Couple wants tougher rules after coyote snare strangles dog

Tobias Romaniuk
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A St. John’s couple is calling for stricter regulations and awareness surrounding coyote snares after their family dog was killed in a snare near their cabin.

The couple’s two-year-old Labrador-terrier mix, Riley, was accompanying a family member on a trail near their cabin on Middle Gull Pond, off the Trans-Canada Highway near Holyrood, on Dec. 27 when the dog ran ahead and was snared, said Mark Furlong.

His mother was walking with the dog when it became entangled about half a kilometre from the road.

Furlong’s mother attempted to remove the snare from the dog’s neck, but was unable to get it off, and the dog died.

The snare wasn’t marked, said Furlong, and until their dog was caught, he and his fiancée, Laurie Short-Cahill, were not aware there were snares in the area.

“She got to this field, and the dog just started running and it got caught in this coyote snare,” said Furlong, relating the story his mother told him.

“By the time she got the snare off the tree, Riley was gone,” said Furlong.

Furlong and Short-Cahill have not spoken with the trapper, but his mother has.

“My mother tried to talk to him. She was furious over the situation,” said Furlong, adding the hunter offered to pay them for another dog.


The money wasn’t the issue, said Short-Cahill, who feels like she lost a member of the family.

The dog was well-trained and often accompanied the couple without being leashed, said Furlong.

“It’s one of these things that you you can’t see it coming because it’s such a good dog. I mean, I had a better chance of getting hit by a car than this dog,” he said.

A guide for dog owners released by the provincial government advises people to keep dogs on a leash at all times to avoid incidents such as this one.

It’s something Short-Cahill doesn’t agree with.

“People can say what they want about having a dog off the leash. If you can’t have your dog off the leash on a walk in the country in a well-travelled area where you normally walk...” she said, her words trailing off with a shake of her head.

The Department of Environment issues a hunter and trapper guide outlining the rules in the province. It contains a trapper’s code of conduct which states, in part, “Avoid setting snares on or near public property, within view of well-travelled roads and trails, or in areas frequented by pets, hikers, hunters with dogs, and other snarers.”

The guide does not list any penalties for not adhering to the code of conduct. That’s something that Riley’s owners would like to see changed. While they realize it’s too late for their dog, they say changing the rules regulating how close snares may be set to trails or private property could prevent future heartache.

There are a few things that could have been done to prevent Riley’s accident, said Furlong, including marking the snare as well as posting signs warning trail users of snares in the area.

“We’d like to see stronger laws in place,” he said.

Public awareness about snares should also be increased, he said.

Furlong has since made himself aware and is now prepared in case a similar thing happens again.

“I know now how to take off a snare just in case it were to occur again,” he said.

That isn’t something most non-hunters know how to do, added Short-Cahill.

“That’s not something you would know as an average Joe going for a walk with your dog,” she said.

The couple now has another dog, and is more cautious about snares on their walks.



Organizations: Trans-Canada Highway, Department of Environment

Geographic location: Labrador, Holyrood

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Recent comments

  • Beverly quinlan
    January 29, 2015 - 11:21

    Anyone who says snares aren't cruel are stupid. There is a trapper in my area who sets fox snares within a km or so of my house. I walk my dog there frequently and he knows this. Recently I noticed a fox in one of the snares still alive and shivering with fear. I phoned the hunter but found out he is away working and only home on weekends. So far the fox has been there for two days and still alive! So don't tell me it's not cruel . The hunter probably won't check them til Saturday . I think all snares should be banned!! My dog enjoys a good walk on a wooded trail and she is well behaved. Snares should not be permitted anywhere within a ten km radius of a town

  • JACK
    July 17, 2012 - 19:38

    I have some personal knowledge of this situation and can without a doubt speak to the credibility of the trapper in this instance. The area was clearly marked and the dog owner fully aware of the presence of the snares, I guess she just had a brain fart to bring her dog into the area. The area in question was not near a road but some 800 meters away. The sad thing about the information in the article is MISINFORMATION by not reporting all the circumstances surrounding the incident. I am a dog owner and a trapper and respect the rights of both however the negligence in this case falls solely on the dog owner.

