Family Frees Fox

Family Frees Fox

Featured image credit: Jessica Manners. L to R: Dylan Vaske, Bobby Vaske, Brooklyn Vaske, Jessica Manners
Front: Golden Retriever Floki, Husky/Lab Frankie

This story was featured on Las Vegas KTNV March 1, 2022. It went viral in the animal advocacy world and here is the story as told to TrailSafe Nevada by Jessica Manners. This family acted with compassion and courage and ingenuity. By telling their story, they bring a spotlight to the danger, cruelty and indiscriminate nature of trapping, and thereby do a great service to us and to our Nevada wildlife.

I had no idea such a cruel and inhumane practice was happening in my very own backyard…

Credit Jessica Manners: Frankie and Floki

It was a weekend like so many others.. my husband & I, our 2 kids Dylan & Brooklyn, and our 2 dogs Floki & Frankie (a spazzy, sweet golden retriever and a friendly talkative husky/lab mix with a personality) jumped in the car ready for an adventure. My family & I have always loved to hike and explore the desert mountain area west of our house, and do so frequently. We drove a few miles into the desert and found what we thought was the perfect spot for a family hike. We started up the mountain with no clue what we were about to experience.

The first thing that caught my attention was a loud snapping noise. I turned to see my golden retriever baby standing next to a steel leg hold trap that had just been set off. My heart DROPPED, but before I could even react I heard a loud screaming noise coming from the other direction. We ran over to investigate and came across this gorgeous little fox injured and stuck in another leg hold trap. It absolutely broke my heart. We are huge animal lovers and thought FOR SURE we just stumbled across something highly illegal.

Credit: Bobby Vaske

Our kids looked up at us with so much concern in their eyes as if to say “what are we going to do?!” and we knew we had to do some thing. To us, walking away from that animal would have been like killing it ourselves, and we just couldn’t do it. So we ran home and gathered all the supplies we could think of.

My husband (who we call our personal MacGyver) found a broom handle, cut off the end with a saw, folded an extension cord and fed it through the pipe to make a dog-catcher like “loop” at the end. I had the idea to grab a plastic laundry basket so we could put it over the fox and get to his paw without getting bit. 

We raced back to the scene, supplies in hand, and found this poor little creature curled up around the trap looking like he was ready to give up on life. It was heart breaking. We knew whatever we had to do, we were going to get this animal free.

My husband slowly and carefully placed the dog catcher loop around the fox‘s neck and secured him. (He was so calm, it was like he knew we were there to help)  then I gently placed the laundry basket over him so that now just his arm and the trap we’re sticking out. My husband (and hero who watched countless YouTube videos on the way there to learn how these traps work) was able to open the trap and release his paw, allowing the fox to run back into its den. 

Credit: Bobby Vaske

That’s when I realized the trap was literally 3 feet from his home. They put it on his front doorstep so there was no way for him to come out of his home WITHOUT stepping in it. It made me sick.

When we reported the incident we were shocked and horrified at what we learned… not only is trapping LEGAL in Nevada, but its practices are out dated, barbaric, and inhumane.

We learned that here in Nevada trappers only have to check their traps every 96 hours. Meaning an animal can be stuck in a trap for 4 DAYS with no food or water, exposed to the elements and predators with no way of defending itself. And often the trappers stick cattle prods up the animal’s orifice to kill it, IF the animal hasn’t already chewed off its own limb out of desperation.

Something has to change. Even hunters have a duty to pursue, a duty to make sure an animal doesn’t suffer. And suffer they do in these traps, so much so that over 120 countries have curtailed or outright banned trapping altogether. But here in Nevada that’s not the case. 

it’s time to stand up and make our voices heard, Nevada.

L – R: Dylan Vaske, Floki, Jessica Manners, Brooklyn Vaske

Trapper Cited for Baiting and Visitation Violations

Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 1 p.m.
SB 213 testimony before the Nevada Assembly Natural Resources Agriculture and Mining Committee

Thank you for hearing this testimony today.

