Who Killed Grace? Part 1, The Time of Constant Sorrow
Who Killed Grace? Part 2, The Royal Privilege
Who Killed Grace? Part 3, Harvest of Blood
(Courtesy of Les Editions Main Street)
Part One: The Time of Constant Sorrow
Article by Neil H. Zach (1953-2003)
“Burn the forest, boil the snow. Raze the grey and stony mountain. Trap the wind and watch it choke. Drown the Earth in cold steel fountains.”
-The Death of Valentine, author unknown
Do you know what a Conibear trap is? Most people don’t, even though it’s considered such an appalling device, eighty countries around the world have banned its use on the grounds of extreme cruelty.
Invented by a man named Frank Conibear who thought he had devised a humane trap-one that would kill its intended victims; beavers and muskrats instantly and painlessly—they sell for around $10.00 apiece and are available in most sporting goods stores that deal with hunting and fishing gear.
But if Frank Conibear truly wanted to design a humane trap, he failed miserably.
The problem with the Conibear trap is that it does not work as intended unless the animal happens to be the right size for the size of the trap, come into it at just the right speed and from exactly the right angle. Rather than being an instant-kill trap, it generally works as a body-holding trap that clamps onto various parts of the animal like the shoulder, neck, or abdomen, where it restrains him alive and in pain until the trapper returns. In Canada, there is no time limit on when the trapper is required to return to check his trap. This is because the Ministry of Wildlife classifies Conibears as "quick-killing" even though the animals can be left suffering in these traps for hours, even days. A quick killing trap is supposed to be able to kill in 5 minutes (300 seconds) according to standards set by the Canadian government.
The Conibear is so nightmarish in design that even professional trappers like Tom Krause, past president of the National Trappers Association in the US, have called upon trappers not to use it declaring “it does not sufficiently position animals for instant death blows. Rather, far too often, its causes needless suffering.”
Yet Conibear traps, as well as other leg-hold-death-traps, are completely legal in Canada, and most Canadians do not realize that those who have a permit are allowed to put them anywhere they want. By lakes. Near rivers. On public hiking and biking trails. Even on the cross country ski trail that runs through the region around Morin Heights called the Aerobic Corridor. It was here, near Montfort last November, that a Conibear trap killed Grace.
At this point Grace's story needs to be narrated by her owner, Alana Hoffer.
On November 22, 2002, I was walking with Grace, my six year-old German Shepherd, when she ran off only a few feet from the trail. Almost instantly I heard a yelp. Fearing she had been shot full of quills from a porcupine, I followed after her. There she was, trying to get out of the vice grip of a steel animal trap. The more she struggled, the deeper into her head the prongs pierced. Crying, I worked over an hour to free her. She died on the way to the veterinarian, where, heartbroken, I listened to him lecture me about the price one pays for giving freedom to their dog.
Since Grace’s miserable death five months ago Alana has been extremely active in trying to find out what people can do to protect themselves from hidden traps set out all around us. She’s discovered, much to her dismay, that there’s not much. Trapping and traps are legal, and according to Quebec Bill 147, trappers may put their traps anywhere on public land that they please.
In speaking with police and game wardens about traps and trapping Alana says she’s met pretty much with a cold indifference that has left her shaken.
“I’m not trying to prevent someone from earning a living through trapping,” she says, “though I find the thought of killing for fur, cruel and unnecessary. What I am trying to do is raise people’s awareness that there are potentially dozens if not hundreds of traps all around us here in the Laurentians and that there are no signs to warn us about them. That’s what I find so distressing. That people out for a walk in the woods or by a river with their children could accidentally stumble upon these things and set them off. Surely the authorities owe it to the public to warn them.”
But the authorities say that trapping has been going on in the Laurentians for over two hundred years and that trappers have gain an inherent right to their livelihood through the use of these devices. They say that just as people should be prudent in the woods during deer hunting season, so should they take precautions while hiking in our forests or by our rivers and lakes.
Because the traps are out there—waiting.
Next Month: Further investigation into live trapping in the Laurentians reveals a shocking truth.
Author’s Note: Many thanks to Pamela Jenkins for her help in researching material for this article and for her long time, passionate commitment to animal rights.
CUTLINE: Alana Hoffer and her dog Grace were together for six years before they were separated by cold, cruel, perfectly legal, steel.
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