Sask. woman speaks out against illegal snares

Snare was placed too close to family’s farmyard, but president of provincial trapping association calls case an exception

It is a pet owner’s worst nightmare — a beloved pet not returning home.

For Virginia Bells, that nightmare became a reality when her one-year-old St. Bernard, Gord, was not home to greet them on Dec. 18 at their farm near Humboldt, Sask. Gord was later found in an illegally placed snare near their yard.

Bells’ husband discovered Gord, she says. He wouldn’t let her look at him considering the state of his injuries, but what she can say is the injuries were severe.

“No one should have to see that of their family pet,” she says.

All trappers are subject to the regulations laid out within the Saskatchewan Wildlife Regulations and the Wildlife Act, says Sgt. Daryl Minter with the provincial environment ministry’s Conservation Officer Service. These include specific laws on power snare placement and communication with local residents.

All trappers, specifically ones south of the Boreal Forest line, must have a southern Saskatchewan power snare licence for their steel, spring-activated power neck snares. The laws are clear, says Minter, and these laws are discussed at length with trappers when they are issued their licence and extensively in the annual Hunters’ and Trappers’ Guide issued by the Saskatchewan government.

Snares must not be placed within 500 metres of a building, stockade or corral and every resident within 1.6 kilometres of the snare must be notified of its placement. Similar to hunting, trappers also must get permission from landowners before placing snares.

Minter says they do receive complaints regarding snares and quite often it is because rules were not followed.

“Hopefully if (trappers) follow all the conditions of their permit it would mitigate or prevent these types of situations from happening. Unfortunately, we get a few calls where we have to investigate.”

The snare that killed Gord was only 460 metres from the Bells farm, 40 metres short of the requirement, and the family was not notified that the snare was placed there, says Bells. One thing that has helped is the work of the local conservation officer and other trappers who were instrumental in catching the owner of the snare that took Gord’s life, says Bells.

The trapper involved has been found and charged and although she knows the trapper just made a mistake, it doesn’t make it easier for her family.

Some comments on Facebook pointed the finger at Bells for being an irresponsible pet owner rather than acknowledging that the snare was illegally placed.

Bells admits that Gord previously had a tendency to wander, but she and her husband had addressed the problem by installing underground fencing.

She says dead pigs used to bait the snare likely drew Gord away from the farm.

Bells says she knows the benefits of trapping in Saskatchewan, especially to control the coyote population. However, she has discovered many more pet owners who have lost family pets to snaring and says more needs to be done.

Stories of illegal trapping are not what Wrangler Hamm likes to hear. The president of the Saskatchewan Trappers Association says better communication is the goal of the association but the practices in place are sound and most trappers adhere to the rules.

Gord’s case is an exception, he says, which does not help other trappers build relationships with the public.

As association president, he says his goals are the same as Bells’: to raise awareness about illegal trapping and build relationships between trappers and their neighbours.

”We have to ensure relationships are in good standing,” says Hamm.“It takes responsibility from both the trappers and the public themselves as well to ensure lasting relationships moving forward.

“It comes down to open discussion and some give and take and understanding that pets are like our family.”

Hamm has seen compromise between trappers and landowners so he knows that the two parties working together is not impossible.

Bells has discussed snare placement with other local trappers and the experiences have been mixed. Not all the local trappers take her concerns seriously, she says.

Open dialogue about snare use is always welcome, says Hamm, and anyone with questions or concerns can contact him directly through the Saskatchewan Trappers Association website.

The Hunters’ and Trappers’ Guide is available to the public through the provincial government website,, which is also a helpful resource on trapping and hunting requirements for the province.

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