13 Investigates


Family frees fox after their dog is nearly caught in a leg-hold trap

Practice called inhumane, barbaric is legal in NV
Fox caught in trap
Fox caught in trap
Fox caught in trap
Posted at 1:28 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-09 10:41:06-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — "I was really proud of my dad," said 12-year-old Dylan Vaske, describing what looks on his family's cell phone video like a rescue but is actually a crime.

"It is a gross misdemeanor in the state of Nevada to disturb somebody else's trap," explained Doug Nielsen of the Nevada Division of Wildlife.

But Bobby Vaske has no regrets.

"To me, it was like killing that animal myself if I didn't do something so, whatever the law is, I did what I had to do," Vaske said, though the process of freeing a trapped Gray Fox was no easy task.

"Not knowing at the time what I was going to do to get this animal out of there without getting hurt, and doing it safely, I drove home and went in my garage, found a broomstick with a hollow tube, got an extension cord, looped it through the end of the tube to make a kind of like a dog catcher noose, and then my wife thought to grab a laundry basket to put over him while I got the trap off of his foot."

The area where this all went down is west of Centennial Parkway up past the 215 Beltway.

It's a spot where Bobby Vaske, his wife Jessica Manners and their two children frequent hikes with their two dogs.

"So we go up there to hike and while we're at the top, next thing you know it's kinda crazy, my dogs are into something," Bobby explains. "I hear them yelp, same time I look over and I see a fox that's stuck in a trap by its paw."

One of the dogs set off a second trap.

"My dog did step in it and luckily didn't get hurt, but it could have been my kids!" said Jessica.

"I was just very surprised and I wanted to help the animal," recalls 12-year-old Dylan. "I didn't want to leave it. And I was just frustrated that someone decided to set a trap, and harm an animal like that, and let it suffer out there. It's just not right."

While many agree with Dylan, animal trapping is legal in Nevada.

Dylan doesn't understand. "Why lure an animal to a point where it has no choice but to get caught in a trap and suffer? It's harmless! I don't know why anyone would do that. It's so messed up and the laws need to be changed."

The Vaske family believes the trappers used a glittery garland wrapped around a desert plant to mark the fox's den--which was just feet away.

"They put the trap right on his doorstep to where he couldn't come out of his home without stepping on that trap," said Jessica. "That is just so wrong!"

Jessica noticed something else. "I saw a piece of rancid meat right next to the trap, and I didn't know that any of this was legal."

Doug Nielsen of the Nevada Division of Wildlife says baiting is allowed as long as the bait isn't exposed, "Meaning you can't set a leg-hold trap out and put a chunk of steak on the trap."

The main reason for that? To protect birds of prey. It's not okay to catch them in a trap.

NDOW investigated this case.

Game wardens didn't cite Bobby for freeing the fox and found the trapper did nothing wrong.

They have to witness a violation to take action.

"As far as the meat there, the investigating officer would actually have to see that meat in the trap or in the vicinity of the trap before it was triggered," Nielsen explained.

Gina Greisen of Nevada Voters for Animals, who has been working to ban trapping in Nevada since 2010, said, "I'm just glad that someone's pet wasn't trapped because we've seen that happen."

According to NDOW, it happens to dogs about 23 times a year. That means on average, twice a month, someone's pet gets caught in a trap.

"We need to regulate it, and those of us who are not hunters and trappers and want to appreciate wildlife need to have a say," said Greisen

Animal advocates like to point out an irony in the law.

Especially in protected areas within Red Rock, hikers and visitors can't take a rock or a flower for a memory.

But it is legal to take a life — native wildlife that lives in the area--kill it, and sell its pelt for profit.

Trapping season typically runs from October through February.

The Nevada Trappers Association held it's annual fur sale in Fallon on Feb. 26 and 27.

Fox pelts typically sell for between $15 to $50.

The pelt from the Gray Fox the Vaske family freed would've likely fetched no more than $20.

"If people want to hunt, that's your business," said Greisen. "I'm not going to stop it. But trapping is a different story."

Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and National Animal Control Association have declared leg-hold traps to be inhumane.

But numerous legislative efforts to outlaw trapping in Nevada have failed.

Nielsen says regulations have gotten stricter and that, "Steps have been made to try and minimize the chance of an unpleasant experience."

Traps have to be set at least 200 feet from any maintained road.

"In the Spring Mountain range alone, more than 25 trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, have had setbacks created where the trappers cannot trap with a leg-hold trap within 1,000 feet of those places," Nielsen explains.

And in Clark County traps have to be checked every other day.

But Nevada has no requirement for posting warning signs that could protect people and their pets using public lands by alerting them to traps in the vicinity.

"Really it should be outlawed altogether because it's just an inhumane, barbaric practice," said Jessica.

At least now the Vaske family knows to be on the lookout when hiking in the hills near their home.

Find more in-depth reporting from 13 Investigates at ktnv.com/13-investigates.

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