British Columbia

Agonizing death of raccoon caught in trap sparks calls for empathy

Animal activists say the gory demise of a raccoon that chewed its own paw off after getting caught in a trap should be a lesson to would-be backyard vigilantes.

Animal chewed off own paw after it was caught in a legal trap set in Burnaby neighbourhood

This raccoon was brought into a shelter with its paw caught in a trap. The trap was removed, but the animal chewed its paw off. It was later euthanized. (Critter Care Wildlife Society)

Animal activists say the gory demise of a raccoon that chewed its own paw off after getting caught in a trap last week should be a lesson to would-be backyard vigilantes.

"Anybody using these type of traps, they're wanting to inflict pain. I don't know what type of people we have out there," said Gail Martin, founder of the Langley-based Critter Care Wildlife Society.

"And when I say I am sick of what goes on out there, I am sick of it! People have got to learn to have empathy for other living beings."

No release for 3-pawed raccoon

The raccoon was brought into Martin's shelter last Thursday after getting its paw caught in a cuff-style legal trap put out in a mixed residential and industrial use area in Burnaby.

Martin said staff were able to remove the trap, but the animal's foot was crushed. She said it still would have felt sensation in the paw, despite pain medication and chewed it off overnight.

The raccoon was then euthanized.

"He can't be released with three paws," she said. "He has to be able to survive out there."

The raccoon at rest in the moments after the removal of the trap that crushed its paw. The animal was later euthanized. (Critter Care Wildlife Society)

Martin called for stronger laws and prosecution of people who maim wildlife through the indiscriminate setting of traps.

"People can get hurt. Cats, dogs, children," she said. "Nobody should be allowed to use these type of traps."

Raccoons are a frequent irritant on the Lower Mainland, where they regularly roam streets and backyards with their families in search of food.

Solving underlying issues

According to the province, they're not considered aggressive but can be dangerous if threatened. Dogs are not considered an effective way of getting rid of them.

The province advises homeowners to keep garbage in plastic bags in buildings or sheds, to secure garbage can lids with rubbers straps or hooks and to clean garbage cans with ammonia or bleach.

It's illegal to poison raccoons, which can be trapped (in season) by registered trappers who have a valid licence. A mother and her babies can't be removed from a nesting site until the pups are able to leave.

Adrian Nelson, with the Association for the Protection of Fur Bearing Animals, says the trap in question is legal. But he questions the morality of anything that would leave an animal in such pain.

"Our biggest recommendation is to bring in a wildlife control company that knows what they're doing, that uses non-lethal measures," he said.

"When it comes to trapping animals ... we're not really solving the underlying issue of why that animal is there. So, until we address the attractants or the habitat or whatever is drawing that animal in, we're just going to continue to have problems."