Louis Seguin heard a cry from his dog and thought she had been attacked by a bear or cougar.
Instead Seguin and his partner Anik discovered Shasta, their 10-month-old Australian shepherd, with a body-gripping trap around her head. She was a short distance away from where the couple were taking a daily walk near their home in Winlaw, northeast of Nelson, on Nov. 23.
The couple tried to free Shasta, but didn’t know how to open the trap. She died less than 10 minutes later.
“She was so ready for life,” said Seguin. “We didn’t know these things were out there.”
Body-gripping, or Conibear, traps are a popular means of trapping — and killing — wildlife such as raccoons and beavers. In B.C., placement of these traps — up to a certain size — is legal within 200 metres of dwellings.
The trap that killed Shasta was next to a forest service road leading off of the Trozzo Creek trail north of Winlaw. Seguin said he and Anik have walked the road almost every day for 12 years.
Seguin added the trail is popular with families, but a conservation officer told him the next day the trap that killed Shasta was legally sized and placed.
“If you are going to put out these lethal traps, go up five kilometres, go up the mountain where nobody is around,” he said. “There was literally a house 200 metres from the gate and [they] put their trap [there].”
Seguin wants the trapping laws changed. He’s hired a lawyer and started a petition to not only change the distance traps can be placed from dwellings to at least two kilometres, but also to make sure they are marked with signs.
“It seems outdated to me, or just ridiculous.”
Obtaining a trapping licence in B.C. costs a $40 annual fee and requires completion of a training course. Trappers are also required to check their traps every 72 hours.
Blair Thin, a conservation officer in Castlegar, said it’s unusual for domestic pets to get caught in traps, but that it does occasionally happen. He added the most common complaints conservation officers receive are related to wildlife activity, or traps that have been improperly set.
There is no law requiring warning signs where traps are laid, and Thin said he understands why trappers don’t do it.
“They know that some people are probably against trapping,” said Thin. “So if you’re posting saying there are active traps in an area, then people will interfere with these lawfully set traps.”
That doesn’t fly with Seguin, who said he doesn’t want anyone else to go through the trauma of watching their pet die in a trap.
“It was pretty traumatic. It was just so out of nowhere, too. Just our usual walk but the accident was just so intense.”