A B.C. couple is warning others after they watched their dog Gracie suffer in a baited trap buried beneath the snow of a popular hiking trail west of Barriere in the province's Southern Interior.
Dana Switzer went snowshoeing Sunday morning on the Seven Sisters Trail with her husband and two dogs. About 20 minutes in, Switzer heard Gracie, an eight-year-old Maremma sheepdog, yelp with pain.
"We just heard this god-awful scream," said Switzer, who found Gracie with her neck caught in a Conibear trap, bleeding from her mouth.
They couldn't release her from the trap, and several minutes later, Gracie stopped struggling, Switzer said.
The couple thought their family's loyal "livestock guardian" had died, in pain, before their eyes.
Gracie survived, but it's a cautionary tale for other dog owners walking on Crown land, says the B.C. SPCA, which is investigating the incident.
Unable to free Gracie from the trap, the Switzers left what they believed was her dead body and snowshoed out to report the incident to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.
In the meantime, someone — Switzer believes it was the trapper — freed the dog, who ran off. The SPCA confirms someone freed Gracie from the trap but is still conducting interviews.
The sheepdog was found wandering down a nearby road, with a collar and ID, by someone who turned her in to the SPCA and contacted the Switzers, who were in disbelief that their dog survived.
"It is actually quite miraculous given the type of trap involved. I'm told, that the injuries she sustained were not lethal," said Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer for the B.C. SPCA.
The dog was treated by a veterinarian at the SPCA for injuries to her upper lip, a punctured tongue and missing front teeth, said Moriarty. She was returned to her owners, who paid the vet bill.
"There's questions about how she got out of the trap, how long she was in the trap, and our role is to see if we can answer those questions to the best of our ability," said Moriarty.
Beware of traplines
The trapline and Conibear trap that caught Gracie are legal and registered with the province, according to a statement from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, which regulates the 3,500 trappers in B.C.
"I don't like, it, but nobody did anything wrong," said Switzer on Wednesday.
She hopes other dog owners learn from what happened to Gracie. "When you're on Crown land, you've got to beware."
She didn't see any signs warning of the trapping along the well-used hiking trail. The province said signs are posted along nearby Westsyde Road, though signs posted on the trail itself have gone missing.
The SPCA gets calls every year with dog owners concerned about traps on Crown land throughout the province, said Moriarty. Trapping is only allowed at certain times of year — generally over the winter.
"The trapline was legal, absolutely," said the SPCA's Moriarty. "It's something as dog owners we'd like to not see the traps out there, clearly, but if you're in a remote area it is something to be aware of."