Matthew Raney of Hastings was alarmed when he learned Monday that someone’s dog had wandered outside of Brickyard Park and tripped one of a handful of traps he had set with permission on private property just outside park grounds.
The spring-loaded trap reportedly did not cause injury to the dog, but the incident was nonetheless reported by the walker to local authorities and posted on social media sites.
Fearing that someone reading about the found trap may attempt to uncover additional traps he had set in the area, Raney — a certified line clearance arborist by trade — pulled them for the time being, though he says they are technically protected by law.
“That guy who reported it should come forward and let the media know he was in the wrong from the beginning,” Raney said. “It would have been illegal in the park, yeah. But it was on private property outside city limits about 200 yards from park property.”
So far, Raney has yet to make contact with the man who turned his trap over to authorities, he said.
Raney said he set the traps — with permission from the property owner — to target a skulk of foxes that had been killing chickens and ducks after dark at Adams County Fairgrounds. With his own children involved in 4-H activities, he felt compelled to intervene “so that the kids have something to show for 4-H,” he said.
Since the incident was reported, he has cooperated with Hastings Police and animal control and had his trap returned without penalty. He later showed an animal control officer where it had been placed.
The trap’s tag, which contained Raney’s driver’s license number, was left beside where the trap had been placed before it was turned over to police, he said.
“The tags are attached by a small wire and are smaller than the pencil lead that goes into a mechanical pencil,” he said. “Sometimes, if you don’t notice, you can rip a tag off and not know it. This tag was still laying by the hole where it was set up.”
The trap was one of two spring-loaded leg traps he set on the property, along with a live cage and snare traps. To date, he has trapped two foxes and a raccoon there. He is unsure when or if he’ll resume trapping on the site, but has yet to uncover any ordinance prohibiting it.
“I went down to the city attorney’s office Tuesday to look through ordinance books and never found anything prohibiting trapping within city limits,” he said. “You’re not supposed to trap within 200 yards of a dwelling unless you have the owner’s permission, which I did.”
While he concedes that being snared by a spring-loaded trap can sting a bit, he notes it is designed to provide optimum tension without causing harm to the animal. Its purpose is to catch and hold the animal while allowing the trapper to release unwanted catches unharmed.
“They’re not big enough to break bones,” he said. “If a person steps in that trap, it more than likely wouldn’t hurt you, especially if you had shoes on.”