Time to end war of wits

Editor, the News:

Re: A war of wits (News, Nov. 26).

I am writing on behalf of the Animal Welfare Institute in response to Phil Melnychuk's Nov. 26 article, "A War of Wits."

In the article, interview subject Maurice Jenkins provides some inaccurate information about the trapping of animals - a practice that should not be a long-term solution to controlling beaver populations.

The conibear and steel-jaw leghold traps, two devices used by Jenkins to trap beavers in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, are not considered humane as indicated. Jenkins claims it is his desire that the animals he traps die "instantly and as painlessly as possible."

However, after 50 years of trapping, he should know that neither of the traps he uses produces such a result.

The conibear trap, which Jenkins prefers, is advertised as a kill trap because it is designed to break an animal's neck or back upon being triggered. But, unfortunately, its victims are frequently miscaught in the trap and do not die instantly. Instead, these animals are often forced to endure excruciating pain before they die.

The leghold trap, Jenkins' second choice, is not designed to kill an animal outright, but rather to restrain the catch until the trapper returns. Jenkins says, "The whole design of the leghold trap is to minimize damage to the animal."

The truth is that animal victims of leghold traps not only suffer intense pain, but they may also sustain severe injuries, such as torn flesh, ripped tendons and ligaments and broken bones.

Trapped animals can also suffer distress, dehydration, blood loss, hypothermia from exposure to severe weather and predation by other animals until the trapper returns.

The World Veterinary Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association and the National Animal Control Association have all condemned the use of these traps as inhumane.
Additionally, using a leghold trap in the water to drown a beaver is just as cruel as using the device on land.

According to scientific study, it takes an average of nine minutes and 30 seconds of intense struggle underwater before a beaver loses consciousness (Gilbert FF, Gofton N 1981, Terminal Dives in mink, muskrat and beaver. Physiology and Behavior 28 835-840).

Conibear and leghold traps are also hazardous to people because of their indiscriminate nature. Based on their design, they have the potential to harm whatever triggers them, including people, domestic animals and endangered species. Perhaps that is why Jenkins attempts to place his traps in locations where pets and people do not typically frequent.

Fortunately, there are less cruel methods of controlling the beaver population in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge. Live trapping is mentioned, but is inaccurately characterized as dangerous to people. The use of cage or box traps does not threaten people because these traps are not designed to injure or kill their victims. In fact, there are live traps specifically designed to catch beavers, including the Bailey and the Hancock.

A preferred option and a better long-term solution for dealing with beaver and human conflicts is to work with existing beaver in the habitat.

Beaver pipes can be installed in dams to control flooding, while road flooding can be controlled with Beaver Bafflers. There are several humane alternatives to protecting trees from beavers, including surrounding trees with cylindrical cages, coating them with a sand/paint mixture, spraying them with repellents and/or placing low fences around them.

It is time to put an end to the war of wits. Instead of ineffectively battling the beavers for their lives, Pitt Meadows should consider implementing effective and humane alternative measures that will enable humans and beavers to co-exist in peace.

Tracy Silverman, Animal Welfare Institute

Originally published in Maple Ridge News.

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