After a dog was killed by raccoons just off a popular East Trail walking path early Thursday, the city and conservation service are advising pet owners to keep their animals on-leash.
This notification is meant for all areas in Gyro Park, including off-leash zones.
The owner of Lucy, a Shih Tzu, called the Trail Times to report that his beloved pet was mauled and eaten by raccoons on their trek along the dirt path between the Gyro Park boat launch and the Victoria Street Bridge.
David Craig was walking his family’s two dogs, a lab named Django and little Lucy, shortly after 7:30 a.m.
This is an every day routine for the trio, rain or shine.
But this morning was different, and it all happened very fast. David says the larger dog must have picked up a scent before running through the tall grass and into a swampy section about eight feet off the foot path, which is where he started barking.
Hearing Django bark, Lucy worked her way in through the tall grass, but she was not able to run away quickly like the larger dog could.
“So I went in to try to help her because I wasn’t sure what was going on,” David said. “The raccoons were just chomping down on her and didn’t (care at all that) I was there with a stick. One was ready to attack me and the other two were already eating the dog. It was horrible.”
Shaken and unable to retrieve Lucy’s remains, David headed back home and had his family contact the B.C. Conservation Service.
“There’s a few people that take their small dogs through there all the time, like I have been doing every morning for at least the past year,” David said. “With people walking through there, and kids playing down there, you can’t have a pack of raccoons … running around the neighbourhood. That’s what gets me, they weren’t scared of me at all, they were just hungry.”
Kyle Bueckert, Conservation Officer in the West Kootenay Zone, confirmed he received a call that raccoons had killed a dog near Gyro Park early Thursday.
“Due to the nature of the incident, the location, and the fact that the dogs were off-leash, the Conservation Officer Service has referred the incident to the City of Trail to follow up,” Bueckert explained.
“Which means, I got hold of the City of Trail and they will be posting signage regarding the aggressive raccoons in Gyro Park, so that dog walkers can be aware of the situation,” he told the Times.
“It’s advised that dog walkers in Gyro Park keep their dogs on leash while walking them (anywhere) in Gyro Park, especially for the foreseeable future as those raccoons will likely still be in the park.”
As far as conflict between raccoons and people walking on the path, Bueckert says it’s not a likely scenario.
“It’s very unlikely we would have a raccoon-human interaction,” he said. “It’s much more likely (this happened) given the fact that these dogs were off trail investigating the raccoons, and that is how they ended up in this incident.”
At the recommendation of the Conservation Officer, the city will be posting warning signs in the vicinity of the boat launch to suggest that dog owners leash their dogs, Corporate Administrator Michelle McIsaac confirmed Thursday.
“(The city) is making arrangements for the signage which we hope to have in place either later today or tomorrow.”
Of note, is that the rules are much different regarding raccoon interactions on private property.
To clarify, the Times asked Bueckert, “What can I do if raccoons are causing problems on my property?”
“Raccoons are considered Schedule B wildlife and may be captured or killed on private land only for the specific purpose of protecting property, such as your dog/cat is killed or injured,” Bueckert replied.
“No hunting license or open season is required.”
Further, if homeowners decide to trap and relocate the raccoon from their property, then he suggests using a “Havahart” live trap.
“The Wildlife Act states that if you trap a raccoon, you cannot possess the raccoon for more than 24 hours before releasing it, no greater than 10 kilometres from where the raccoon was trapped,” Bueckert said.
“You must release the raccoon on Crown land or on your private land.”
On Crown land, a person must abide by the open hunting seasons for Schedule B species. And, if a person injures wildlife listed in Schedule B, the person must kill that wildlife.