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Dog killed in trap near MacDonald Creek

This Conibear trap killed Nikki the Yellow Lab near MacDonald Creek. Trappers, hikers, dog owners and local politicians all want to see better signage marking active traplines.  - Photo courtesy of Brian Graham
This Conibear trap killed Nikki the Yellow Lab near MacDonald Creek. Trappers, hikers, dog owners and local politicians all want to see better signage marking active traplines.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Brian Graham

A dog was killed by a trap set just off the Baerg Forest Service Road near MacDonald Creek between Nakusp and Burton.

"It took three of us everything we had to get the trap off," said Brian Graham, neighbour to the unfortunate Yellow Lab named Nikki and her owners Chris Szabo and Brenda Hoyle.

Szabo, Hoyle and Nikki had returned to Baerg FSR for another walk on Boxing Day. It was on their descent that Nikki suddenly ran into the woods, shortly after which the couple heard a terrible sound. Fearing it was a cougar attack and that the dog would be dragged through the woods, the two didn't rush into the scene.

Fortunately, they were able to get cell phone service and call Graham who also enlisted the help of nearby local Charles Maxfield.

"They called to help find the dog because I knew the area," Maxfield told the Arrow Lakes News. As he ventured off the road, cutting through the bush to where the dog had last been heard, he spotted one trap and then another. When he first spotted the dog's body in the trap, he thought it might have been a cougar.

"I felt really sorry for them. They said they'd had the dog for ten years," said Maxfield.

After wrestling with the 330 Conibear trap for ten minutes, the jaws were released but it was far too late for Nikki. The metal device meant to trap lynx, bobcats, wolverines or cougars had crushed the life from her. Designed to be a humane trap, the Conibear is a kind of body-gripping trap that kills animals quickly by clamping around their neck.

The traps are difficult to release; for information about how to release an animal from a Conibear trap, you can visit this site.

Herald Friedenberger, the trapper who runs the line, doesn't like to see dogs tangled in traps but said people should be more cautious when they're out in the bush.

"I feel bad, I don't want people's pets getting hammered," he told the Arrow Lakes News. Friedenberger had put up yellow tape warning that there was an active trapping line in the area.

A yellow ribbon warning of an active trapline dangled from a nearby tree and was hardly visible, said Barb Graham, who returned to the area with her husband Brian after the dog's death to take pictures.

"You wouldn't have seen it if you hadn't been looking for it," she told the Arrow Lakes News. The faded ribbon looked like just another piece of flagging tape along the road. Unless you looked very closely, it was difficult to read the warning printed on the ribbon.

Friedenberger has had issues with both ribbons and signs. Once he discovered that the ribbon had been chewed by a cougar. Signs he has put up have been knocked down too, but by humans.

Friedenberger believes that signs are knocked down by people opposed to trapping.

"They don't like trapping. I've had traps sprung and smashed too," he told the Arrow Lakes News.

The trapper is going to bring up the idea of getting government signs installed at a meeting of trappers and a MOE biologist coming up this month.

Friedenberger is hopeful that government-endorsed signs will stay up, because tampering with government signage has greater consequences.

Although the trapper has had dogs caught in traps before, this is the first death and he would like it to be the last. Because the trap Nikki died in was designed to catch small wild cats, Friedenberger is going to try mounting traps off the ground on the side of a tree and see how that works. Catching another dog is not something he wants to see happen again.

RDCK Director Paul Peterson was also adamant that changes must be made to prevent more accidental trapping.

"It's just terrible," Peterson said, adding, "I don't want to see this happen again in Area K. Ever."

The Area K Director will be pushing for a resolution to be created by the RDCK and taken to UBCM. From there, resolutions go to the provincial government and changes to legislation can be made. It's a long process, said Peterson, but the director believes the effort is well worth it.

Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) is currently investigating the death as well.

“I have asked staff to review this incident, to see how we can try to prevent such an unfortunate occurrence from happening again,” said Minister Steve Thomson.

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