Jonce Straklevski, a Perth-area man, was arrested by the OPP and charged with criminal mischief and theft under $5,000. His crime? Removing beaver traps from his property after a trapper refused to provide any proof of his right to trap in the area.
The two criminal charges were later dropped, but Straklevski was recently given $2,300 in fines for interfering with lawful trapping.
According to a report in the Ottawa Citizen, Straklevski had been watching – among other wildlife – a beaver dam on the edge of his property. At one point, he noticed something strange near the dam, what he eventually found to be traps.
A friend informed Straklevski that a trapper cannot trap on private property without written permission from the property owner. When Straklevski then ran into a trapper nearby, he asked for some kind of proof-of-right to trap there. It was refused.
Presuming his property rights had been violated, Straklevski removed 11 traps over March and April. Until the police showed up as his door.
The Ottawa Citizen reported that the issue at hand was the “high-water mark,” which defined the edge of Straklevski’s property, noting “the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) maintains the Crown’s property extends to the river’s highest point in the spring — normally dry riverbed the rest of the year.”
An MNR spokesperson said that there is no requirement for a trapper to provide documents or licenses to curious bystanders – even if that individual thinks their property rights are being violated. Instead, the landowner should contact MNR.
This serves as yet another example of how archaic laws match the archaic practice of trapping in Ontario. It is clear that Jonce Straklevski did what he – and frankly, any landowner – thought was right by removing traps that were on his property. That the property line can vary as the height of the river changes seasonally goes against all common sense. Two criminal charges by the OPP – despite the fact that they were later dropped – was overkill, to say the least.
While Straklevski may have made a decision that was ultimately deemed illegal, his intent was not malicious. This is a case where the law failed the individual, not the other way around. We want to see an end to trapping across Canada; but until that happens, it is clearly time for the province to begin reviewing existing laws and regulations for this cruel activity.
To contact the Minister of Natural Resources and express your polite disagreement with the ruling of this case and the existing regulations, click here.