The Gabry Bionic Killer

Today’s post is the first installment of a new series I have planned for my readers. I thoroughly enjoy collecting antique traps, and as a result, have acquired an extensive antique trap collection during my years of looking back on the rich history fur trapping has developed. It makes perfect sense to start this series off with one of my personal favorite traps – the Gabry Bionic Killer.

Identical pair of Bionic Killer traps from the author's personal collection

Believe it or not, the Bionic Killer isn’t all that old of a trap. Many trappers across the wild north still utilize this trap today as a staple to target Mink, Marten and Fisher in the boreal forests of Canada. Les Pièges du Québec Inc, better known today as the L.P.D.Q. Sauvageau trap company introduced the Gabry Bionic in 1998. Named after inventor Alex Gabry who lived in Alberta, the Bionic Killer was considered a top-of-the-line lethal trap; boasting a quick, efficient and humane dispatch. The Gabry Bionic has a frame with a spring-loaded set of jaws, ratcheted to a desired level of tension via a “setting rod” that is slid into a housing attached to the spring system. The trap, which consists of a triggered bait hook nestled under a steel shrouded hood, would be fired when the animal entered through the front of the hood and pulled at the baited hook. The trap could be mounted to a block of wood, or directly to a tree trunk.

In the late 1980’s and 90’s, with mounting pressure from concerned members of the public, studies were performed to scientifically measure the efficiency and humane dispatch methods of many lethal traps on the market. The Bionic Killer excelled dramatically in many of these tests:

The Bionic trap equipped with a 10 cm aperture bait cone and cocked to eight notches quickly killed nine of nine fishers (Martes pennanti) in simulated natural conditions". Evaluation of the Bionic trap to quickly kill fisher (Martes pennanti) in simulated natural environments. (Gilbert Proulx, Humane Trapping Program, Alberta Environmental Centre, Vegreville, Canada.)

The Gabry Bionic can be ratcheted with the included "setting rod" for additional levels of power to kill its targeted animal. The trap is safe for the user, as the bait under the hood shield must be pulled to activate/fire the trap. Personally, if they weren’t antiques, I would love to include the Gabry Bionic on my current trapline; the trap has been manufactured to be the perfect all-in-one Cubby Set and Body Gripping lethal trap – talk about efficiency and selectivity! I’m lucky enough to currently have not one, but two of these traps in my collection, both in mint condition, including the rare “safety/setting tool” and the Sauvageau stamp of approval on the trap’s hoods.

While researching the Bionic Killer further, I uncovered a 1978 Canadian Newspaper article, which talked about a “Bill Gabry” building the very first “bionic trap” out of used spring steel from baby carriages found at the Kamloops local dump. The article features commentary from a member of an animal rights organization praising Gabry for the efficiency of the “humane trap” he built as an alternative to the steel foothold traps of the time. There’s no way to know for sure if the trap referenced in the article is the Bionic Killer of the 1990’s, but it is quite an interesting read nonetheless. According to George Clements, then director for the Association for the Protection of Fur Bearing Animals, the trap was species-specific, and regarded as humane by “killing the animal with a direct blow to the back of the head”.

Side view of the Gabry Bionic.

The Sauvageau logo stamped on the hood.

Sauvageau halted production of the Bionic Killer in 2000 to focus on other products. While many trappers in the North Country still utilize this trap on their wilderness traplines, others feel the trap has been simply rendered obsolete, with disadvantages outweighing the good. Criticism for the Gabry Bionic include its bulkiness, additional setting tools needed to operate, price per trap, and the limited amount of bait able to be placed on the trigger hook. These disadvantages may have played a role in the Bionic Killer’s end, but it certainly lives on as an excellent conversation piece and novelty item for collectors.

Are you a trapper who still uses Gabry Bionics on your trapline? Reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter and fill me in on your experiences with these fascinating traps!