After a leg hold trap inadvertently caught a red fox in New Canaan on Wednesday morning, officials are cautioning residents who authorize use of the devices on their properties to ensure that non-targeted animals aren’t suffering needlessly in them.
Rosemary DeClue of Briscoe Road notified the New Canaan Police Department’s Animal Control section after spotting the fox caught in a next-door neighbor’s trap that was meant for coyotes, just over her property line.
DeClue said she had noticed a contraption of some sort, set in plain view from her home, near a wood pile, but wasn’t sure what it was until about 8 a.m. Wednesday morning when “all the sudden, I saw something jumping around and it was a fox caught in a trap.”
The owner of a Labrador retriever and two smaller dogs (Havanese), DeClue said she’s concerned about her own dogs getting past her fence and into the trap and that she opposes trapping in principle.
“No one knows how long this fox was there,” she said. DeClue remained outside until her neighbor’s hired trapper arrived and set the fox free, she said.
Animal Control Officer Allyson Halm said she visited the site of the trapping and that no violations occurred, though she warned that animals such as raccoons, possums, fishers, bobcats, dogs and cats perhaps “shouldn’t be subjected to the risk of being trapped in their own ‘home,’ because our land is their home, too.”
“The consequences are detrimental to ‘innocent’ animals” including coyotes, Halm said, and in this overall mild winter many of those species are out and about in greater numbers than usual.
No one is accusing DeClue’s neighbor of breaking the law—the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection lays out regulations for trapping on page 44 of its Hunting & Trapping Guide, here. Coyotes may be hunted year-round except for May, and there’s no limit to how many may be taken, under state law.
Even so, Peter Reid, associate director of Wildlife In Crisis, a Weston-based wildlife rehabilitation organization, called leg hold traps “inhumane” and said it’s “unfortunate” that they are legal in Connecticut.
“The dangers, of course, are that you will catch a non-target animal, so in some cases dogs are vulnerable, we have had a lot of birds of prey, vultures with leg hold traps on them, hawks,” Reid said. “They are baiting these with meat. So you have situations where in some cases protected birds are being trapped. I have heard of cases where pet dogs have been trapped. And so it is kind of an indiscriminate method in putting trap out.”
What’s more, he said, the traps are ineffective vis-à-vis coyote populations.
“Even if you kill a coyote, they are not vulnerable to trapping in terms of numbers: As soon as you trap one, it opens up a void and another coyote fills it,” Reid said. “So trying to reduce the coyote population by trapping is analogous to trying to bail out the ocean.”
Meanwhile, DeClue said she has implored her neighbor to cease the practice of trapping and is unhappy that the leg hold traps themselves have been set in plain view from inside her own dining room and breakfast nook—from where she has seen a trapper approach a trap where a coyote has been caught, and dispatch the animal by firing a bullet into its head.
“I do not care to see it,” she said.
A spokesman for the DEEP said that after talking to a different neighbor of the property owner with the traps, an officer from the agency spoke to the trapper (officially known as a “nuisance wildlife control officer”).
That trapper “told us he was hired to trap and remove coyotes from the property,” according to Dennis Schain, communications director for the DEEP.
“He said he would change the location of the trap so it is not so close to the neighbor’s property,” Schain said.