Residents of northern New Canaan are voicing concerns about the welfare of a coyote that’s been spotted multiple times for the last two weeks dragging a leg hold trap through the snow.
First seen Dec. 12 by a Jonathan Road resident, the animal is suffering because of what appears to be a botch job by an amateur or otherwise unqualified trapper, according to Officer Allyson Halm, head of the New Canaan Police Department’s Animal Control section.
“This is just legal animal cruelty,” Halm said of the animal, which she herself saw briefly on Wednesday. No one has been able to photograph the animal, though pictures of its tracks—paws and the trap—are clear in the snow (see photo at right).
Halm said she couldn’t tell whether the trap attached to the coyote’s foreleg also had a cable or stake on it, though the devices are meant to stay put once they’ve done the work of snapping onto whatever wildlife or domestic animal happens into them.
In Connecticut, as of July 2016, coyotes may be trapped and hunted Monday to Saturday, year-round and in unlimited numbers. Traps must be checked at least every 24 hours in Connecticut, under state law.
Stephen Pinney of Jonathan Road said it was “distressing” to see “a coyote stumbling along with its front leg impaled in a leg trap” on Wednesday.
“Its future will be a slow and painful death due to starvation,” Pinney said.
He added: “Apart from the cruel method of such leg trapping there is a real danger, in an area such as ours with many houses that a domestic animal or possibly a child could be caught in such a trap.”
In fact, leg hold traps have been known to capture domestic animals such as dogs or cats, as well as unintended wildlife such as raccoons, possums and skunks, in addition to coyotes.
In January, the unintended leg hold-trapping of a red fox on Briscoe Road led to an effort among concerned residents who urged town officials to consider a local ordinance banning the practice. Ultimately, a subcommittee of the Town Council, after consulting with the town attorney, found that New Canaan could not pass an ordinance that went against a state law.
It isn’t clear who set the trap now attached to a hobbled coyote.
In Connecticut, the law that governs trapping of fur-bearing animals includes provisions such as that snares are not allowed, no steel trap may be set within 100 feet of a permanent building and written permission must be had from the owner of a property before a certified “nuisance wildlife control officer” can set a trap. Violating the provisions of the law could rise to the level of a misdemeanor criminal offense. According to Halm, state officials said the trap attached to the coyote will have a notation on it that indicates who set it, and that individual could be criminally liable. The case is complicated, however, by the fact that Jonathan Road runs up against the New York state line.
Janet Lanaway of Jonathan Road was the first person to spot the coyote now limping around northern New Canaan. “I’ve been hearing several coyotes at night recently, but this one I saw, walking across my back yard and the poor thing had a trap on its leg,” she told NewCanaanite.com.
Owner of a golden retriever that weighs about 70 pounds, as well as a cat and a smaller dog, Lanaway said she doesn’t let her pets out at night on their own.
Lanaway added that she’s not aware of anyone near her who would allow a trapper on their property.
“We kind of invaded their [coyotes’] territory, not the other way around,” she said. “That’s partly why we live here, is that it’s sort of nice to see [wildlife].”
Animals such as coyotes are less predictable when injured, Halm said.
“When encountering animals that are frightened and injured, they can react in any way, and most of it is flight—the drive to just escape—but in this guy’s case I would hope exhaustion will set in and we can get close enough to help,” she said.
Barbara Gerweck of Jonathan Road said she also saw the coyote limping along the fence outside her yard on Wednesday, headed toward a Rippowam River tributary.
In a note to Halm, cited here with Gerweck’s permission, she urged the Animal Control officer to help end the coyote’s misery.
“Use of animal leg traps is unfair and dangerous and unkind to animals as well as kids who love to play in the woods,” Gerweck said. “Does this have to result in having a human being injured before legislation is enacted to outlaw this barbarism?”