November 15, 2008 is a day that Rich Poska will never forget. While walking his 11-year-old therapy dog—a 55-pound Chinook named Rupert—around the White Deer Golf Course in Vernon Hills, Ill., one sunny afternoon, Poska lost sight of him for a brief minute. He then heard a blood-curdling howl from the edge of the woods.
Panicked, Poska ran toward the noise and found Rupert howling with his head crushed between the metal jaws of a Conibear trap. Trying with all his might, Poska was unable to remove the trap. As he watched his dog gasp for air, Poska called 9-1-1. With the help of two burly policemen, the three finally pried the Conibear trap off of Rupert’s head, but by that time, Rupert had already succumbed to the lethal jaws of the trap that slowly and painfully suffocated him.
“I felt utterly helpless, and that I let Rupert down,” said Poska. “I have no doubt he suffered, and I believe it is unconscionable that such traps are still legal.” The traps were set by a private “pest” control trapper hired by the White Deer Golf Course to kill muskrats in and around the golfing area. However, the traps were outside the boundaries agreed upon, and questions remain as to why the trapper was using large Conibear traps (size 160) if he was trapping muskrat.
“The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has informed me that the case is still open, and has not been forthcoming with information about their investigation into this incident,” Poska told AWI Wildlife Consultant Camilla Fox. “My wife and I are determined to ensure that Rupert did not die in vain. We will do all we can to ban these traps so this does not happen again,” he vowed. AWI has also pledged to help the Poskas in their efforts to seek a ban on dangerous traps.