  • Colt macelroy
    June 22, 2012 - 17:45

    Mother nature at its finest. Smart dogs don't get caught, dogs that are yappy and hyper fight the snare unlike an intelligent dog.

  • Robert
    June 20, 2012 - 11:22

    Some of these comments are ridiculous - people insulting the pet owners. I'm a hunter for over 20 years, I am also a registered trapper, fisherman and outdoorsman. I have seen far too many instances where irresponsible hunters put snares near locations where THEY KNOW there is commonly traffic. I have always made a point of avoiding areas that I know that hunters use beagles to hunt rabbits. Blaming the victim because a hunter was lazy and irresponsible is laughable. The person who teaches the trapping course throughout much of NL is adament in teaching it that trappers need to be CERTAIN this region is not frequented by pets. Anyone making excuses for the hunter is not following what is ACTUALLY RECOMMENDED by REAL TRAPPERS.

    • Judy
      July 17, 2012 - 11:49

      It is unfortunate that Mark Furlong did not reveal all the facts in this incident. I knwo this trapper personally and he is very conscientious about what he does. he is alsops a dog owner, and erects caution signs at all his snare locations. He was deeply troubled by this incident. At the two trails leading into this area he had erected signs which read "Caution - Active Trapline" and "Caution - Active Fox/Coyote Trapline". He had even written a NL Sportsman article for the March/April 2012 issue and specifically mentioned his caution signs at this exact same location. Another thing - I understand his snare was set 800 metres from the nearest road, as calculated from Google Earth. When he encountered the couple who had lost the dog, the gentleman actually apologised to this trapper, acknowledging his right to conduct his activities, and admitting as to having no idea why the woman would venture beyond the signs with an untethered dog. Unfortunately this is more an example of a badly reported case of irresponsible pet ownership than it hasbeen twisted into by lies of omission.

  • Anne Marie
    June 20, 2012 - 11:22

    When I look at this situation, there are two people, one who wishes they could of foreseen a tragedy and the other wishing she had not let the dog off the leash, either way its a very sad situation I have a small dog and have occasionally let her off the leash in the woods, but if I thought for a minute there could be a trap of any sort nearby I of course would never of done it, bottom line being if you have warning signs where not to cut wood then you should have warning signs where not to take your animals, as it could of happened still if he was on a leash.

  • L.S. Davis
    June 20, 2012 - 08:18

    A death by strangulation that takes minutes is by no means a quick, painless death. I am so sick of this war that's being waged on anything on four legs! Kill the moose, kill the bears, kill the caribou, kill the squirrles, if more wolves show up, kill 'em too - kill 'em all and let God sort it out!

  • D Beaton
    June 19, 2012 - 16:30

    It's a terrible experience to have your dog get into any life threatening situation let alone expire right in front of you. That alone should nudge any dog owner in the direction of keeping their animal under control no matter where they are. Also, it is a fair statement that fox/coyote snaring and trapping has increased dramtically in popularity and I would estimate that any area frequented by wildlife is snared. I think the idea of marking where the snares are is an advertisement for theives, meddlers and people with the wrong intentions to take them.

  • Bernie
    June 19, 2012 - 16:17

    So the world on both side have clashed. Well, if you have a pet it should not be able to run freely...what if the dog had come upon a herd of grazing sheep and killed one, then I can hear the dog owner saying "Well, the farmer should have had more control over his sheep. They should have been in an enclosed grazing area". Sounds far fetched I know, but this is exactly what was said by a dog owner when his dog killed a lamb!! Seems there is no solution once urbanites leave the comfort of concrete sideways. You are in the wild people.

  • Terry
    June 19, 2012 - 15:55

    Once again , a case of pet owners who did no wrong . I don't think so ! Their dog was unfortunately a victim of their neglect . It was trapped in a snare that was set for a predatory animal that was set according to the law . They however were breaking the law as soon as the dog was out without a leash . Provincial regulations state " It is unlawful to take a dog unleashed or allow a dog to run in any area frequented by wildlife from April 1 to August 31 inclusive , except in designated areas and during designated times ." That goes for any dog ! From a hunting beagle to a Poodle etc... ! " He was a good dog " , doesn't matter ! So sorry about your dog , glad it wasn't mine but I respect others and wouldn't have mine out without his leash .

