By Michael Howie
Photo Credit: The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals/FurBearerDefenders.com
We love to hike, canoe, camp and explore our natural areas. And when we go, so do our best friends. It’s rare to journey into the wilds and not see at least one dog accompanying an enthusiast on trails across Canada. But another type of outdoor recreation may be creating risks for your dogs – and yourself.
The trapping laws in Canada are updated from time to time, but they regularly favour the rights of the trapper over anyone else. Every year, dogs are caught and maimed or killed in the grasp of leg-hold, Conibear or body-gripping traps. As there is no legal requirement for trappers to report these incidents – and even if there was, it would be impossible to enforce – we must resort to monitoring the mainstream media for them.
Traps are sometimes obvious, sometimes not. The simple reality is they can be just about anywhere and without any registration numbers or signage required, it is often only when the worst has happened that residents are made aware.
It is illegal to interfere with a ‘legal’ trap line, and the only way to find out if a trap or trap line is legal is to contact the appropriate department/ministry in your province or territory. Removing a trap can be considered a crime – and unfortunately often is prosecuted as such.
The most important thing any dog-owning outdoor enthusiast can know is how to safely release their pet from a trap. APFA has created videos to assist in your knowledge.
Residents should also be aware that municipalities across the country are beginning to look at banning traps within their jurisdiction, which is creating a new measure of safety for all who enjoy spending their times on the trails.
Baiting is the act of creating a regular food source for an intended target – bears and coyotes, commonly. Simply put, the animals learn that easy food is available at these areas and begin frequenting them. The intent of this is to make an easier job of hunting (or trapping) a specific species.
The unfortunate side effects, however, are not so simple.
From an ethical and ecological standpoint, the concerns should be clear: introducing an unnatural food source into an ecosystem can have catastrophic impacts on the entire food chain.
But for those of us who love the outdoors, the risks aren’t as apparent.
If you’ve ever seen a rural garbage dump that isn’t secure and isn’t properly maintained, you’ll get the idea. It becomes a party zone for all manner of animals. Bears, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, possums, rats, mice and a variety of other wildlife will regularly check-in to see what goodies have been provided. The difference, however, is that there is no clear source of the food when baiting takes place. It could be in a spot where you’ve decided to set camp; where you’re digging a cat hole; it could even be where you stopped with your pet for a picnic.
Whenever you’re out hiking, camping, snowshoeing or whatever your preferred activity, be aware of open hunting or trapping seasons in your area, keep your pet leashed (it helps reduce conflicts) and if necessary, get blaze orange strips for yourself and your pet’s collars.
*Editor’s note: We had people write in after reading this blog post explaining that their outdoor cats had been caught in hunting traps. Cats can get caught in the trap if they’re attracted to the bait. As well, if traps are hidden under snow, a cat can be unaware that it is there.
About the Author: Michael Howie is a former international award-winning journalist and managing editor of a community newspaper. He now works as the Director of Digital Content and Special Projects for The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals (APFA – www.FurBearerDefenders.com) and is the host of the podcast Defender Radio (http://www.furbearerdefenders.com/blogs/defender-radio).