounding on ferrules became almost a daily routine, at least for a few minutes a day.

As time went on, and dispatch-type locks, springs, and release systems were being researched and tried, I was all ears. I spent many hours on the phone with people from other states who were involved in snaring as much as I was. Since some of my friends were as "coyote crazy" as I was, snares and their uses were talked about into the middle of the night many times. There were some great coyote catches being made at the time, and most were being made at least partly with snares.

Being involved from the ground floor up, so to speak, gave me a solid foundation on what needed to be done when release systems were being tested. It only made sense that to reach the desired poundage for the various types of release systems to work on deer or livestock, a few things had to be done. First, the snare had to be anchored solidly. Stakes, earth anchors, and of course, trees of decent sizes had to be used. And, almost as importantly, snare length was increased. Personally, I went to 8 feet as a minimum, and today I regularly use some as long as 14 feet. This length is sometimes achieved by adding an extension on a shorter snare.

Dispatch locks (and springs) changed snaring for many of us, and the longer cable ensures that the locks can do their job more efficiently, by allowing the animal to exert more foot pounds of energy. And again, the longer cable allows the animal to get away from the coveted 'gap'. Many times I have used the same spot for three or more catches, by simply removing the used snare from the extension cable, adding another snare, and repositioning the snare support by the trail again.

Today, as a contract trapper for Wyoming's Niobrara County Predator Management District, I use these hard earned methods for predator control as well as fur. Snares are an ever-present tool in our operation, and you'll see many dozen on my pickup headache rack on any given day.

I've always approached snares as lethal tools. With the fairly recent introduction of 'cable restraints' in many states, with restrictions intended to produce live catches, I feel more comfortable letting someone else address them and their use, as I have no personal experience with non-lethal snare use.