Canada is a small pitbull mix who came from a rescue south of Illinois, around the Tennessee-Mississippi state line, but within a few hours after reaching the foster’s home, managed to escape. It is believed that she has never had a home, and was a stray her whole life. Prior to being captured the first time, she had recently had a litter of puppies. She is estimated to be about a year old. When we first got involved with Canada about 4 days after her escape, we were told that she wouldn’t go into a trap, and so in order to catch her the first time, they had to dart her. With this in mind, we thought we were going to have to go straight to a large Missy trap. The group attempting to catch her was a very dedicated and smart group of residents in the apartment complex, but they were not experienced in rescue or trapping, and needed advice.
When Canada got loose, sightings were being called in and posted on Facebook consistently. She was not roaming far from where she escaped, but had been seen crossing very busy 4-lane roads during peak traffic. However, she seemed to be centralized in an approximately 15-acre wetland area behind the apartment building, with 5 large ponds. She was frequently observed crossing the ice on the pond nearest the building, and footprints were seen on the others. The daytime temps were above freezing, and the pond near the building had a circulation pump at one end that kept ice from forming, so breaking through the ice was a strong concern. The first action taken was to advise the residents to remove all sighting reports from Facebook, and stop sharing her location.
The residents had gotten 2 traps, 1 from Animal Control and 1 from TSC, and had set them up along with several feeding stations. They had also bought a trail camera from a local pawn shop to see if they were getting any results. They would check the feeding stations and traps every hour, then close the traps at night when they couldn’t check them. We right away reduced the feeding stations to only the trap locations, put out some fresh rotisserie chicken, and waited to see what would happen. The next time the traps were checked, the food was gone out of the TSC trap, but it hadn’t triggered! Not only that, but the trail camera failed as well. So, we decided to get some good cameras on the traps, tie them open for a day to see what the behavior was, and go from there. Surprisingly, the cameras showed us that she was walking right into the trap without hesitation. It was go-time.
Since the trap had failed before, we replaced it with a sturdier and more reliable trap, loaded it up with chicken, and waited. Since the other trap was was very close to the building, and a path where residents walked their dogs daily, she would only come to that trap at night. We decided to eliminate that feeding station and trap, and focused on the one furthest away from the building that she was more comfortable going to. For 2 days we waited without her coming to the trap, but due to extremely cold temps we weren’t worried. We did have one sighting during the day, but she didn’t approach the trap as someone was walking nearby.
By Friday morning, the temps started to climb, and we started to hope today was the day. Set the trap, then settled back to wait. We had decided to drop fresh food at the trap a little more frequently, so at lunchtime we went back out. Timing is everything, Canada was starting to anticipate our arrival, and showed up at the trap right as we approached. When someone else walked by she left, so we reset the trap, this time with chicken nuggets and hot dogs. It didn’t take long to get a reaction, an hour later there she was. But… she was smart! Instead of going into the trap, she pulled the mats out and got the food that way! Take 2 – reset the trap, more food, and sit back to wait. We were patient, so was she. At 11PM, she showed up again. But now we started to see a pattern. She was checking to see if the trap was set and changing her approach! Multiple pictures showed her looking at the door, and the mechanism, and she would only go in as far as the trip plate, eat as much as she could, then back out again! Game on. We strapped the food to the back of the trap and waited. Again at 4AM, Canada came to eat food, checked to see if the trap was set, and would not go in any further than the trip plate.
OK – time to do a better job disguising the trip plate. But time was going to be a critical factor, as a significant snowstorm was on the way. Blankets and mats were either being pulled out or ignored. If we put nothing on the floor she wouldn’t go in. So, we decided to build a “floor” on the trap out of snow. We ramped the snow up to the level of the trip plate. Left a very lightweight blanket over the trip plate to keep any debris out, and lightly scattered snow over that. A light bed of wood chips over that, and then the jackpot – chicken leg strapped to the ceiling of the trap, chicken thigh and hot dog with bun strapped directly on the back, and a smaller hotdog on the left side. We were ready! We waited for Canada, and then the snow started. The weather was due to get very bad very quickly, and we didn’t want her trapped without a way to find shelter if we couldn’t get to her. So we left the jackpot, and zip-tied the trap open to wait out the storm. Within 30 minutes of that move, she showed up. Carefully checked to see if the trap was set, and as soon as she saw it wasn’t, went right in. Canada feasted that night! But in the meantime, it was too dangerous for her rescue team to go out so we let her be.
This is where a bad thing became good. The snow was a wet heavy snow (approximately 12” total during the storm), and it was actually piling on top of the trap. Around 3AM, the trail camera started going off every 30 seconds, and wouldn’t stop. She had decided to shelter from the storm in the trap! The trap was sheltered from the wind, and the snow was piling up around it. It was making a nice little snow cave and giving her shelter. At 7AM, a local resident went out and put more chicken in the trap. Canada of course bolted, but 2 hours later was right back, and she sat inside the trap all day while the snow came down. At around 3, we decided that the roads were clear enough to drive to the location, even though it was still snowing. Game back on, new fresh food in the trap, and 2 hours later we had her!
If it weren’t for the snowstorm, I don’t know that Canada would have been ready to go into that trap for a while, but thankfully she did it when she did! Sore feet, and a few sores on her ears from the cold, but otherwise healthy and ready for recovery!
The series of photos show how Canada is checking out the trap. One smart girl!
Thank you Stacey for sharing Canada’s story.