Special Report: Caught in a Trap
Published Wednesday, March 30, 2011 12:45PM EDT
Anyone who has ever lost a pet knows how heartbreaking it can be, and that heartbreak is even worse when you watch the animal suffer.
Christina Vincelli is still mourning the loss of her two-year-old Husky who was killed in a hunter's trap before Christmas 2010. Vincelli was walking her two dogs in a wooded area in Val-Morin, a Laurentian community 90 km north of Montreal, when "Tuka" ran off the trail.
"I immediately ran into the woods, calling him, and I found him, struggling to get out of this hunter's trap."
Vincelli tried to get the trap released, but couldn't. Her dog died in her arms as she carried him down the trail to the main road.
"I'm saddened by the loss of my dog, but my concern is, what if there's a young family? What if the kids run in the woods?"
Vincelli is not alone. Alana Hoffer lost her German Shepherd, Grace, in 2003. Her dog had followed the scent of dead birds off a public walking trail in Morin Heights. The birds were placed inside a crate, and when Grace put her head inside, a steel-jawed trap with jagged teeth closed around her neck.
That type of trap is no longer legal, but Hoffer still thinks people need to be made aware of what can be lurking in the woods, especially close to public spaces.
"They should put signs that trapping is going on between the 25th of October and the first of March, but that doesn't mean [trapping] is going stop."
Trapping on Public Land is Legal
As long as you're not in a nature conservatory, trapping on public land is perfectly legal, no matter what distance the device is placed from a public trail. If a trapper chooses to hunt on private property, he has to have permission from the land owner.
Quebec game wardens say trappers are not required to post warning signs because there is always the possibility that their traps will be stolen, or intentially set-off by animal rights activists.
The Fur Trade Still Booming
Canada was built on the fur trade, and our economy still depends on it today. According to Statistics Canada, 700,000 animals were killed for their fur in 2008-2009.
The International Fur Trade Federation says the trade contributes $800 million to the Canadian economy every year, with most of the buyers coming from China, Russia and Europe. The fur trade also employs 70,000 Canadians.
The practice has come a long way though, and a set of standards ensure that all traps used in Canada are as humane as possible. They're tested with a team of experts and veterinarians, who make sure that the animals either die within two minutes, or suffer no cuts or bruising while waiting for the trapper to return to the area.
Trapping needed for Wildlife Control
What many people don't realize, is that trapping is crucial for wildlife control. Over the years, bear and coyote populations have spiralled out of control. If left untouched, Quebec game wardens say coyote will deplete the deer population, and may even come too close to humans.
In 2007, wildlife officials launched a trapping operation to quash a population of rabid raccoons along the Quebec-Vermont border. At the height of the outbreak, conservation officers found one-in-15 raccoons on the Quebec side of the border area had contracted the disease.
Quebec Natural Resources Minister, Pierre Canac-Marquis says trapping becomes the only way to interact with and control the animal population.
"Beaver are damning, raising the water levels, causing road damage, causing crop damage, causing all kinds of damage."
He says trappers are trained to be the most selective as possible, but the responsibility also lies on the shoulders of pet-owners.
The Leash Law
By law, pet owners must have their dogs on a leash whenever walking in a wooded area where large game, like deer or moose, may frequent. Unlike coyote, dogs don't want to kill large game, but they do like to chase.
"Sometimes after we get calls that a dog ran after a deer, we go out, and it's sad, but we find deer dead because they spent all their energy getting away from the dogs," says Quebec Game Warden, Hugo Pilon.
Pet owners like Christina Vincelli say they're not against the leash law, but that trappers need to face tougher restrictions as well.
"Signs have to be posted, [especially] if you're hunting in a certain area and you know that there are people around [and] there are houses around."