View Royal resident Kathleen Burton left her house for work last Thursday morning and noticed something unusual on a neighbour’s lawn.
It was a pile of what looked like crab traps with a sign of some kind on them.
Were they being given away wholesale to the first person who wants them? Were they for sale? What exactly was happening?
Despite not needing any traps herself, her curiosity got the better of her and she pulled over for a look.
“Whoever is catching these squirrels can stop!” read the sign attached to one of the cages, “… they didn’t do anything to you and aren’t hurting ANYONE.”
The sign writer also noted that whomever was placing the traps was breaking View Royal bylaws by doing so.
Burton had no idea whether it was legal or not for people to trap wild animals, she said, but wanted to find out. She, too, disagrees with the practice.
“Even if they are allowed to do it, I don’t like it,” she said. She called the Town of View Royal, who directed her to the Capital Regional District, who told her to contact the B.C. Ministry of Environment’s Conservation Officer Service.
“My immediate thought was, ‘What are these people going to do with them if they catch them?’” she said. She followed that up with the question, “What if they caught a family cat?”
While she’s no expert, Burton said, “based on the size of the cages, I think a racoon, cat or even a small dog could easily be confined and I think it would be a traumatic event for any critter.”
Such box traps, however, are perfectly legal, according to regional conservation officer Peter Pauwels, if they are set on the property of the person who set them. An exception would be if the municipality has a specific bylaw prohibiting trapping, but none of the West Shore municipalities have such a bylaw.
“If they are found in parks or public spaces, there would certainly be some sort of action triggered,” Pauwels said, noting that such situations happen infrequently. “If they’re on private property, they’re perfectly okay.”
What happens to the animals after they are trapped is a different story, and depends on their species, he said.
Grey squirrels, for example, “are an introduced species, and therefore must be immediately released on site if they are found in a cage or immediately, humanely euthanized,” Pauwels said. “A lot of people think they can just take them out to Sooke or wherever and release them, but that’s not allowed.”
Doing so in that case would be introducing a non-native species to another ecosystem.
Pauwels added he’s unaware of any issues arising with unsuspecting neighbourhood pets being caught in the traps.
Anyone who finds traps in a public area or wonders about trap restrictions and requirements can call the B.C. Conservation Call Centre at 1-800-663-9453.