News

Town freezes animal trap permission after citizen petition

BY JASON STARR

Observer staff

After a coyote was found trapped illegally on land owned by the Town of Williston in December, about 240 residents signed a petition asking the selectboard to ban the practice of setting animal traps on town land.

The State of Vermont allows trapping by body-gripping traps during the winter months. Trappers typically target foxes, coyotes, beavers and bobcats. But about two-thirds of the animals caught in traps are not targeted, according to Peggy Larson, a Williston veterinarian who organized the petition. Pet cats and dogs and non-target birds and land mammals often suffer and die at the hands of body-gripping traps, she told the board.

“It’s the wanton waste and the suffering that these trapped animals go through that would bother any veterinarian, and anyone who owns a dog or cat,” Larson said.

Lynn Blevins, another petition organizer, said the knowledge that there are dangerous traps set in town-owned open space is disconcerting to people who recreate outdoors.

“There is this collective fear and anxiety that any of us — a child or a pet — might come across this while walking,” she said.

The coyote that was found trapped in December was on the Mahan property across from the Williston Fire Department. Town Conservation Planner Melinda Scott noted that the trap was set illegally because the trapper failed to get permission from the landowner, as required by state law.

Town Manager Erik Wells said, after hearing of the incident, he decided to deny all requests for trapping on town-owned property. Town administrators also plan to put signs up at the Mahan land entrance off Williston Road explaining that trapping is not allowed without permission.

The town prohibits trapping, using signage to alert people, at many of its rural parks, including Five Tree Hill Park, Sucker Brook Park and the Catamount Community Forest. But about a dozen town-owned conserved areas don’t have that signage.

Selectboard chair Terry Macaig said he will invite trappers and state Fish and Wildlife officials to a future board meeting to provide input as the board considers creating a policy about when the town would grant permission for trapping on town-owned land.