On Feb. 17. Dana Blackmore took her five year-old Gordon setter dog, Willow, for a walk on the Crystal Falls Walking Trail. A long term resident of Labrador West, Ms. Blackmore says she has been walking the trial for nearly 20 years, enjoying the fact that it is off the main roads and provided her pet with a safe place to be let off her leash.
Now, she says, she no longer feels safe. That Friday afternoon, she parked her car, noticing two other vehicles parked near the trail as well. She says she saw a family with three children just leaving the trail as she began her walk.
It wasn't until she neared the end of the trail that she says she heard Willow howling, only to see her flailing and caught in a trap.
"I was only about two or three feet to the side of the trail," she said. "I was in sheer panic. She was bleeding from her mouth because she had torn out a tooth trying to free herself. I noticed it was leg holds trap because I've seen videos about them."
Ms. Blackmore said she tried free the dog, but she was not strong enough. That's when she knew she would have to get help.
"It was only her and I there," she said. "Usually I don't carry my cell phone on me when I'm only going for a walk, but thankfully this time I had it on me. I called my friend, I couldn't get him, I called my sister, I couldn't get her, so that's when I called 911. I didn't have any other choice."
Ms. Blackmore said she felt embarrassed for calling the emergency helpline over her pet, but that they encouraged her that she had done the right thing.
"They were so helpful," she said. "They took down my location and send two RNC officers on skidoo."
When the two officers arrived, even they were unable to release the animal from the trap.
"We had to take her to the vet with the trap, the chain, and the hook still attached," she said. "A wildlife officer met us there, and he was able to remove it."
"The RNC informed me that it didn't meet the Canadian standards," she said. "There's a serial number on every trap, this one was registered out of Minnesota."
Some close leg traps are legal for hunting in the province, but that the Wildlife Officer involved was unavailable to verify if the trap involved was one of those traps or not.
Either way, Ms. Blackmore says she doesn't expect the culprit will come forward and take responsibility for what happened.
"We'll probably never find out who set it there," she said. "The RNC said it was most likely set for wolves, which can be upwards of a hundred pounds, my dog is only 60 pounds, so it just goes to show the strength of these traps."
While the experience was a nerve-wracking one, Ms. Blackmore says she is just happy that her pet, and others who use the trail, weren't seriously harmed.
"Most of Willow's injuries were in her mouth from trying to release her leg," she said. "The vet was shocked at how lucky she was. She's a bigger dog, she's high on her legs, but if it had been a small dog, it probably would have been killed."
Ms. Blackmore says the thought of a child being harmed is even worse again.
"I saw a family that day with three children," she said. "They were on snowshoes. Kids fall down easily when they are wearing those, and the trap was so close to the trail, it would have been no trouble for a child to fall into it. They could have lost a leg or an arm, possibly worse."
As for whoever is responsible, Ms. Blackmore says she hopes they will hear her story and realize the dangers of the traps.
"I don't understand why anyone would set it in an area that they know people frequent," she said. "It's clearly marked Crystal Falls Walking Trail. It seems like the lazy man's way out to put it right next to the trail. If it were out in the woods at least people and pets wouldn't be able to get out there in the deep snow. This is the big land, there are lots of other places to trap."