I’d much rather write good-news stories about cats, but I hope you’ll forgive me for this one because although it has a gruesome beginning, it does have a happy ending. I also think it serves as a warning, especially for those of us who live in rural areas.
A couple of weeks ago, volunteers with the Moncton, N.B., chapter of Cat Rescue Maritimes were conducting one of their last trap-neuter-release programs of the year when they found a horrifically wounded cat in one of their humane traps.
It was clear that the cat, now named Churchill, had escaped from a hunter’s snare. He had deep cuts that circled his body just behind his front legs, tearing through his flesh through his muscle and down to his abdominal cavity.
If he hadn’t wandered into Cat Rescue Maritimes’ trap, he certainly would have died from his injuries.
The volunteer TNR group rushed Churchill to a local vet hospital, where he was treated for his severely infected wound and sewn back together. At the moment, the cat is staying with Cat Rescue Maritimes’ co-director, Mariah Hoganson, who is nursing him back to health.
Hoganson says Churchill is “feral but he’s not aggressive, if that makes any sense.”
So maybe he’s not so feral after all. He might just be a scared stray.
Churchill might adapt to life in a home and be able to live comfortably in a quiet place with no other pets, Hoganson said. But if it becomes clear that he is truly feral, she plans to keep him in her barn, where she cares for about 14 cats, providing them with a heat lamp for warmth and plenty of food, water, and shelter.
Churchill will ultimately be okay. But what about other cats (and dogs) that get caught in snares?
The horrible thing about snare traps is that the more an animal struggles, the tighter the snare becomes. Although the article about Churchill’s misadventure said that snares typically trap an animal’s leg, other trapping sites and even Merriam-Webster’s visual dictionary (from which I got the picture of the snare) say that the snare is designed to go around an animal’s neck.
Hunters generally set out snares to trap “nuisance animals” like raccoons and coyotes. Just the thought makes me cringe. No animals should be slowly strangled to death just because they’re living in the way they’ve always lived and humans are infringing on their natural territory.
On the other hand, I don’t know that making snaring entirely illegal is the way to go, nor do I believe that it’s a realistic goal. Some people actually do make a living trapping fur animals. Again, this isn’t something that makes me happy, but it’s a fact of life.
Clearly, keeping your cats inside is the best way to keep them from the perils of hunters’ snares and traps. But Churchill is a feral cat, and there’s really nothing you can do to stop ferals from being collateral damage from snaring operations.
Churchill was lucky, but how many other stray and feral cats weren’t so fortunate? I imagine most trappers who find dead or grievously injured felines in their snares don’t make a point of reporting that information.
So what can you do to protect strays, ferals, and even pet cats? If you can’t realistically ban trapping, I guess you have to at least spread the word that it should be done responsibly. If you are going to trap animals, I think it’s it’s your moral obligation to check your traps at least once a day. No animal — not even a so-called nuisance animal — deserves the grievous suffering inflicted on it by a trapper’s negligence.