Hikers snapped up the opportunity to grab animal traps they discovered in Linley Valley on the weekend, but a conservation officer said the traps were legal and located on private property.
Gareth Boyce was hiking with three friends and a dog through the area when they came across at least six of the traps Sunday afternoon.
Boyce said they entered the area on Bickerton Bluff Trail from Burma Road in the north section of the valley.
“We got to Linley Valley West and there’s a little bit of a beaver dam up there,” Boyce said. “We knew the beaver dam was there so we went to take a look at it. As a friend of mine got closer to the shore of the beaver dam he looked in and saw a trap.”
The first thing they did was leash their dog. They then found several more traps, which they triggered with a stick, photographed them, gathered them up, set them beside the path and called conservation officers.
“They looked like pretty scary traps,” Boyce said. “If a human had ended up getting trapped in them it would have done some serious damage. A friend of mine was using sticks to set them off they literally broke the sticks.”
Boyce said there were about 15 to 20 other people, many with dogs off leash, wandering around in the area at the time, unaware of the traps.
Ben York, conservation officer, said the traps are Conibear-style devices designed to kill small animals and are not selective, with sufficient size and power to pose significant risk to pets and humans.
“The size of those ones could probably kill a dog and seriously injure a human being that stepped in it,” he said.
The devices are used by professional trappers and upon investigation conservation officers discovered the traps were legally set on private property to eliminate nuisance beaver interfering with a water course.
“It turns out the traps in question were lawfully set with full knowledge of the City of Nanaimo and all of the necessary authorizations were in place,” York said. “They were on private property and they were not designed to catch small pets or people. They’re trying to remove nuisance beavers – ones that are interfering with normal drainage patterns.”
York said it is unlawful to interfere with traps, but if people do find them they should be reported immediately to conservation officers.
York said there are live beaver traps available, but they are “remarkably ineffective” and when they do work it only means a beaver will end up being relocated into what is likely another beaver’s territory. Beavers are territorial. They are also a hazard to drainage and are not a conservation concern on Vancouver Island.
“It’s just far more humane to use killing traps than it is to try and live-trap them,” York said.
No charges are pending against Boyce and his friends for removing the traps.
“The owner of the property had put in a theft complaint because he thought the traps were stolen,” Boyce said.
Boyce said he saw no signs warning about the traps, marking private property or even signs marking the park boundary.
“Even if it is legal, I think it’s a very inhumane way of trapping or killing anything and without any warning signs I think it’s incredibly dangerous,” Boyce.
Dale Lindsay, Nanaimo’s acting director of development, said approval for traps lies solely with the provincial Ministry of Environment and are not regulated by the city.
“We only became aware of the traps after they were identified by the hikers on the property,” Lindsay said. “Trapping is completely regulated by the Ministry of Environment, so we don’t have an approval role in that.”
Lindsay also confirmed that trapping was taking place on property that is not under development near Linley Valley.
“The general public was sending us e-mails saying that it was happening on the property that was under development at 5701 Vanderneuk Rd., which it’s not. It’s a different property with a different property owner,” Lindsay said.
The trapping season for beaver on Vancouver Island is Oct. 1 to April 30.
York said the property owner was taking steps to ensure there will be more signs warning people they are entering private property.
Attempts by the News Bulletin to find and speak with the property owner were unsuccessful before press time.
Illegal trapping can incur fines of up to $50,000 under the wildlife act.
Criminal code charges of negligence causing injury can be recommended where humans are injured by traps.
“It’s a very dangerous game to play if you’re not authorized to be doing it and don’t have the training and knowledge,” York said.
Anyone who encounters illegal trapping or poaching is asked to call the Report All Poachers and Polluters line at 1-877-952-7277.