Montreal

Dog dies in animal trap on Green Mountains nature reserve

A Quebec woman is warning nature lovers to be careful in the woods after her dog was killed when its head was caught in a trap set illegally on a nature reserve in the Eastern Townships.

Neither dogs nor trapping allowed in nature reserve

11-year-old Betty was drawn to a bait box in the Green Mountains nature reserve while out on a walk. She became ensnared in the illegal trap and died. (Gwynne Basen)

A Quebec woman is warning nature lovers to be careful in the woods after her dog was killed when its head was caught in a trap set illegally on a nature reserve in the Eastern Townships.

Gwynne Basen, a resident of Potton in the Eastern Townships, said her dog, 11-year-old Betty, was drawn to a bait box in the Green Mountains nature reserve near her home.

Basen said she had just parked her car and was putting on her cross-country ski boots when the dog took off into the woods.

Seconds later, she heard a terrible sound coming from her dog.

"Then it was even worse – because it stopped," Basen told CBC's Quebec AM. "She died even before I got a chance to put my skis on."

Basen said the trap had been set about five metres off the path, just inside the boundary of the nature reserve.

She described it as a conibear trap that had been set up with a box containing skinned animals as bait.

"The smell was quite strong. It attracts the animal to the wooden box. They put their head in, and that springs the trap," she said.

"I was told… that it's called a humane trap, and the animals don't suffer," Basen said. "But I can tell you, Betty suffered."

Trapping within the nature reserve is against the rules. Dogs also aren’t permitted on the grounds, although many nature enthusiasts can't resist the urge to bring their canines with them on the hiking trails.

Basen said she was aware of the rules.

"I knew I wasn't supposed to bring my dog. I've paid a huge price for that," she said.

"I want to make sure people absolutely don't bring their dogs into the reserve. But I also want to see stricter rules around trapping, because it's invisible and not very well regulated."

A popular trail

Basen said it is very common for people to bring their dogs off the designated hiking trails.

She said signage is good, but that the area of land is quite large and it's not always obvious where the nature reserve ends and someone else's property begins. 

After the incident, she said, the game warden wasn't sure who owned the exact piece of land, leading to some confusion.

She said she is also concerned about what could happen to children out on the trail who come across the traps when their parents are not looking. 

"What would happen if you go up there with a curious four-year-old, who runs up to see what the bait box is all about?" asked Basen.

Nearly three years ago, Basen's sister Leila lost her Australian shepherd Lola under similar circumstances, when the dog was caught in a trap in the bush just off a trail in Hemmingford, Que.  At that time, Hemmingford's mayor said Basen and her partner should have followed the town bylaw that said dogs need to be on leashes.

Legal recourse possible 

Julien Poisson, the project manager for the Green Mountain reserve, said the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which owns the land, will have to reinforce the signage in some of those key areas of the reserve.

Poisson said the conservation group is leading an investigation. If they are able to identify the owner of the traps, there could be legal recourse, he said.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this article contained factual inaccuracies. The conibear trap is, in fact, a legal trap; however, it was set in a place where trapping is prohibited.
    Dec 20, 2014 9:43 AM ET

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