Trailsafe Fights: Trapping in Nevada

Trailsafe Nevada Background

In February 2007 reports of several dog trappings alongside popular local hiking trails hit the media. Snow covered the devices, creating an unseen hazard. Duke, a big yellow Lab trapped by the jowls, got the most attention. His owner managed to call a ranger, and Duke was freed with only minor injuries. A few more inches and the trap would have squashed his throat. Owner Carol Grigus’ outrage sparked a hail of letters to the editor, activists met, and TrailSafe was launched. We began collecting similar stories. Today approximately 100 pet trapping stories occupy 17 pages on our website.

Beowulf, trapped on his own property! Visit

We first approached the County Commission pointing out the obvious public safety hazard of traps set trailside. They shuffled us off to the Wildlife Commission (NBWC), where we encountered the convoluted maze of bureaucracy surrounding wildlife. In Nevada, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) is regulated by the NBWC with input from 17 county Advisory Boards (CABs). Therefore, to change any regulations, one has to petition one’s local CAB. If they vote to act, the matter is referred to the NBWC which meets monthly. The NBWC could vote to act on the item, or to form a subcommittee , such as the Trapping Regulation Committee (TRC), which will hold months of hearings. We are told this gives the public ample opportunity for input. But for us it is a process of exhaustion and erosion.

We were lucky in 2007, and by November achieved a regulation requiring a 1000 foot trap setback from 5 local hiking trails.

Western states have vast public lands where most trapping takes place. Nevada covers 110,567 square miles, making it the 7th largest of the 50 states. 82.9% of this land is public land: i.e. managed by the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Forest Service (USFS).

You may ask: since trapping is indiscriminate, cruel and outdated, and since pelt sales allow a mere 1,314 of Nevada’s 2.5 million people to profit from our public lands and the wildlife which by law belong to all of us, why not petition for an end to trapping on public lands? Arizona banned trapping on public lands by citizen-initiated state statute in November, 1994. Seven other states have bans: California, Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts, Florida, Rhode Island, New Jersey. Hawaii has never had recreational trapping.

Spurred on by mounting reports from furious pet owners, and by some particularly egregious trappings within city limits at a family riverside park, we resumed action in 2011. It was alarming to discover incorporated areas had no protection. NBWC hemmed and hawed and stalled us, so we turned to the state legislature. Our bill, SB226, passed in 2011. We achieved ½ mile trap setback from residences in populated areas. This sounds better than it is. We had to grant some exemptions and we had to accept that the vast reaches of the state remain open to trapping , but the common sense point that trapping has no place in highly congested areas prevailed.

Nevada’s legislature meets every other year. So in 2013 after futile arguments with the NBWC, we again sought legislation. Our bill SB213 passed but was severely amended. The results:

a. Mandatory trap registration was reinstated. A zealous trapper had managed to overturn the state’s trap registration laws in 1995. But we prevailed and overturned his measure. Unfortunately, after passage of the bill, trappers came up with some specious objections and enactment of this measure is held up in the Legislative Commission. Without trap registration, game wardens and pet owners have no way to fix liability for violations or damages. Trapper supporters, in this case the Farm Bureau, claim they’ll have to register their household mousetraps. This is a ridiculous argument, but we have to disprove it.

b. Nevada requires traps be visited every 96 hours. This means an animal languishes in agony four days. We sought 24 hour visitation which is the law in 33 states. Unfortunately, this measure was amended leaving us in legal limbo. The matter was referred to the Wildlife Commission to “consider” shorter visitation times for devices “placed in close proximity to a populated or heavily used area”. This language is stunningly vague, so debate has been lengthy, occupying four long meetings since June, 2013.

The photo below is shocking. We thought these were pieces of wood at first!

We got this unsatisfactory result because trappers convinced legislators that their proud “tradition” would die with shorter visitation. They need four days to visit lines of traps, some with over 100 traps. There is no limit on number of traps they can set, nor number of animals they can maim and kill.

Current Situation

At the latest TRC meeting, April 5 in Las Vegas, a commissioner proposed to trade off shorter visitation times with “trapper education.” Trappers jumped on this bandwagon. We don’t think they can pull off this outrageous political maneuver, but again, it puts us in a holding pattern. So we plod on, dealing with the roadblocks.

But there’s plenty of good news. We’re attracting more supporters all the time. There are 1200 on our mailing list. Our alerts are forwarded by Nevada Humane Society, ASPCA, Born Free USA and Best Friends to their extensive lists.

Some of our new supporters are rural folks and ranchers, so our opposition cannot credibly maintain trapping is a rural/urban issue. Trapping is a humane issue and “rurals” include plenty of humane people. Further, trappers can’t keep claiming nobody gets hurt. We have three confirmed cases of hand injuries suffered by people trying to get their pets out of traps.
So it’s a matter of time, public education, and team building. Our team grows all the time, and attracts some of the best and brightest I could ever hope to meet.

Here are some quick clips from the recent meeting which I call: Phantasmagoria

I wish what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas, but it’s still here to haunt me today.
In public testimony before 140 people, a girl in a flowered dress tells us she just started trapping and she finds it “empowering”.

Then a guy in an American flag T-shirt lifts each of his pre-school little girls up to the microphone so they can pipe: “I like hunting and trapping.” Murmurs from our humane contingent (who, interestingly, always sit on the left side of the room whereas the hunters and trappers sit on the right) “Child abuse!”

Trappers keep asking why are we doing all this. One of the two moderates on the committee, explains “it comes down to values”.

The president of the trappers’ association tells all regarding his unfair and unjustified citation for failing to visit his traps, even within the 96 hour period. He testifies that he has pneumonia and truck trouble. He goes on to accuse his opposition (us) of “cultural genocide”. He is “falling on his sword” being destroyed “inch by inch” by “Pol Pot, Germany”. His culture which harks back to Kit Carson, is being destroyed “a pound of flesh at a time.”
I say it’s the bobcats and the coyotes and the kit foxes and the beavers and the raccoons being destroyed “a pound of flesh at a time.”

. . .I want to know I can let my dog off leash to run amok in the trees or the sagebrush and enjoy life as a dog without worry he may be caught in a snare, leg hold or even worse a deadly conibear trap . .. I just want the same rights and opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and “my” wildlife as the trappers!” – Public Comment, March 2013

This adorable cat was found trapped near a local school. Nevada Humane Society amputated two toes. Nobody claimed her despite all the local publicity, so I adopted Trapper Jane Oct. 2010. She now enjoys full mobility, and I enjoy a little purring lovebug who turned me into a baby-talking old lady cat person.

• Nevada trappers killed 3,737 non-target animals and birds between 2002-2013
• Pelts from 17 species were sold at the annual Fur Sale Feb. 2014. 1,802 bobcat pelts were sold for an average $420.35 apiece. One of exceptional quality brought $1,059
• Dept. of Agriculture Wildlife Services killed (frequently with traps) 5,176 Nevada ?coyotes in 2011

Trish just stumbled upon this pair of coyotes left by a pro-trapping advocate.

Trish Swain is the Coordinator of TrailSafe Nevada, visit:


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561