- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2006

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — It was the last thing Gail Murphy thought she had to worry about when she took her dog for a walk through a suburban nature preserve on a quiet Sunday morning.

Zephyr, a floppy-eared mixed breed adopted by Miss Murphy in 2004, ran about 50 feet ahead for a sip from a pool of standing water. The next thing Miss Murphy heard was a muffled “bang.”

When she got to Zephyr, he was trying desperately to free his head from a steel-jawed trap. Before long, his body went limp.

“I was looking into his eyes,” she recalled. “I knew I had no time. I knew he was going to die.”

Some specialists say such accidents will only increase as the suburbs continue to encroach on the domain of outdoorsmen.

“Trappers have to understand: One year, they could be working in a cornfield, and the next year, there’s a housing development there,” said Dave Sollman, executive administrator of the Indiana-based National Trappers Association.

Laws regulating the estimated 146,000 trappers nationwide differ from state to state. About a dozen states have banned trapping in some or all forms, including five — Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Washington — that enacted bans through ballot initiatives, said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States.

In New York, 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 as “no hunting” by its owner.

Last week, the Southampton Town Board passed “Zephyr’s Law,” outlawing body-grip traps on town-owned property. Under state law, only the New York Department of Environmental Conservation can regulate trapping, but towns can ban trapping on lands they own.

But suburban communities also face the problem of “nuisance animals.” State wildlife biologist Gordon Batcheller said there are three times as many raccoons per square mile in suburban areas such as Long Island than in upstate farming regions.

Hank Dam, director of the state Trappers Association, said trappers help keep such booming populations in check.

“The animals have adapted; they live in sheds, in sewers,” Mr. Dam said. “We made a happy home for them; there’s plenty of garbage and food for them. They are more of a menace than any trapper has ever been.”

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