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.