CONSERVATION OFFICER WANTS TRAP RETURNED TO TRAPPER
By Kelly Carson of DeerSafe Victoria
Part 2 of a multi-part series on conservation officers, trophy hunting and culls in B.C. Read part one here.
One afternoon in February, 2016, Lynne Cracknell and her husband took their dogs for an outing near White River Provincial Park. The nightmare that followed when one of the dogs stepped into a leghold trap near their parked vehicle didn’t end for Lynne after she and her husband struggled to release the frantic dog from the trap. Lynne’s interview with Conservation Officer, Steve Petrovic, left her shocked at the attitude of the Conservation Office towards animals that are trapped in these devices.
I reported the incident to the police who referred me to the conservation officer in Campbell River. Several telephone calls and two months later I was invited to the Ministry office for an interview and to explain what had happened.
In the meantime I had been doing a lot of research and was quite sure that the trap my dog had stepped into was illegal. The regulations I saw all stated that the length of chain between the actual trap and whatever it is attached to must not exceed sixty centimeters in length, yet the chain on this trap was over thirteen feet long and furthermore included a heavy steel weight and a large multi pronged metal anchor. I anticipated that the person who had set the trap would be heavily fined and hopefully even lose his trapping license. I was feeling very positive and grateful that my concerns were finally being addressed.
I was invited into a small office by conservation officer Steve Petrovic and asked whether I was okay with having the interview recorded, which I readily agreed to. He spent a little time explaining the hierarchy of his Ministry and told me that a lot of his work was about “educating” the public.
Our dog had been thrashing wildly and biting frenziedly at the trap so his mouth was torn, his teeth were broken and he was, of course, bleeding profusely.
I was then asked to explain in detail exactly what had happened on that horrible day. Even though several months had passed since the incident, I found the retelling of it extremely distressing and was in tears by the time I had finished. Trying to explain what it had been like to hear the terrible screaming and the nightmare that my husband and I had run into trying to get the trap open was difficult. Our dog had been thrashing wildly and biting frenziedly at the trap so his mouth was torn, his teeth were broken and he was, of course, bleeding profusely.
Officer Petrovic informed me that the trap was legal and perfectly humane. I was astounded. He then went on to tell me that they were humane because the trapped animal could take shelter in the underbrush. I cannot even begin to imagine the agony any animal would suffer pulling all that weight at the end of a smashed limb and getting the pronged end hooked up on every snag.
He then informed me that the owner of the trap was very sorry about the injury to my dog, and seemed to expect this to be the end of the matter. He also attempted to empathize with me by saying that he too owned a dog and that he would be “irate” if such a thing happened to it.
I felt as though the point was being missed entirely and explained that it was not just my dog that I was concerned about, but the very fact that these traps continued to exist at all. As far as I, and the vast majority of Canadians are concerned, these devices are extraordinarily cruel and should have been banned a long time ago. They hurt and endanger humans, pets, protected and endangered species as well as any number of random non “target” animals. Officer Petrovic would not admit that the traps were cruel and told me this had been determined by “experts.” He did not know who these experts were, what their names were, what their qualifications were, what their agenda was, and basically indicated that he did not need to know, as the answers were all there in the regulations magazine he kept waving at me. I asked him to respond as a human being, not as a conservation officer, and suggested that he had used these devices himself on multiple occasions and must have observed that the trapped animals were maimed, mutilated, distressed, terrified and in terrible pain. He would not respond to these sort of questions.
I then tried to determine why a wolf trap would have been set out in the forest anyway. There are no buildings anywhere in the area so surely the wolves could not be causing harm to anyone. Officer Petrovic’s response was vague and he said something about some wolves causing “problems” on some of the smaller islands. I was not sure how that applied to the wolves being killed in Sayward, but I guessed that they were being killed for pelts and to make some sort of profit for the trapper.
By this time I had started to understand that the whole interview was really about the officer getting me to tell him where the trap had ended up after I removed it from my dog’s paw. This was also the concern of the policeman I had earlier spoken to, who told me that “the gentleman” wanted his trap back, and that it was quite expensive. Officer Petrovic asked me if I would go back and retrieve the trap, which I refused to do on the grounds that there were possibly other hidden and unmarked traps in the area which I did not want to step on. He then asked me if I would go with him and show him where I had thrown it. I said no, because he would return the device to the owner and I would not participate in cruelty to animals. Rather slyly, he then mused that if he could see manufacturers markings on the trap he might be able to discern whether in fact it was legal. That didn’t work either.
The interview finally ended and I felt a huge sense of failure. Nothing had been accomplished. No charges would be laid and no changes would be made. The trapper would continue to set his traps whenever he wanted to and one innocent animal after another would be destroyed for no reason at all.
Far from being helpful, the “conservation” officer was implacable and completely untouched by the arbitrary destruction of wildlife. In fact he appeared to take a disconcerting amount of pleasure in killing animals himself. Earlier in the interview he had bragged that he had “taken out” two cougars just that week and that there was another one in Comox that he was heading down to destroy. He seemed quite proud of his ability to protect and conserve pet cats and agricultural animals at the expense of indigenous species.
I left his office understanding that if we are to have any hope for preserving the wildlife of British Columbia the entire conservation unit needs to be dismantled. Conservation officers need to be re educated and reminded that it is wildlife that they are being paid to conserve, not livestock. They need to be told that “conservation” and “annihilation” are not the same thing, and that indigenous wildlife have every right to survive and flourish in this province. Most of all we need to hire people who have not been blunted and hardened to the point that they have lost all touch with suffering.
We call him and his ilk the Death Squad.
Most people that I know would never call a conservation officer under any circumstances as they know it is almost certainly calling in the executioner. Filled with jovial self appreciation, officer Petrovic, who definitely likes the sound of his own voice, said: “Instead of calling me a Conservation Officer, most people call me the Conversation Officer!” But the thing is that we don’t. We call him and his ilk the Death Squad.
Q: How is Simon doing now?
A: He is fine now, physically, his mouth is healed up and his paw is fine. He is a lot more anxious than he used to be – he is a rescue dog and had a really dreadful start to life and lives in constant fear of being abandoned. We have noticed him being even more needy than before.
Q: Your interview was taped by the CO. How do you think his responses to you were influenced by this fact?
A: My feeling was that he was very aware of the tape recorder and extremely cautious about saying anything which might imperil his job. Given that one of his colleagues had recently been fired for showing compassion toward a couple of bear cubs I could certainly understand officer Petrovic’s concern.
Q: Would you ever contact the provincial Conservation Office again if you found a trap?
A: I would never ever contact the co again for any reason. I have no faith in them at all.
Victoria Animal News