Leg-hold traps catch unintended prey

Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Larry Ryan shows the trap that ensnarled the front right leg of his dog, Cora, near his Virginia City home.

Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Larry Ryan shows the trap that ensnarled the front right leg of his dog, Cora, near his Virginia City home.

Larry Ryan and Carolyn Louis enjoy walking their dog on and around his Virginia Highlands property, where the 70-pound mixed breed is free to run on the private lots and private roads among the 40-acre parcels.

On Sunday, the dog stepped into a leg-hold trap.

Ryan said he and Louis were walking the dog on Hillside Road, north of Seven Mile Canyon Ranch, just two lots away from his property.

"A little past my lot is a little cave and my dog ran into this cave," he said. "We heard her screaming and found someone had a trap set."

In its panic, Ryan said, the dog bit both of them as they worked to get it out of the trap.

He described the trap as being without teeth, but with steel bars that clamp together.

"If you're the only person there, it's hard to get your dog out of the trap," he said.

Ryan said the trap caught the black-and-tan dog on its paw pad and toes, and it wasn't severely injured. But Ryan is concerned about this kind of trapping going on.

"Someone has been going around out there and putting traps on the 40-acre pieces," he said. "That's all private property; that's not BLM land."

According to Storey County Undersheriff Bruce Larson, another dog was caught in a different trap last week as well. He had no further information on that dog.

Larson said a resident provided the Sheriff's Department with a license-plate number and description, and those were forwarded to the Nevada Department of Wildlife on Tuesday. Larson declined to provide any information on who, if anyone was identified. He said it was up to the state to investigate.

NDOW spokesman Chris Healy on Tuesday said an investigation is ongoing.

Our people are up there and looking into it," he said.

Trapping is fairly common in Nevada, and always has been, Healy said.

"A number of the original visitors to Nevada in the 1820s or so came here to explore the avenues of commercial trapping," he said. "The first visitors to Nevada were trappers."

He said there's nothing wrong with trapping, the only issue is whether it is done legally.

He said the law requires traps be on public land and 200 feet from a public road, in alignment with the roadway. They must also be visited every 96 hours by the trapper.

If the trapper is working on private property without permission, then the county can charge him with trespass.

If the traps are not registered and the trapper is not licensed, the trapper would be in violation of the trapping laws. Healy added that trappers are no longer required to have registration markings on their traps. "That changed in the 1990s," he said.

Only 5 percent of Storey County is public land, and Larson said that area of the Virginia Highlands was private.

Healy said it may also be up to property owners to file trespass charges.

"If they're doing something illegal and it's involving traps, DOW can get involved," he said. "If a person is doing it on private land, the trespass is the big problem."

He said trappers involved in illegal activity could be fined $100 plus court costs, in addition to any civil or criminal penalties for trespass. General trapping licenses are $33 for residents and $142 for nonresidents.

"If someone's trapping on private land without permission, there could be some other charge added by the county," he said. "Any hunter or sportsman that goes onto private land without permission, they're courting trouble."


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