- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

ELKO, Nev. (AP) - A Nevada commercial trapper has been slapped with a $5,000 civil penalty and $1,065 in court fines and fees for trapping violations that game wardens said caused collateral damage to wildlife.

Trevor Walch of Elko was sentenced June 4 in Elko Justice Court after pleading guilty to one count of illegally trapping near exposed bait and two counts of failing to visit traps within the required four-day time limit.

Nevada Department of Wildlife officials said because he failed to check the traps on time, a mule deer fawn, an elk calf and three coyotes apparently died in traps. Game wardens observed the dead deer and one of the dead coyotes in two separate traps over a period of at least 13 days.

“There is no excuse for the blatant illegal behavior we saw in this case that resulted in several animals dying in traps because the trapper didn’t check the traps on time,” Chief Game Warden Tyler Turnipseed said in a statement.

Under a plea deal, the 29-year-old Walch pleaded guilty to the three charges in exchange for the dismissal of 11 other charges against him. His conviction stemmed from a multi-month investigation in Lander and Elko counties.

A judge also ordered him to serve consecutive jail sentences of five days for each count, but suspended the jail time for one year on the condition that Walch pays his fines and fees.

“Despite the egregious misdemeanor charges in this case, Mr. Walch will not lose his license privileges as a result of the case, having incurred only nine demerit points on a scale that mandates license revocation does not occur until teaching twelve demerits,” Turnipseed said.

Don Molde of Nevadans for Responsible Wildlife Management said the case points out the need for trapping reform. Trappers are inadequately regulated, trapping cases are often dismissed and penalties for violators are often “puny,” he said.

“I don’t see the (state wildlife) commission doing anything to rein in trappers in any manner. There is nothing pending,” Molde wrote by email. “There was some effort to change the demerit system last year during a series of trapping committee meetings, but nothing significant came of it.

“Their view is that they would rather let a bad trapper get away with stuff than run the risk of penalizing a ‘basically honest sportsman’ for an ‘honest mistake.’ And, of course, they have utterly no concern for what happens to the animals in the process … All wildlife activity, including trapping, is exempt from animal cruelty statutes in Nevada.”

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