Contact 13 Investigates
Time to end fur trapping in Nevada?
Clark County, NV (KTNV) -- The disturbing video of a County Wildlife Board member tugging a trapped bobcat in front of his barking dog has now made it's way to the District Attorney.
The D.A. is considering whether to press charges of animal cruelty.
And some say it's time to ban trapping altogether.
Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears takes an in-depth look at an industry with lots of problems and little accountability.
For some, those images illustrate their legal right to trap and kill.
For others... "It's cruel, barbaric, outdated and it just needs to stop."
So says Gina Greisen with Nevada Voters for Animals. Greisen became a vocal opponent of trapping after the bobcat vs. dog video hit YouTube.
The trapper, whose hand you see in the video and who's voice you hear encouraging his dog, "Get him boy!"... is Tracy Truman, a member of Clark County's Wildlife Advisory Board.
When we first caught up with Truman in January, he wasn't happy to see us and told Action News to "Leave me alone!"
But he did explain his actions saying, "The context was that it was a video that I showed other people what I wanted a dog to do. That is, not make contact with an animal -- to do two things, locate it, and bark at it."
But that didn't sit well with County Commissioners, who appoint the Wildlife Board members.
Chris Giunchigliani has been studying trapping in Nevada since this video surfaced.
"I just wish we would have the conversation about whether or not really is it necessary any longer?"
Giunchigliani is concerned for people and their pets because of how close traps can be to trails.
She also worries about the wildlife.
"Do I still think it's a disgusting practice? Yes. Do I still think the animals are treated in a humane way? No! Because they're there for days!"
State law allows trappers to leave their traps unchecked for up to four days.
"And then you think about where's their food?" Giunchigliani wonders. "How are they put down? Are they put down in a humane way?"
A photo was taken several years ago at an archaeological site called Evergreen Flats in Lincoln County shows a bobcat near a petroglyph site with its leg caught in a trap.
"For three days that bobcat sat in that trap and it eventually died on the third day," explains Gina Greisen.
The law says you can't help a trapped animal or tamper with a trap.
Only the trappers themselves can.
But according to the Nevada Division of Wildlife, they often fail to do that in the required four-day time frame. It's listed on NDOW's website as a common violation. And that's not all.
"We've had many instances where people that have been trapping have done so illegally, either by using bait, which they're not allowed to do, or trapping in areas that they clearly shouldn't be," says Mike McBeath, chairman of the Nevada Wildlife Commission.
Contact 13 set out with a guide on a Sunday hike in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 13 miles up Lee Canyon road.
The first trap we came across held a baby striped skunk, bloodied from its struggle to free itself.
The skunk had died either from its injuries, starvation or dehydration.
We've spoken to the Nevada Wildlife Commission and an environmental law expert from University of Nevada, Las Vegas and all agree that the area is off limits to trappers.
We called the Bureau of Land Management who sent out a ranger to remove the traps, fearing they were set illegally.
In cases where they are illegally set, it's nearly impossible to hold the trapper accountable.
The law was changed some years ago so trappers no longer have to identify their traps.
"It's voluntary at this point," says McBeath. "And I don't know of anybody who's actually doing it."
The County boards who advise our lawmakers on wildlife management are primarily made up of hunters, trappers and anglers, many of whom have a financial interest in what the laws allow.
Bobcat pelts go for anywhere from $400 to $1,000 per piece.
Nevada trappers made more than a million dollars last year.
"Absolutely I believe there's a huge conflict of interest in that," Gina says.
She also believes there's a conflict with regulation and law enforcement.
Through fees for things like licenses, permits and tags, sportsmen provide the vast majority of funding for the government agencies that regulate them.
"There's that saying 'don't bite the hand that feeds you.' I guess my question is, will you cite the hand that feeds you?"
Whether the law changes to be more restrictive on trapping or the practice ends up being banned altogether remains to be seen.
But it's clear the debate over this controversial issue is far from over.
The Nevada Wildlife Commission is currently working to revise regulations to further restrict how close traps can be to residential areas.
As for Tracy Truman, the County Commission's discussion on whether to keep him on the Wildlife Advisory Board is on hold pending the District Attorney's decision on cruelty charges.