The very public story of an apologetic trapper who accidentally caught and killed a rare cougar in Manitoba offers insight into the mind of the trapper, as well as the flaws of fur-bearer management practices.
CBC reported on the tragic incident this week: a trapper identified as Gerry Sherman went out to his trap line on provincial park land (near Duck Mountain Provincial Park) to check snares. His goal was to kill wolves. Instead, he found a cougar in one. Sherman followed proper protocol and contacted conservation officers, who investigated the incident and found no wrongdoing occurred.
“I am really sorry that it happened,” Sherman told the CBC. “Anyone destroying these animals at will should be punished. On an accidental catch like this there is really nothing anyone can do.”
Wildlife biologists noted that cougars are rare in Manitoba, and that this is the second time in recent months that one was killed in a legal trap.
This case clearly indicates (again) that snares and other traps are completely indiscriminate, and so long as they are utilized without constant monitoring, other animals will be caught, brutalized, and killed. It should serve as an example whenever policy debates occur – endangered or at-risk species will not be spared because of intent of a trapper, and this “by catch” can include family pets.
If Sherman’s responses to the CBC are genuine, and we have no reason to believe they aren’t, it shows the fascinating dichotomy of how trappers view wildlife. On one hand, wild animals are individuals capable of beauty and worthy of respect; on the other, wild animals are things that need to be managed with lethal means. How exactly this non-intuitive way of considering wildlife came to be, we have no idea. But it makes it clear that some of the ways we talk about (or to) trappers – particularly online – is ineffective and does nothing more than to confirm their biased thoughts about advocates.
Sadly, nothing we do or say will bring this cougar, or the wolves, killed on this trap line, back to their families or proper homes. But we can make conscious decisions to not support politicians or policies that promote or protect traps, to not wear fur or faux fur that can glorify its presence on streets, and to treat all animals – those covered in fur and those who would do them harm – with compassion.
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