  • Topcat fr Bay of Islands
    June 19, 2012 - 14:57

    Society can't protect us and our pets from every possible risk even if wanted to. Snaring is a legal means of trapping some animals and I see no reason to overhaul the whole system because one person's pet dog was running free and died from getting caught in a snare.

  • Dogs Run Amuck
    June 19, 2012 - 14:37

    I sympathize with the owners of the dog, HOWEVER, I am sick and tired of seeing dogs running loose and I see it daily on city trails. I am terrified of dogs because I was bitten by one last summer, just minutes after the dog owner said "Oh, he's friendly, wouldn't hurt a thing". And another point, when walking your dogs on a leash, please do not extend the leash long enough that the dog can still attack/bite/jump on people passing by. You may think he's adorable and treat it like your child, however NOT EVERYBODY LIKES YOUR DOG!

  • michael bennett
    June 19, 2012 - 14:35

    If you let your dog off a leash and allow it to roam on public lands frequented by wild animals like coyotes you take your chances. If a dog is killed by coyotes you would be calling for shooting ,snaring ,or trapping to get rid of them.

  • Catherine
    June 19, 2012 - 14:21

    I'm sick of irresponsible dog owners who won't keep their dogs on a leash. You can't go to a park or on a walking trail without some dog running up to you. I am deathly afraid of dogs and keep my distance, but what recourse do I have when an irresponsible owner is letting their dog run free? If you want to take your dog off leash, visit a dog park. That's what they're there for. If you're irresposible enough to let it off a leash elsewhere then put up with the consequences. Too many people forget that dogs are animals, not people. They are not your children, they are pets.

  • doggy do
    June 19, 2012 - 13:05

    Exercising a Dog on a leash is not exercise. Dogs should be able to run around without getting killed in this way. I have just stopped using a trail I have used for eight years because I met a Coyote there the other day. We need a Coyote cull campaign, but not using traps. With ATV's, RV's and Coyotes, its getting to be there is nowhere safe and quiet to exercise a dog these days.

  • Wow
    June 19, 2012 - 12:48

    I think the government should reconsider the bounty they have on coyotes. I don't like coyotes anymore than anyone else, but latey the news is riddled with coyote sightings, shootings, trapping, etc. Snares should be illegal. They are inhumane. My heart goes out to the family that lost the little pup. I have a dog myself and he's on leash at ALL times when he's outside in town, but I've often let him run loose when we're out in the woods hiking on private property. I wonder how often snares are set ON private property........ People love letting their dogs run a little, especially given how much of their lives they spend in a house or on a leash. The dog parks around the City aren't fit for small dogs most of the time so we resort to more "risky" behaviours. Thanks for sharing this story. It certainly gives us all something to think about!

    • Matt
      June 19, 2012 - 15:53

      Inhumane? Snares are very humane and in many cases the animal is killed within minutes. This dog was killed in minutes while the owner tried to save it yet you say its inhumane? By saying snares should be illegal shows your dog should be in the city with you in a dog park. Im not defending the trapper, i am one myself however you can't say that they should be illegal thats foolish.

  • Rosa
    June 19, 2012 - 12:44

    Snares should be outlawed. Meanwhile, I would rather meet a coyote in the woods than these careless hunters. Apparently, the motto for some is "Shoot first, identify later", as with the dog that was shot in Middle Pond. My sympathies to the people who lost their little dog in this horrendous manner.

  • common sense
    June 19, 2012 - 11:18

    To the people who love their pets like their children - I would not dare let my kids run ahead in the woods by themselves, or run along the sidewalk ahead of me without having some form of control for fear of something like this happening. Just sayin'.

