Early last week, a young fox running around Hyde Park caused quite an uproar throughout the community.
The juvenile female red fox was caught in a leghold trap that broke free from the ground. For a few days, it roamed the town with the trap still on its leg, and when a game warden finally captured the fox and took it to a veterinarian last Thursday, it was too late. The animal had to be euthanized because an infection had set in, and the leg was badly damaged.
Furbearer trapping season ends on Dec. 31 and will resume in October. However, trapping can occur year-round for nuisance animals that are causing damage to private property.
These nuisance traps should be double-staked, but the owner isn’t required to have a license or a permit, though most do. Nor does the owner have to label the trap with a name and contact info, as required during the trapping season, because the trap should not leave the property.
“Generally, when someone is trapping a nuisance animal, they are licensed trappers and know how to set the trap properly,” said Louis Porter, Vermont Fish and Wildlife commissioner.
“Keep in mind that individuals trapping nuisance animals are also not out in the willy-whacks. They’re not going to set the trap in the woods or on public land, and the chances of catching an animal that is not the nuisance is slim,” said Jason Batchelder, chief game warden for the state. And it is rare that an animal escapes with the trap still attached.
Batchelder and Porter don’t know why the trap wasn’t anchored properly, but said this trapper clearly didn’t follow the state’s protocol — though the trapper did follow the law.
“This is the kind of situation you hate to see. That’s why the game warden put a lot of time and effort into catching the animal and bringing it to the vet,” Porter said.
The state also does a lot to aid people with nonlethal ways to deal with nuisance animals, such as beaver baffles and Havahart live-animal traps.
“Unfortunately, we encroach on wildlife and when conflicts arise, usually the animal loses,” Porter said.
Trapping critics upset
Vermonters from Lamoille County and beyond are rallying behind Protect Our Wildlife, a wildlife advocacy group based in Stowe that aims to stop this “sadistic hobby.”
“There is no one out there protecting these animals that are seen as garbage,” said Brenna Galdenzi, executive director of Protect Our Wildlife.
“In hunting, the hunter knows what animal they’re killing, whether it’s male or female. With trapping, it’s a crap shoot. You don’t know what you’re trapping.”
Galdenzi said she does not accept the “candy-coated rhetoric” trappers use to defend the sport, because when traps aren’t checked regularly, furbearing animals can wring their legs off, are susceptible to predation, and are treated like garbage.
“This fox, if nothing else, will at least give a face to the issue,” Galdenzi said.
A bill now in the Vermont House of Representatives would regulate the trapping of nuisance wildlife. Sponsored by Rep. James McCullough of Williston, the bill would require people engaged in nuisance wildlife control to get a permit from the fish and wildlife commissioner.
An animal is classified as “nuisance wildlife” if it causes — or may cause — damage to agriculture, human health or safety, property or natural resources.
“I hope the bill gets some publicity,” said Peggy Larson, a veterinarian in Colchester who has treated a number of pets that got caught in leghold traps.
“I’m not against hunting because, if the deer population is not kept in check, they’ll starve. But with trapping, these dang fools leave traps out when they shouldn’t,” she said.
Larson is also pushing for passage of another bill sponsored by McCullough that would require the Fish and Wildlife Board to have members who are not hunters or trappers.
A few hundred people have joined the conversation about this fox on Protect Our Wildlife’s Facebook page. Many are upset, and want trapping to stop.
But most of the posts in favor of trapping have been deleted from the page, except one that says “that would look nice as a hat.”
Protect Our Wildlife is offering a $250 reward for information on who was responsible for trapping the fox.
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