The Village of Plain City is considering requiring residents to hire professionals for nuisance management after discovering a local man is setting out leg-hold traps in his yard to capture squirrels.
One of the main concerns is that the man’s home on the 400 block of South Chillicothe Street is within close proximity to Plain City Elementary School.
“It’s sad that we have to have this discussion,” councilwoman Leslie Perkins said during Monday’s regular meeting. “Our concern is [this man’s property is] near the school — kids are in his yard, meter readers are in his yard, domestic animals are in his yard. It’s just not the right thing to be doing in the Village of Plain City.”
David Price owns property on South Chillicothe Street adjacent to the property with the traps. He told council he was mowing his grass July 20 when he noticed something “thrashing” in his neighbor’s yard. Upon closer inspection, he found three leg-hold traps in the man’s yard.
A leg-hold trap is a jawed spring-operated trap designed to capture an animal by the foot or leg.
Price observed a captured squirrel badly injured in one trap and admitted to springing the other two traps. He called the police department.
“An officer came down — and he was very nice about it — but he had to shoot the animal,” Price said. “My concern would be the children. If there’s no restriction, people could set any size traps they want, or any kind of traps.”
The Madison Press is not naming the man, as he not guilty of a crime in this situation. He did not immediately return The Press’ call for a response Tuesday.
Police Chief Jim Hill said he contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources about the situation. Matt Teders, the Madison County wildlife officer, accessed the situation.
“He said he’s never seen a leg trap used to catch squirrel,” Hill said. “He thought that was a unique thing.”
When contacted Tuesday, Teders said the trap is not being illegally used, but is not necessarily the best trap for the job. He encouraged the man to use a box trap and bait it with peanut butter, sunflower seeds or raisins.
The man was setting out the traps (both box traps and leg-hold traps) because the squirrels were eating his tomatoes, Teders said. Considering the man cannot use a firearm because he is within village limits, he is following procedure.
“What he’s doing is honestly the best way to prevent nuisance type situations,” Teders said. “Trapping becomes your only way to minimize the damages these animals are causing.”
Teders said the trap in question is not as severe as some have envisioned.
“It’s not like a child’s foot could be taken off by it,” he said. “Traps are designed to hold an animal, but not harm an animal.”
“Trapping is one of those misunderstood, almost archaic technologies,” he continued. “Everybody envisions a big trap with teeth that captures a grizzly bear. But if you put your finger in, it’s probably going to break a finger, but not take your finger off.”
He compared the feeling to slamming a finger in a car door.
On Monday, Councilman Nick Kennedy said he is “all for an ordinance.”
“Gandhi once said judge the morality of a nation by the way society treats its animals, right?” Kennedy said. “I think the conduct is reprehensible, myself.”
Kennedy suggested drafting the ordinance in a way to allow trapping — preferably a box trap, which is considered more humane.
“But injuring the animal in order to catch it is not acceptable. The punishment should be we should be able to put that individual in the trap,” he quipped.
Hill also recommended council allow homeowners to use a trap in cases involving a “true nuisance situation.”
Paul-Michael LaFayette, village solicitor, suggested requiring residents to apply for a permit from the village to use traps. That way, it can be identified as the type of trap and location its being placed. Or, the village could require trapping only be done by a licensed professional, he said.
Councilman Bob Walter said he likes the idea of requiring professional services.
“If a permit is issued by the village and somebody gets hurt, we’ve got a liability issue,” he said. “I’d like to see the village steer someone in need to a licensed professional and get us out of the enforcement part of it and limit the liability.”
Perkins added, “Plus, it would probably be more humane doing that.”
Lafayette plans to research the matter and present proposed legislation to council during a future meeting.
Teders encouraged anyone with questions about trapping to call his office at 614-644-3935.
Andrea Chaffin McKinney can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.