  • TheCretanHound
    June 19, 2012 - 11:14

    I find it pretty sad at some of the comments about being a responsible dog owner. This was not at a park, it was near their cabin. Dogs need to have a little freedom to run, they are animals, with emotions and wants. They are not things for display. How about a man taking his bird dogs out hunting? Is he irresponsible because he lets his dogs off leash? No one did anything wrong, neither the hunter nor the walkers. Just terrible circumstances. The problem is the regulations for setting snares should be fixed or their should be public notices with how to free a pet from a snare.

  • Hunterawareofarea
    June 19, 2012 - 11:13

    I believe I am aware of the area in question, as I was hunting this area around this time and saw the coyote snares after having been taken up. This area has had an active fox/coyote trapline for YEARS by the same responsible trapper who put signs up warning that there was an active fox/coyote trapline here. I am sure that cabin owners in the area MUST have known about this as well. It's unfortunate the dog died, BUT, to take over a small section of woods by driving responsible trappers out of the area becasue cabin owners don't want him there is wrong I believe.

  • Michelle
    June 19, 2012 - 10:42

    I've been carrying wire cutters in my backpack for the past couple of years for this exact sad :( I understand why this couple would be upset, but as others have said the dog was off leash. I personally take my dogs on off leash hikes as well (far from residential areas) but I am aware of the risks and choose to take them. Sadly, snares are one of those risks.

  • Joe it all
    June 19, 2012 - 10:24

    Taking a walk in the woods and letting your dog off leash for a while to give him/her some real exercise is a far cry from letting a dog run free all the time. This should not result in a dead dog. A dog off leash is not off chasing wildlife. I walk my dog all the time but it is not the same as giving him a good run. The main fear of someone meeting my dog would be of getting licked to death!

  • leah
    June 19, 2012 - 09:43

    Sorry for your loss,what a horrible thing to happen. Another coyote tradgety,when are COYOTE PANIC PEOPLE going to realize that their actions are the ones who are hurting people.,so far I have not heard any coyoye attacks-its the humans so far are the ones who are doing the hurting

  • Marian Atkinson
    June 19, 2012 - 09:35

    Snares are a very cruel means of trapping/killing any animal. They should not be allowed at all in any area -- public or otherwise. They should be banned and fines imposed on anyone found setting them.

  • dog off leash
    June 19, 2012 - 09:35

    dog off leash; was probably the problem really

  • Tut Tut Tut
    June 19, 2012 - 09:34

    Put the dog on a leash and this won't happen. Your luck it just got snared and not shot. Be a responsible dog owner. Keep your dog on a short leash. Your dog (any size) also poses a threat to local wildlife and other people in the woods.

  • Bang Bang
    June 19, 2012 - 09:09

    Sorry about your dog but below is what the law states. In other provinces you have to flag your snares. Dogs • It is unlawful to take a dog unleashed or to allow a dog to run in any area frequented by wildlife from April 1 to August 31 inclusive, except in designated field trial/dog training areas and during designated times. For information on field trial/dog training areas, please contact your nearest DNR or Wildlife Division office. • A wildlife officer may destroy any dog found to be harassing wildlife.

      June 19, 2012 - 12:13

      Pretty sure the article states that their dog was killed on December 27th. They were abiding by the rules that you stated. I had a neighbor growing up that hated that my dog would laze around on the patio without being on a chain or follow us kids around in the yard - never straying. Myself and my little sister (at the time 10 and 4 respectively), were playing in bushes by our house, with our little dog following, and the dog got caught in a snare - BEHIND OUR HOUSE! Of course, my parents went to WIldlife with it, and the neighbor got fined BIG time for putting snares in a residential area. He said that it was for rabbits, and he ended up catching a dog - who thankfully was fine. It could have been my little sisters hand, or my leg. And the same situation here. Kids run ahead of their parents all the time... People who set snares need to be more responsible about where they place it and they should flag them, regardless of where they are...

  • amusedbyitall
    June 19, 2012 - 09:00

    People can say what they want about having a dog off the leash. If you can't keep control of your dog where people might be out on a walk in the country in a well-travelled area where they normally walk...” he said, his words trailing off with a shake of his head.

