Hunting Accident File > Safe Trapping? > 2005

Towns in the hunt to outlaw traps



January 18, 2006, 10:30 PM EST

A movement to ban trapping on public land began gathering steam across Long Island after Southampton Town officials said they want to stop the practice on town-owned land after learning a dog was killed last month when it walked into a hunting trap.

Officials from Oyster Bay to Southold said yesterday that they, too, are looking to follow Southampton's lead in banning trapping in town parks and nature preserves.

At the state level, Assemb. Steve Englebright, a Setauket Democrat, said he would propose a bill later this year giving Suffolk County the ability to ban trapping. Suffolk County legislator Jon Cooper plans another approach, asking the State Department of Conservation -- which regulates hunting and trapping -- to carve out a special exclusion zone for Suffolk, to get around a state law that allows trapping.

The issue surfaced in Southampton last month after Gail Murphy's dog Zephyr choked when a grab trap -- placed to catch a raccoon -- snapped over the dog's head as they walked on a nature trail near her home in Sag Harbor. Southampton officials found they had no law on the books to ban trapping in their own parks or nature preserves.

On Feb. 26, the town board will hold a public hearing on such a law. Yesterday, officials in Riverhead, Southold and Oyster Bay said they would consider similar measures, and North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman said be believes a town law banning "unsafe conditions" might already apply to traps, but would review Southampton's proposed law. "To have open, dangerous traps ... that's a bit unnerving," Kaiman said.

Other places, such as Brookhaven, Long Beach and Huntington, have regulations banning trapping on town-owned property.

About 10,000 people hold DEC licenses to trap, 144 of them from Suffolk, according to DEC spokeswoman Gabrielle DeMarco. She could not immediately provide numbers for Nassau and other parts of the state.

Traps can be placed legally on any land or under water, providing they are at least 100 feet from a building and the land is not posted "no hunting" by its owner. It is illegal for anyone to set off or damage a trap that has been legally placed.

"Along with hunting, it is one of our strongest conservation tools to help manage species properly," she said. "It's a tradition that goes back in our county a long time."

Scott Hartman, membership director for the National Trappers Association, said trappers generally try to avoid placing traps in an area where a pet could be killed.

"The average person in the United States, when they hear of a steel jaw leg trap, the thought that comes to mind is a trap big enough to chew a man's leg off ... but the most commonly used trap today is four and a half to five inches long."

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

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