The founder and operator of a wildlife centre in Abbotsford is concerned about the number of animals coming into her care that have been injured by leg-hold traps.
Elizabeth Melnick of Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center said she is seeing an increasing number of small animals – such as blue jays, squirrels and opossums – being caught in traps that are set out in open areas.
The devices are generally used to catch nuisance creatures such as rats, but the food placed on them can attract other animals.
“There’s no signage on them that says, ‘Rats only,’ ” she said.
She describes two recent incidents last week that resulted in birds being caught in the traps.
The first occurred in the Rosedale area. Melnick received a call from a man who said he and his wife could see an eagle caught in a trap in an open field, and the bird was frantically trying to get free.
The couple didn’t know how to help the animal, so Melnick advised them to place a blanket over the bird so that it wouldn’t attack them when it saw them approaching.
They were then able to free the bird’s leg from the metal contraption, and it flew away. Its leg did not appear to be injured, but Melnick said the situation could have worsened if the couple had not seen the eagle when they did.
The following night, Melnick received a call from a woman who said her neighbour had set out a trap and a blue jay had become caught.
The woman was able to free it, and Melnick advised her to take it to a nearby veterinarian. The bird’s leg had to be amputated, and it is now convalescing at the wildlife centre before it will be released back to its home, where it had been nesting with its mate.
Melnick said the bird should survive because it still has a large portion of its leg. If the amputation had been higher, it could not have been released back into the wild, she said.
In an earlier incident, Melnick said a squirrel caught in a trap had to be euthanised because its back was broken.
“Those rat traps are very powerful,” she said.
Melnick said most people who use the traps are not aware of the danger to other animals. She advised that the devices not be placed in open areas.