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Hikers, trappers urged to work on trail compromise

Washoe County residents worried about dangers posed by animal traps set near popular hiking trails were urged by wildlife officials Friday to try and reach a compromise with organized Nevada trappers.

The citizens group TrailSafe withdrew a petition it planned to file with the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners after members were assured the board will discuss the trapping issue again in the future.

It was clear the petition -- which would have banned trapping within 200 feet of hiking trails -- would be rejected by the board as written if put to a vote Friday.

"I think you can find common ground. I think the potential to get somewhere is there," said commissioner David McNinch of Reno.

Joel Blakeslee, president of the Nevada Trappers Association, agreed to continue discussions with TrailSafe and said the matter would be brought up during a meeting of the trapping group's board of directors on June 9.

"Give us a chance" to reach agreement, Blakeslee said.

The issue stems from a string of incidents involving bobcat traps set close to busy hiking trails on national forest land near Galena last winter. Two dogs were caught in leg traps and a third nearly so. Those incidents led residents to organize and seek to change state trapping rules to protect the public.

Several testified to commissioners Friday that a change in regulations is needed, particularly as more and more people move into outlying areas where activities such as trapping are more common.

Geraldine Ruger said she and her husband often fret about the danger.

"We can't really enjoy our surroundings because we're worried about these traps," Ruger said. "We worry about our pets. We worry about our children."

Doug Doolittle, Washoe County's parks director, spoke in support of regulations that would require some distance between trails and where trapping is permitted.

Wildlife commissioners were uncomfortable with the proposed petition for several reasons, with some questioning whether it made sense to change state policy to address a largely localized problem.

Tina Nappe, chair of the Toiyabe chapter of the Sierra Club, said the trapping issue is a symptom of a larger conflict between people and wildlife along the Sierra front. One of the biggest problems facing wildlife, Nappe said, is loose dogs.

Nappe's comment struck a cord with several commissioners.

"Dogs running at large is a far greater problem than dogs getting caught in traps," said Commissioner Jim Jeffress of Lovelock. "You see deer being run through fences and across traffic and a lot of times what precipitated that is dogs chasing them."

Commissioners plan to discuss the issue again during a workshop in Elko on June 22.