On the hook after removing beaver traps: Fine angers animal lover: Pulling up traps costs man $2,300

By Kelly Egan
Ottawa Citizen
Nov 06, 2013

 

The Ministry of Natural Resources maintains the Crown’s property extends to the river’s highest point in the spring — normally dry riverbed the rest of the year. A few days ago, a justice of the peace ruled the traps were legal, even though the muskrats and beavers might frolic, feed or cavort on private property in low-water seasons.

‘Even if it’s on his property, the animal actually belongs to the Queen or the Crown ... ’ 
ROBIN HORWATH- Ontario Fur Managers Federation

Man with property on Mississippi River shoreline learns a $2,300 lesson, reports Kelly Egan, In Ontario, whose beaver is that?

Interesting question. The answer landed Jonce Straklevski, a Perth-area man, in court and cost him an $1,800 fine, plus a $500 victim surcharge.

He lives on 110 acres along the shoreline of the upper Mississippi River, near McDonalds Corners, in a mostly wooded property where he raises chickens and ducks.

During his nearly five years there, he has watched muskrat and beaver, deer and bear, even moose, ’coons and coyotes, as he worked in Ottawa but retreated to the great outdoors of Lanark Highlands.

In the spring, he was watching a beaver lodge on his property near the river’s edge. Something was different. A strange-looking stake was sticking out near the entrance. He discovered it anchored a trap. He looked around and found more, in all nine on his side of the river, two more on the other side.

He spoke to a trapper friend who told him, correctly, that, in Ontario, a landowner’s written permission is needed to lay down a trap line.

At some point, he encountered the trapper, who apparently declined to provide any proof of his right to snare animals along the shore.

So Straklevski, thinking his property rights had been violated, in March and April removed all 11 of the traps and took them home.

Soon came a knock at the door.

“The police show up at my door, make me feel like a crook.” He was placed in the back of an OPP cruiser, where he said he was charged with criminal mischief and theft under $5,000, charges that were later dropped. The confusion was over the “highwater” mark. The Ministry of Natural Resources maintains the Crown’s property extends to the river’s highest point in the spring — normally dry riverbed the rest of the year. A few days ago, a justice of the peace ruled the traps were legal, even though the muskrats and beavers might frolic, feed or cavort on private property in low-water seasons. Straklevski pleaded guilty to “interfering” with lawful trapping.

“I wish someone would have informed us, given us a warning, something, instead of sending the storm troopers here,” he said this week, still disturbed at the treatment.

“When we bought the property, we bought it for the wildlife,” he continued, “and now there is very little of that. Very little beaver, there are no muskrat, there are no otters.”

It is, of course, natural to think wild animals belong to no one. But it’s not so simple.

“Even if it’s on his property, the animal actually belongs to the Queen or the Crown, which collects a royalty when the animal is harvested and sold,” says Robin Horwath, general manager of the Ontario Fur Managers Federation.

The so-called voice of the trapping industry, the federation represents about 7,500 non-native trappers across the province, including roughly 1,700 in eastern Ontario.

Horwath said the industry has rebounded since a crash in the mid1980s, and 2012 saw revenue to trappers from fur auctions reach about $14.5 million.

Nor should we be surprised, he added, that trapping takes place on the edge of urban areas.

Beavers, in particular, can be viewed as a nuisance, as they can dam up culverts, resulting in flooded roadways and damaged infrastructure. Rural townships often rely on contract “nuisance” trappers.

“People like to watch beavers playing around in the water, but it’s interesting how their attitude changes when Bucky cuts down the tree they planted for their first anniversary or their favourite birch. You know what I’m saying?” asked Horwath.

Straklevski said there was a reference to the trapper as a legal “nuisance trapper,” yet he can’t understand how a beaver lodge on the edge of his property — fairly isolated — is a nuisance to anybody.

“I have no idea, especially since this beaver is on my property. I’m the only one to determine what a nuisance is (on my land). See what I’m saying?”

There are about 2,800 registered traplines on Crown land in Ontario and hundreds of “unregistered” lines on private property. It is not always a smooth arrangement. There are cases of domestic pets, especially dogs, that have wandered into lethal traps and died.

Steve Aubry is a supervisor of enforcement with the ministry. He said licensed trappers are not required to produce credentials to any curious member of the public.

If landowners have concerns about the appearance of traps, they should contact MNR, he said.

Trapping is a legal, time-honoured way of deriving income in Ontario, he pointed out, and tampering with approved traps can affect someone’s livelihood. Laying charges versus giving a warning is a decision based on a number of factors, like intent, he explained.

Straklevski, however, isn’t buying it. “The ministry used to be about education. Now it’s all about enforcement.”