Wolf snares kill 15 cougars, eagle in central Alberta, spurring debate over hunting method

News that snares set for wolves killed 15 cougars and one golden eagle in the Sundre area alone this winter has reignited debate over whether the hunting method is "inhumane" or essential.

Trapper argues that snares are vital to manage predators for agriculture industry, municipalities

A retired wildlife specialist says this is 'not abnormal' because there is no limit to the number of snares a trapper can set around a draw bait. (iStock/Medicine River Wildlife Centre Facebook)

News that snares set for wolves killed 15 cougars and one golden eagle in central Alberta this winter is prompting a call to phase out a hunting method that some call "inhumane."

Dwight Rodtka, a retired Alberta Agriculture specialist in problem wildlife, says he's not surprised to hear that wolf snares are taking down other animals.

"It's not really that abnormal, or abnormal at all," he said.

According to Alberta Fish and Wildlife, the creatures perished in the Sundre area after being caught in snares set for wolves.

"They're not selective at all as to what they catch," said Rodtka.

There is no limit to the number of neck snares a trapper can set around a draw bait — a heap of dead animals or roadkill set out to lure wolves in.

"When you get 200 snares set out in a quarter-mile radius around a draw bait it's just basically a solid wall. Any animal that goes through or attempts to go through there, is very likely to get caught."

He says moose, deer, elk, bears, birds and cougars have all died this way.

Dwight Rodtka doesn't believe all wildlife accidentally caught in wolf snares are reported. He says Ralph Klein's famous 'shoot, shovel, and shut up' remark is 'quite prevalent' among Alberta's hunting and trapping community. (Getty Images/Fuse)

Phase out 'inhumane' snares

In 2015, Rodtka co-authoured a paper published the Journal of Canadian Wildlife Management and Biology that reveals Canadian snares are inefficient at quickly killing wildlife.

"They're definitely inhumane," he said. "The design of the device itself is such that there doesn't appear any possible way that it can be made humane." 

Rodtka says because hunting is no longer a source of livelihood for most Albertans and is now "largely recreational," it makes sense for the province to start phasing out neck snares. 

Snares 'critical management tool'

One of the most well-known wolf trappers in Canada argues that snares are nothing but humane.

"Properly set [and] properly used these things are absolutely deadly," said Gordy Klassen, a lifelong trapper in northern Alberta.

He says neck snares are widely recognized as "killing devices" and municipalities and the agriculture industry would "take a tremendous hit" if trappers couldn't use them to manage predators like coyotes and wolves, that take down livestock.

"Snares are a critical management tool."

A basic manual killing neck snare. (Gilbert Proulx)

Bycatch higher than reported

"I'm positive that we are not even hearing the tip of the iceberg," said Rodtka about bycatch — animals accidentally caught in traps intended for other wildlife.

He says Ralph Klein's famous 'shoot, shovel, and shut up' remark made during the 2003 mad cow crisis is "quite prevalent" among Alberta's hunting and trapping community.

"There's not even mandatory reporting of most animals. The only animals that you have to report are animals that are on a restrictive quota and also grizzly bears."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener


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