  • ken
    June 19, 2012 - 08:45

    I have a dog and no kids but my dog is like my kid and all ways take her swimming in the woods and flick rocks in the woods for her to chase but now after reading this I have to agree with the couple to see changes and more regulations for the small game hunting, I can only imagine how all the young mothers feel about this if they take their kids to the cabin or something around those lines .

  • Mindy
    June 19, 2012 - 08:44

    Yes---stricter regulations. First I'm sorry for the lose of your pet dog, Riley. I know all too well what it is like. As far as the dog being leashed I do not think that was or would have been an issue. I see many pet owners walk their dogs in wooded areas and trails and they have a very long leash to give the dog a since of freedom. Therefore it could have happen even if he was leashed. Location of these snares are a big problem.

  • Dog Lover
    June 19, 2012 - 08:13

    The coyote hunting should be put to a stop; more and more pets are getting killed because of coyote hunters!! The hunters are careless; they don't care what they shoot at or whom they kill! This has to be put to an end before a human gets killed, and sorry is TOO LATE! You can't replace a loved one, more and more kids are playing in wooded areas now because they can't play out in the streets now can they??

    • Hunter Dog Lover
      June 19, 2012 - 10:30

      Are you for real? Stop hunting coyotes...if anything the Government should increase the return for them.... Stop hunting them...soon we will be over run by them and yours kids not alone your dogs will not be safe in your back yard!!! It is unfortunate what happened to that dog... but if the dog and to run ahead a get attacked by a coyote than they would be calling for more hunting of them...

    • Me
      June 19, 2012 - 13:39

      I agree with Dog Lover, those hunters are REALLY CARELESS...they will shoot you and anybody or anything! And they don't care, they don't even have a heart!

    • Dog Lover
      June 19, 2012 - 13:46

      It's people like you that kill the innocent! HUNTER.

  • Reta
    June 19, 2012 - 07:54

    These snares are not easy to untangle even if one is familiar with their use. As the animal struggles it tighens more and gets entangled in its fur. Such animal snares should not be allowed so close to cabin areas.

  • Robert
    June 19, 2012 - 07:49

    Since coyotes (animals in general) can't read I don't think it would be unreasonable to expect trappers to put up simple signage warning that traps have been set.

  • jt
    June 19, 2012 - 07:34

    Snaring is inhumane and should be banned.

  • Coda
    June 19, 2012 - 07:20

    Oh my, how devastating. I thought losing a pet through illnesses was devastating, but what you have went through is totally horrific. I know your anger and frustration and disbelief of the mentatility of some of the hunters/trappers, as I just went through the same horrific situation, except it was a shooting. Although, it's late to send my 'sorryies', but I do wish it from the bottom of my heart. I totally agree with the owner statement of when and where you can walk your dog off the leash. Those dogs do have a life and are experts at making us laugh and at teaching us to slow down and enjoy life with the simplest things as taking a walk/run. I do wish you guys the best of luck. If you need more support then be vocal and keep up with this ambition, peserverance does pays off.

  • Joseph McGrath
    June 19, 2012 - 07:03

    I am sorry to learn that the dog was killed in such an accident but having said that I see no wrong here on the part of the person who set the legal snare.I own a dog and owned many over the years and I loved them all.Time for these dog owners to keep their pets on a leash in the city or country.We got to many bleeding hearts in this Province always whining to the media.Kudos to the snare setter for offering to pay for a replacement dog.I would not!!!Take respobnsibility for your mistakes owners...

  • Jenny
    June 19, 2012 - 06:45

    "The dog was well-trained and often accompanied the couple without being leashed, said Furlong." - If you had kept the dog on a leash, this would not have happened. Being a pet owner means being responsible.

    • Frank
      June 19, 2012 - 12:16

      Give me a break! You shouldn't have to leash your dog unless you are in the city. Is there anywhere left where you can go for a walk without fear of being shot at or have your pet shot or trapped. Snares should never be allowed to trap any animal as it is a slow painful death.

  • woodsy
    June 19, 2012 - 06:44

    our woods have been hijacked & not by coyotes. people getting shot whilst out enjoying a boilup, family pets, etc. This "kill" mentality is embarassing!