Intolerable Cruelty

Gilbert Proulx / Alpha Wildlife Publications / 96 pages

Of the various methods of population control inflicted on wildlife by animal damage control agents, wildlife managers, and trappers, strangling neck snares are among the most horrific tools in the toolbox. The primer Intolerable Cruelty: The truth behind killing neck snares and strychnine is a reminder—if one is needed—of how wretchedly inhumane these techniques can be. Death does not come easy. When a canid is snared, the thick musculature around the animal’s neck allows the carotid artery to continue to supply blood to the brain, but the jugular vein is constricted, cutting off blood back down to the heart. A telltale sign is the grotesquely swollen heads of the snare’s victims. Canids caught in neck snares will take hours, if not days, to die.

Despite its dangers, strychnine is still used on pocket gophers in more than half of the 50 states. (In Canada it is used on rodents—a use currently under scrutiny. It is also used on large predators in Alberta.) This neurotoxin is ingested by target and nontarget animal alike, and secondary poisoning is common. It causes agonizing muscular seizures until the conscious animal suffocates. Depending on the exposure, death by strychnine may also take hours or days.

The author, Dr. Gilbert Proulx, a wildlife biologist in Canada for more than 40 years, has firsthand experience; he has used strychnine and a range of traps. What makes him different from others doing research and managing furbearers in this way is that his experiences and raw observations led him to conclude that neck snares and strychnine were inhumane and indiscriminate, and therefore unacceptable. He wants them banned. Meanwhile, others in the field continue defending and employing both.