Opinion: "Humane" leg-hold traps in Stanley Park will allow for devastating injuries

Sep 7 2021, 9:22 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Lesley Fox, Executive Director of The Fur-Bearers

Leg-hold traps in Stanley Park would have been unthinkable a year ago. But years of allowing wildlife feeding to go unchecked, the changing use of the park’s forests by visitors, and an apparent unwillingness to act earlier by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation (Park Board) and those in power have led to this point.

Coyotes will be caught with leg-hold traps, and then killed, as a result.

Coyote Stanley Park

Matt Knoth/Shutterstock

The devices, which slam shut on any animal (including domestic and human) and activate the trap mechanism, hold the individual against their will. Despite thin pieces of rubber or spaces between the jaws, animals will fight to be free; the injuries that result from this can be devastating. 

While government officials point to these traps being labelled as “certified” and “humane” under an international agreement, there are key elements intentionally left out.

For example, the agreement itself is for the purposes of trade; the word “humane” is never once defined. There is also a built-in acceptable failure rate of 20% on all “humane” traps that allow for devastating injuries, including broken teeth, lacerations, and lost digits.

Some animals caught in these traps may lie down in fear; others will fight until they cannot fight anymore. Examples of the injuries caused by these traps and how they frequently catch domestic animals can be found at TheFurBearers.com.

Of further concern is that under current provincial regulation, there is no obligation to report non-target species, including birds, dogs, and cats.

animal traps

Richmond RCMP handout

Large cage traps are known to be ineffective in catching coyotes, and relocation of coyotes in a situation like this unfortunately creates other difficulties for the animals, as well as whatever ecosystem in which they’re placed. The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is managing the permits and actions of trappers within Stanley Park.

We are devastated regarding this situation, particularly as there were numerous opportunities for intervention and mitigation in the last year. As early as January 2021, the Fur-Bearers and others had contacted the Park Board regarding feeding, a lack of signage, waste management issues, and the need for enforcement of regulations.

Today, we must look to prevention. We know that Stanley Park is an ecosystem, not just a tourist location, and must be treated as such. Ensuring that wildlife feeding regulations at the provincial level are enforced, and that local bylaws are created and enforced is essential; cleaning up the waste management issues, which can include an examination of toxins and drugs in the park, is essential; we know that multilingual, graphic-heavy signage about wildlife, feeding and preventing negative encounters is essential; and we know that this entire situation may repeat itself if action isn’t taken.

Our hearts ache for those who have been affected by this entire series of negative encounters and response, directly and indirectly, as well as the animals who pay the price for the mistakes of the stewards and visitors of Stanley Park.

The solution to this crisis, and the prevention of it moving forward, is for all levels of government to actively work together, acknowledge their past mistakes and identify opportunities to do better. It requires residents and visitors to recognize the damage of feeding and report incidents to the BC Conservation Officer Service RAPP line (1-877-952-7277). And ultimately, it means remembering that every single inhabitant of Stanley Park is an individual who is simply trying to make it through the day. We can do better for Stanley Park, and the wildlife which calls it home, because we must.

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