A trap that killed a woman's dog in Watson Lake, Yukon, was legally set, the territory's environment department has confirmed.
"In this case yes, the individual was a licensed trapper in full compliance with the trapping regulations," said Gord Hitchcock, Yukon's chief conservation officer.
The dog, Scout, had been out running on a trail alongside owner Deana Zorn's ATV last week when it happened. The conibear trap, according to Zorn, was just a few feet off the trail that she and Scout used almost daily.
Scout had apparently been killed instantly, and Zorn didn't realize what had happened until she noticed Scout was missing and went looking.
Zorn is devastated and said she didn't understand how a dangerous trap could be laid so close to a multi-use trail within municipal boundaries.
Hitchcock said his department did an investigation to ensure the trapper — who later apologized to Zorn — was in compliance with trapping regulations, "and also to learn from the incident."
Hitchcock said it is legal to trap within a municipality, though regulations can be complex because trapping is a business.
"There's a lot of oversight, both by government, First Nations authorities and the licensing regime, as it's a commercial activity," he said.
"Generally, most commercial trapping is outside of municipalities."
He also said that trappers are not required to post signs alerting people that trapping is happening in a certain area, but they are encouraged to do so.
According to Zorn, there was a sign posted not far from where Scout was killed. Zorn said she only noticed it once she started looking for the missing dog.
Hitchcock said the trapper has since voluntarily posted more signs near the trail to alert people. He said the government will continue to educate Yukoners about what those signs mean, and encourage people to leash their dogs in signed areas.
"Accidental deaths of domestic animals due to trapping in the Yukon is very rare," Hitchcock said. He could recall only one other instance in the last five years, he said.
"It's a very unfortunate situation and I'd like to send our condolences to the pet owner as well as the local trapper," he said.