Conservation Officer James Barber reports that lab tests confirm suspicions that the death of a dog on Mount Cowley in the Kitchener area was caused by strychnine. Anyone with knowledge about poison-laced meat being left out is asked to contact the BC Conservation Officer Service.
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When Creston long-distance runner Andrew Stolz set out for a run with his friend, Ryan McEwen, on March 23 he was also accompanied by his beloved German Shepherd, Topaz. Not much more than an hour later he was carrying the dying, and then dead, body of Topaz back down the trail.
The run started 4 km up Goat River Road, near Kitchener. As the trio ran up Mount Cowley for about 10 km a curious site loomed.
“It’s quite steep going up—it’s pretty ‘out there’—in the middle of nowhere,” Stolz said last week. “As we neared the top of the road we saw three golden eagles fly off, which is pretty unusual. We looked down the bank toward where they had flown from and saw a raccoon carcass, with its tail cut off.”
The run continued and suddenly Topaz was in trouble.
“She just dropped,” Stolz said. “Her back leg seized in mid-run and she collapsed.”
Thinking that his faithful companion had suffered a stroke, Stolz sent his friend back for his truck.
“I carried her, and she was having horrible seizures. I tried to give her water, but she didn’t want it.” Thirty minutes later, Topaz took her last breath. “It was an excruciating death.”
It wasn’t until later in the day that Stolz and McEwen pieced together what had happened. McEwen’s wife, a dog walker, had recently had a dog in her care poisoned after eating strychnine-laced meat. Fortunately, she got the dog to the Creston Veterinary Hospital in time, and after treatment, it recovered.
In the company of Conservation Officer James Barber, Stolz returned to the area where the dead raccoon was found. Nearby were two plastic bags that had contained “formed meat”. One had mostly been eaten and the other was intact.
“Some pieces of meat had slipped down on to the road and Topaz must have got some while we were running,” Stolz said.
Stolz suspects the poisoned meat could be connected to a competition organized by the local rod and gun club to reduce the number of predators in the area. While the competition is intended for predators to be shot—legally—the missing tail on the dead raccoon could indicate that someone is using poison instead.
Barber sent the remaining meat sample to a lab in Saskatchewan and is awaiting the results.
“In my investigation, what I saw at the scene is troubling,” he said last week. “If this is a poisoning, it will be very hard to find the culprit and we are going to need the public to help with information.”
As news of the death of Topaz has spread, Barber has heard from other dog owners.
“Numerous people tell me that they are now worried about taking their dogs when they hike or camp in the backcountry.
“If someone is setting out poison it’s just not right—morally, ethically or legally.”
One local hunter took to Facebook to express his concerns:
“I don’t know what to say. We all know that that’s against the law and I’m sure there’s not one of us that will say we would do that but I know that the hunters around here have a real hate on for wolves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it insinuated that poison is a viable solution to what some see as a problem. How many of you out there who are actively involved in predator control have not thought of doing this or done this or know somebody else that is? There’s a reason why it’s illegal. Illegal. Illegal. I meant to say three sick golden eagles. And how many of you have a dog that, if that dog was gone you would be missing an arm for a little while. So what the hell. We’re stepping over the line here guys. We think we know what we’re doing. The environment and all of the creatures in it. That is the world of the hunter. Throwing poison on the land is not a hunter’s way.”
Barber promised to report back when he gets the laboratory results and asks that anyone with knowledge about the illegal use of poison report it to the BC Conservation Officer Service.