A baited conibear trap near trail killed my dog

Valerie Strain
Pet owner, outdoor enthusiast and founder of No Traps on Trails
20 February 2015

It started out as a normal afternoon walk through the woods near our home in the Kawarthas; cottage country near Peterborough, Ontario. It was a beautiful December day. My friend and I set out with my two yellow labs, George and Gracie, on a well-used snowmobile trail on Crown Land. The dogs were a bit ahead of us but within sight. Suddenly, George yelped and I knew he was in trouble. The dogs had been lured to a baited kill-trap and George’s head was caught. He died a slow death while I struggled unsuccessfully to free him.

The dangerous “conibear” trap that killed George was set within a few feet of the trail. We were shocked to learn from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry that there are no rules in Ontario about how close to trails traps can be set and no requirement to notify the public that they are there. There does not seem to be any way for the public to find out where traplines are — they could be anywhere on Crown Land, on your neighbour’s property, even in Provincial Parks and you wouldn’t know. Tourism groups promote our great outdoor spaces and show families cross-country skiing or hiking with their dogs running beside them off-leash. I’d like to know where it’s safe to do that.

The reality is that it’s not only pets that are at risk. Anyone using a trail could easily stumble upon an unmarked hunting trap. While leashes are one way to keep dogs close, many pet owners use extendable leashes that can reach up to 20 feet. And there’s nothing to prevent someone from setting a trap closer than that to a trail.

My husband and I both grew up in rural areas and we thought we knew all the potential hazards of the woods. But we had no idea the risk we were taking every time we took our dogs out on this trail. One of our responsibilities as pet owners is to keep them safe. We failed George in that regard.

We don’t want this to happen to another family pet, or worse, a curious child. That’s why my family started the No Traps on Trails Campaign including a Change.org petition. In just over a week, more than 43,000 people signed their names and lent their support. Many have shared their own experiences with encountering baited traps. Unfortunately, we are not the only family to experience a traumatic loss because of an unmarked trap.

We’re gratified that our petition has caught the attention of MPP Bill Mauro, Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources, who has asked his staff to review current trapping regulations. Mauro told the CBC, “…it’s also about young children that could be walking with their families on the trails. I just want to look into it. I think it’s a legitimate issue.”

Here are our recommendations to Minister Mauro:

1. Improve trapping practices and regulations by setting a minimum trapping distance from public trails and roadways, and marking trails that run near traplines.

2. Launch a public awareness initiative to promote safe practices, including an online map showing where registered traplines are.

Our goal is to enable the public to avoid traps and traplines; a goal that we hope everyone, including trappers, can support. Other jurisdictions have already successfully addressed this issue.

We are still struggling with the experience of losing George in such a horrific way. My family hopes we can turn this terrible tragedy into a positive force for change. More than 43,000 Canadians — and counting — are insisting on it.

Petition: change.org/notrapsontrails
Facebook: notrapsontrails
twitter: @notrapsontrails

See the full article here

A brief history of trapping in America

1851 Steel traps are mass-produced.

1900 The Oneida Community trap company receives a letter from a veteran trapper decrying the cruelty of traps.

1909 Beaver populations in Washington are so threatened by trapping that the state bans trapping beavers.

1925 The National Association of the Fur Industry offers a $10,000 prize for the invention of a “truly humane trap.” No one collects the money.

1925 National Anti-Steel-Trap League is formed.

1930 Massachusetts bans traps that cause “continued suffering and (are) not designed to kill the animals at once.”

1930s Author and ex-trapper Archibald S. Belaney writes about the cruelty of trapping.

1949 The American Humane Association offers $10,000 reward for the development of a humane trap. Offer stands until 1979. NO ONE COLLECTS THE MONEY.

1950-1960s Animal-rights groups, including the Animal Protection Institute, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Committee for Humane Legislation, the Friends of Animals, the Fund for Animals, and the Humane Society of the United States, are formed.

1958 The Conibear trap is manufactured.

1960 A large male wolf is trapped on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, Ariz. It is the last wolf trapped by a federal agent in that state.

1973 Florida bans steel traps except for damage control.

1977 Rhode Island bans steel traps except for damage control.

1984 New Jersey bans use, sale, manufacture, possession, import and transport of steel-jaw leghold traps.

1986 British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia ban steel-toothed leghold traps.

1994-1996 Arizona, Colorado and Massachusetts voters ban trapping.

1998 California voters bans trapping.

1998 Woodstream Corp., the nation’s largest manufacturer of steel-jawed leghold traps, announces that it will discontinue making leghold traps.

2000 Washington bans body-gripping and unpadded leghold traps.

2007 Trailsafe Nevada formed.

2912 State of Nevada sued for failure to manage wildlife for the benefit of all Nevadans.

2014 State of Nevada sued for failure to properly regulate trapping.

2016 Oregon trapping ban to be on the ballot.

Unintended victims

A key problem with any kind of trap is the lack of discrimination. For every intended victim (“target” animal) of the traps, there are 2 to 10 unintended victims: birds, porcupines, deer, cats, dogs and other animals are caught, maimed and killed in traps.  Even animals listed under the Endangered Species Act are caught and killed. In the industry, these unintended victims are referred to as “trash” animals.  Our wildlife agencies call them “non target” species.  There have also been cases where children were caught in these traps.  Worldwide, about 10 MILLION animals are trapped annually.

Within the first 30 minutes of capture, a trapped animal can tear her flesh, rip tendons, break bones, and even knock out teeth as she bites the trap to escape. Before Sweden banned leg hold traps their government carried out a trapping campaign against foxes. Of the 645 foxes that were trapped, 514 were considered seriously injured. The trapped foxes had struggled desperately to get free, and over 200 of them had knocked out teeth. Some of the foxes had even knocked out 18 teeth as they bit the trap trying to escape. Some animals will even bite off their own limbs in a desperate attempt to escape. The fact that an animal would severe her own limb shows how horrible the experience of being caught in a leg hold trap is. A study in Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge found that 27.6 percent of mink, 24 percent of raccoon, and 26 percent of trapped fox would actually bite their limbs off in hopes of surviving. In many cases the animals died from blood loss, infection, and inability to hunt with an amputated limb. This study was carried out over a 4 year period, and involved many trappers with varying degrees of skill. Therefore, these percentages are fairly indicative of what happens with the various species targeted by Nevada trappers. Another study, conducted in 1980, found that 37 percent of raccoons mutilated themselves when caught in a leg hold trap.

All but two of the U.S. states require traps to be checked in intervals shorter than Nevada’s 96 hours (some states require daily trap checking). Several U.S. states and 88 countries have banned the steel-jawed leg hold trap, which is notorious for its cruelty especially when trappers don’t visit their traps for days or weeks at a time. Many trappers now get around this ban by using other types of traps, including snare traps, conibear traps or leg hold traps with a thin layer of padding added. Once the trapper finds the captured animal, if the animal is still alive, the trapper will usually club or stomp the animal to death. Shooting is not as popular because the trapper would risk damaging the pelt.


Dr. Robert Crabtree, President and Founder, Yellowstone Ecology and Research Center in Bozeman, MT, and visiting scholar at U. Montana and U. Victoria beautifully describes what is known about coyote habits and preferences…information that could be of great use to wildlife management agencies if they would only listen. Nobody does this topic better than Dr. Crabtree.  read more