Yesterday a story broke that disturbed many Toronto residents. 8 skinned beaver carcasses were found in the Don Valley, simply left behind to rot in a heavily visited area. But what disturbed people even more than this cruel tragedy, was finding out that the use of traps is actually legal in the city of Toronto. It's true. Under the Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation Act, only the use of a single kind of snare (a "neck" or "suspended" snare, which is primarily hung from a tree and baited to encourage the animal to jump and be killed via strangulation) is prohibited. In fact, the only reason this beaver trapper was technically in violation of the Act was because he did not ask permission of the property owner (in this case the City of Toronto and Toronto Region Conservation Authority) to trap. So, provided permission is granted by the city or the Crown, trapping is A-ok in our city. And there are 2800 registered traplines on Crown land in Ontario.
So what's the problem with this?
First of all, regardless of how the fur industry packages fur, ("green" or "traditional", etc.) trapping is an inherently violent practice. Just days ago, a coyote in Pickering was caught around his tongue and neck by a snare. Luckily, the rescue team at Toronto Wildlife Centre rushed him to their emergency centre, and he has since stabilized. And now, 8 beavers were cruelly trapped by the infamous leg-hold trap.
Beavers are smart, monogamous, family-oriented animals who build dams to protect their families from predators. They are also a keystone species, which means they are necessary for a healthy, robust ecosystem. In fact, 50% of North America's threatened or endangered species rely on beaver wetlands for survival. Traps, which are routinely placed near dens, are responsible for more than 135,000 beavers being killed in Canada each year. That is 135,000 beaver families destroyed. To make matters even worse, because beavers are semi-aquatic animals, they are 'difficult' to drown. Once a beaver is caught in a trap, it can take them 20 minutes (and sometimes even longer) for the beaver to actually die.
Apart from being violent towards our wildlife, traps are a serious public safety concern. They routinely catch our dogs and cats, endangered species, deer, birds, and even people. There is no place for them in the City of Toronto.
While some may argue that we already have the Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation Act enforced by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), there are major issues associated with relying solely on it. These include:
- A lack of enforcement: As of April 11th, 2013, there were only 180 Conservation Officers employed by the MNR in Ontario. The landmass of Ontario is 894,639 square kilometres. That means there is 1 officer per 5000 square kilometres. This undoubtedly creates issues and challenges with enforcement.
- A lack of transparency: Trappers are not legally required to post notices about trapping. This has resulted in countless tragic incidents involving 'non-target' animals like dogs and cats. The industry claims this is because people will sabotage the traps. This isn't surprising, given that the majority of Canadians see trapping as unacceptable.
- A lack of accountability: There are no mandatory identification numbers on traps. So if and when there are trapping violations, there is no opportunity for the public to demand accountability. Traps are weapons. Let's assume for a second that leaving loaded guns in the woods was a lawful practice. Would we be OK with these guns having no serial numbers? No method of 'tracking' someone down? Of course not. So why is this acceptable for trappers?
A municipal ban offers optimal protection for wildlife, domestic animals and people from all body-gripping traps. It sends a clear message to those trapping illegally that Toronto does not tolerate this violence. It offers Toronto a clear and swift enforcement tool when/if a situation like the one involving these beavers occurs again.
Toronto would not be alone, either. After a tragic incident involving a dog caught in a trap, the City of Guelph, ON instituted a municipal ban on the use of traps, in recognition that provincial and existing municipal regulations have large loopholes; a fact well-known to trappers. Pickering, ON is also considering a ban.
The City of Toronto has two options: they can implement a long overdue ban on the use of body-gripping traps before there is another tragic incident, or they can implement one after there is another tragic incident (and next time it may be someone's dog, or someone's child). We hope Toronto will continue to live up to its reputation as a progressive, animal-friendly city, and implement a ban.
Find out how you can help Toronto ban the use of traps here.
Follow Shannon Kornelsen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shannynsteps