Nicole Krawec lives north across the Athabasca River, Kelly Rich is from east of Colinton and Jan Krawiec lives southwest of the town of Athabasca and they all have the same story to tell.
For years none of the women had any issues with letting their dogs roam near their property until a local man decided to put snares near where they each live. Now the women live in fear both for their animals and for the predators that have started coming into the area drawn by the bait.
Each of the women has contacted the man in question asking him to either move his snares or stop baiting them but he has refused saying he is doing nothing wrong, which is technically true.
“In Alberta, trappers can operate on both crown land designations and private land with permission of the landowner,” explained Katherine Thompson, a communications advisor with Alberta Justice and Solicitor General.
None of the snares on any land the three women own, but they are near the property lines they claim.
Krawec has lost one dog to a snare on the property next to hers, which is owned by the trap line owner, another dog survived being caught in a snare but suffers PTSD symptoms from it.
In 2007 Krawec and her husband purchased five acres of land and until 2011 never had any problems until her female black Lab went missing. She found her dead in a snare yards away from her home and at the time she asked the trap line owner if there were other snares as her children were young and she didn’t want anything happening to them.
"My husband and I bought a five-acre piece of land north of the river and proceeded to get dogs for protection and because we love dogs,” she said. “We never had an issue with them; if they left our property, we weren’t afraid, but we would do everything we could to keep them on our property.”
But sometimes dogs are dogs and recently Krawec’s Husky pup bolted past her husband late one night, tempted, Krawec thinks, by the smell of the bait after the weather warmed up.
“This year, we've built a pen for when we are not home and a dog run for when we are home because our little Husky pup in January got snared because he as soon as – right after that cold snap warmed up – he smelled that bait and he was right over there,” she stated.
She and her son went looking but couldn’t find the dog, so she texted the trap line owner and within a short time she was contacted by friend who said the dog had been dropped off.
“We had a lady at home, and she texted me ‘Your puppy has been brought back to you’ and I'm like ‘What?’ So yeah, whoever checked his snares for him, found him and brought him home and he was totally swollen – his neck and his shoulders,” she described. “He could barely walk. He obviously didn't drink. He just plopped himself in the corner with his face to the wall.
“I have a picture of him just absolutely traumatized and terrified. So, thank goodness he got somebody else to come check because had he waited until he was off work our dog would be dead.”
Rich’s story is the same as Krawec’s. For years she has never had to worry about her dogs and last year her dog was caught in a snare on the neighbours land.
Rich said she contacted local Fish and Wildlife who told her no one had a trap line registered around Canoe Lake, but that’s not illegal. Regulations for using snares are only specific to types of animals.
“Baiting regulations vary depending on the type of animal being baited and the location of the bait site. On public land, hunters cannot use bait for hunting wolves or coyotes except a) from Dec. 1 to Mar. 31, or b) during an open season for the hunting of black bear where the setting out, use and possession of bait for the purpose of hunting black bear is permitted,” Thompson explained.
“Each wolf or coyote bait site must have a readily observable sign showing the owner’s name, WIN, Big Game Outfitter-guide Permit Number, or Big Game Guide’s Designation Number. However, these baiting restrictions do not apply to Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 102-166, to persons hunting under authority of a trapping licence, or on any private land.”
When Rich’s dog went missing her son got his foot in a snare while they were out looking. When they did find the dog, it was dead, and the carcass had been tossed onto a bait pile. Rich added there was a particular odour around the snares when she got out to hunt for her dog.
“As soon as I go out of my vehicle all you can smell was liquid smoke,” she said. “I was maybe five feet away and if the wind is blowing in the right direction.. Dogs have a good sense of smell and they just bolt.”
It was the same trap line owner that Rich contacted as the one Krawec contacted. It is also the same man that Krawiec spoke to when her dog got caught in a snare.
Krawiec lives down a dead-end road with a field at the end and has walked her dogs there hundreds of times, and then last year her Great Pyrenes got caught in a snare.
“There's three of us that live on this road; all of us have dogs, all of us walk our dogs down this road. And it was just on a normal day and I go for my walk down to the end of the road and back with my dogs and I have two Dobermans and a Great Pyrenees,” Krawiec described. “I've never had my dogs on a leash going for walks and we got down to the end of the road, and he ran into the bush. I was walking back and there's no sign of him and no sign of him which, wasn't a huge concern of mine because I thought, well, maybe he's found something to chase.
“But then I turned around and I saw him coming out of the bush and he was all kind of humped up and staggering and I went down there, and he had a kill snare on his neck. He had ripped it off the tree like actually ripped the thick wire cord off, and he was choking to death.”
While there is no legal recourse the women can take, the want to warn people, especially ones who have had dogs go missing during the trapping season.
A neighbour of Krawiec’s, a former Fish and Wildlife officer, helped her Great Pyrenees that day and informed her that the trap line owner is estimated to have around 1,000 traps throughout the county.
None of the women want to prevent him from using snares they say. They understand the desire to hunt, but they would like some acknowledgement of the harm and distress it has caused their animals and families. They also want to make sure other pets are kept safe.
“For safety reasons, it’s recommended that pet owners always keep their dog(s) on a leash when outside of their private property. In addition, hunters using dogs should always confirm with landowners whether trapping is taking place on their land,” Thompson concluded.
If members of the public suspect illegal hunting or fishing activity, they are encouraged to use the 24/7 Report A Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800, or online at the following link: https://www.alberta.ca/report-poacher.aspx. Callers can remain anonymous and could qualify for a reward.