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Northern B.C. dog survives run-in with road-side wolf traps

BC Conservation says it’s unlikely any trapping laws were broken

A northern B.C. woman experienced every pet owner’s nightmare when her dog, sniffing out the scent of raw fish on the side of a road, was ensnared in multiple wolf traps. The incident, which occurred on a forested road just north of Kitimat, in an area frequented by snowmobilers, hikers, and dog walkers. The dog’s owner, Alexis Toews, is now urging all outdoor enthusiasts to exercise increased caution during trapping season.

“There was no signage to alert recreation users that there is a trap line in the area, and quite frankly, whoever set these did not consider the safety of non-target species, which is essential to ethical trap-line management,” said Toews.

On Feb. 15 Toews had let her three dogs run free along the road when one veered into the brush and immediately began yelping. Toews pursued, believing her dog was under attack by another animal, but instead discovered a bait pile next to the leg hold now clamped around the dog’s front foot.

“She was thrashing and biting at the trap—biting at me and down on her tongue. There was blood. She was not in a good way,” Toews recounted.

Toews, whose partner is a trapper, recognized the device as an MB750 leg-hold, a non-lethal but exceptionally powerful device.

She ran back to her truck for tools, but when she returned, her dog’s rear foot had found another trap. A third had also been triggered and was now attached to the first. Toews called for RCMP assistance, but the two officers were unable to release the dog without causing more harm.

The Kitimat Fire Department was called in to cut through the traps with tools designed for vehicle extractions. After a tense two hours, the dog was admitted for a veterinary examination that revealed no fractures or broken bones.

“She was shaken the first few days, but she’s back to her normal self now,” Toews said.

BC Conservation is investigating the matter but said it’s unlikely any laws were broken as it occurred during the appropriate trapping season on a registered trap line.

“As long as the trapper is licenced and trapping in their designated area, they’re not required to put up signs,” CO Sgt. Micah Kneller said. “Some do it voluntarily when they know they’re in areas where people walk their dogs, but when they don’t, it’s usually because they’re worried people will set them off or sabotage them.”

READ MORE: Veterinarian wants 2,900-km wildlife death trap removed

On Crown Land, where this incident occurred, trappers are required to check their lines every 72 hours.

Kneller said it’s common for a small number of domestic animals to encounter both non-lethal and lethal traps each year in the area. In this case, Conservation is trying to verify it was the licenced trapper who set the holds.

“We’ll have a chat with them about ethics and being close to town, but so far, there is no offence.”

If the person was unauthorized to set the traps, they could face charges of trapping without a licence and a fine of $345. If further infractions are uncovered, Conservation could escalate the matter to the courts.

Kneller emphasized that authorized trappers shouldn’t feel they need to hide their activities from the public, but appealed for better practices.

“It’s a passionate issue up here. I realize that. But it would be nice if some showed a little more common sense than just laying down baited traps right beside trails where people walk their dogs.”

Toews said she feels the trapper made a series of unethical choices by opting out of signs and laying baited traps in a spot chosen for its convenience.

“Basically, what this is doing is creating hate, or disagreement between the public and the trapping community.”

Toews wants the province to revisit its laws on trapping in areas frequented by the public, as well as potential laws for proper signage in these situations. But she also recognizes the need for stricter punishment of people who vandalize traps or take down signs, as it perpetuates even greater concealment of traps.

She suggests a minimal requirement for mandating signs in the general area where the trappers and the public cross paths.

“If there was a sign at the beginning of this road, which is far away from the traps, I would not have run my dogs there. Neither would other dog owners. Some rules and regulations need to change.”

About the Author: Quinn Bender

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