2 dogs get caught in snares near White Hills trails

A woman in St. John's is warning others who like to hit hiking trails with their furry best friends about two instances where dogs have become entangled in what she believes to be coyote snares. 

A close call on a hiking trail, twice in five days

JJ is happy to be home, safe and sound after a close encounter with a snare near a hiking trail in St. John's. (Submitted by Marlene Walsh)

A St. John's dog owner is warning others who like to hit hiking trails with their furry best friends about two recent instances in which pets have become entangled in what she believes were coyote snares. 

Marlene Walsh was walking the bike trails behind RCMP headquarters in White Hills with her son and their dog JJ on Friday when the curious pup wandered a short distance from the trail. Normally a quiet dog, JJ suddenly sounded like she was in distress. 

Walsh and her son ran to her aid and found the dog with its head stuck in the wire, struggling to breathe. Walsh's son slipped his fingers under the wire to make sure JJ had some breathing room, with the snare becoming tighter as she tried to get free.

"There's no sign up there saying someone is trapping, and there's no signs up there saying not to walk your dog on a leash," Walsh told CBC Radio's On The Go.

"Maybe even something as simple as that would prevent something like from happening again."

Walsh, out of cellphone range, ran for help from a man she knew ahead of them on the trail. 

"I knew that he would have a Leatherman [pocket multitool] or something with him, so I made my way to try to catch him," Walsh said.

A snare placed near a popular walking area in St. John's was meant to capture coyotes, but JJ became trapped instead. (Submitted by Marlene Walsh)

It took some time and some hard work to free JJ from the thick-gauge snare, after which she was right as rain, said Walsh. 

"We got the snare off of her and she jumped up and started running around. She was perfect. But it could have ended differently," Walsh said.

The dog often ducks in and out of the woods while on walks, chasing scents and looking for birds. 

Another day, another snare

After Walsh's experience, she said, a friend of hers packed a pair of wire cutters to take with her during her walk on Tuesday morning — and it's a good thing she did.

Walsh said her friend's black Labrador found its way into a similar trap in the same area, but her friend was able to free her dog within moments with the wire cutters.

Walsh said she was told there were at least four other snares found in the area on Tuesday. 

Small game hunting

Hunting is allowed on Crown land, with some restrictions; it is unlawful, for example, to discharge a firearm within one kilometre of a school, playground, athletic field or within 300 metres of a dwelling. The provincial government, which regulates hunting, said in an e-mailed statement that with some exceptions such as provincial parks, snares are allowed on Crown lands.

"The White Hills would be in the municipality of St. John's and it would fall to the city to enact a bylaw that would prohibit snares," a government spokesperson said.

The City of St. John's, however, notes most of the land in the White Hills area is owned by the federal government, and the land on which the dogs were snared is not owned by the city.

A map indicates federally owned land and the restrictions for hunting in the area of White Hills in St. John's. (City of St. John's/Submitted)

Under its parks bylaw, the City of St. John's does prohibit hunting in Bowring Park, Bannerman Park, Victoria Park, Kent's Pond, Kenny's Pond, Rotary Park and Sunshine Camp, Long Pond, Mundy Pond, Quidi Vidi Lake, T'Railway and Grand Concourse. 

It also prohibits hunting on land owned, leased, or controlled by the city designated or used as a park, playground, sport field, trail or public open space.

The public also cannot attempt to take any bird or bird's egg from a nest or set any trap or other means for capturing, killing or injuring any birds or animals.

Except for city-operated dog parks, dogs must remain under the control of its owner, on a leash or harness.

Walsh said she knows she should have had her dog on a leash, but because of its natural instincts — JJ is a Brittany spaniel, bred for hunting — she generally lets it roam while they're on the trails. She said she may have to consider training JJ to use a leash so she'll be better prepared when she returns to the hiking area.

She said she isn't upset with snares being in the White Hills area — she just wants the public to be forewarned that they may be there. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go and Katie Breen