On Saturday, December 29th, this past winter, our neighbor’s dog Doc was caught in a coil-spring leg-hold trap on our property. There were several inches of snow on the ground during that period and the night-time temperatures were below freezing. It took Doc’s owner, who is an avid outdoorsman, 8 hours to find Doc, finally locating him after dark. Our property, northwest of Reno, has several ravines, rocky cliffs and is covered with dense sagebrush and juniper, making it hard to find a dog that is not moving. Doc had some cuts and bruises from the trap, but fortunately, he had no broken bones. Doc was lucky he was found by his owner, because this beautiful hunting dog may have suffered a terrible death before the trapper bothered to check on this trap 10 days after Doc was caught.

A warden with the Department of Wildlife conducted a thorough investigation of the situation the last two weeks of January. He found our property well marked with “Private Property, No Trespassing” signs, and on three different occasions he hiked our property for several hours and found 6 more traps. He set up a motion-activated camera to catch the trapper “in the act” of checking his traps, but, as it turns out, the trapper never visited any of the additional six traps discovered by the warden.

During this time, we stopped walking and hiking on our property, we kept our dogs locked up in a small yard, and asked our neighbors to stay away from our property until this trapping incident was resolved.

The warden finally found the trapper, thanks to one small lead—someone on January 8th, riding a horse, left a deep, straight trail in the snow between a house southwest of us and Doc’s trap site. On January 30th, a month after Doc was trapped, and after what seemed like an entire winter of feeling like prisoners in our own home, the warden informed us that the fellow at this address admitted to setting the seven traps. He was a first-time trapper this winter and had gotten a trapping license. He admitted to not “visiting” the traps that the warden discovered, because he said he was going to watch them by using a spotting scope. The warden said the traps couldn’t be seen with a scope from this man’s house 1 ½ miles away with the terrain what it is. That’s why the law requires a physical visit. As to why he set his traps on private property the trapper told the warden he didn’t know it was private property–he hadn’t seen any signs. Sadly for the trapper, the warden had my photographs from January 8th, of this man’s horse tracks in the snow passing right next to one of 18 “Private Property/No Trespassing” signs that line the road leading to our house. This fellow admitted to not knowing trapping regulations, saying “he could not find the information.” We were not surprised when the warden told us “there was no education or course of understanding a trapper must take prior to getting a license.” In the end, the warden sited the trapper for baiting violations and visitation violations, and warned him about trapping on private property, using “game” as bait, and “failure to remove a mammal” (the warden could not discuss the last two warnings with us, and frankly, we didn’t really want to know at this point).

This warden was fantastic to work with and worked hard to resolve this case. Had this trapper’s traps been registered, the warden admitted, the case would have been resolved quickly. This would have saved money and time and perhaps would have preserved some sense of the safety and security we have felt on this beautiful piece of  property for a quarter-of-a-century. As it is, we will never feel safe there again, and we plan to take the warden’s advice and learn how to free ourselves and our animals from leg-hold traps and snares.

Obviously, we believe all traps should be registered, and we believe trappers should be educated in trapping laws, and we also believe that the “humane treatment of all animals” should be the primary concern of all wildlife agencies. If this bill passes, I hope the Board of Wildlife Commissioners reduces the cruel and absurdly-long trap visitation requirement of 96 hours, to 24 hours, at least in congested areas, but preferably in the entire state.  

Thank You

[Despite attempts at legislation, Nevada still has not revised its 96-hour visitation law which remains the longest statutory visitation period in the USA. Some states have no visitation laws, but most require 24 hours]

Example: Urgent Need for Trapper ID on Traps

Bobcat Kitten

Reno Gazette Journal December 18, 2012

NDOW trying to find person trapping illegally in Thomas Creek area; captured bobcat released

The Nevada Department of Wildlife discovered several illegal traps near Thomas Creek southwest of Reno in early December, including one with a bobcat, which NDOW released.

Five game wardens rotated shifts to watch the traps for 130 hours, day and night, and the trapper never showed up. NDOW asks the public to help them find the trapper.
“We spend a lot of time and money to stop this kind of illegal activity, but there is no way to catch someone like this without waiting for him to show back up,” Rob Buonamici, NDOW chief game warden, said in a statement. “We don’t have the resources to watch these traps indefinitely.”
NDOW said the traps were illegal because they were in an area where trapping was prohibited, one of the traps didn’t have a spacer to limit damage to legs when animals step in traps and the trapper did not visit the traps within 96 hours as required by law.
They ask anyone who saw trapping in the Thomas Creek area over the past few weeks to call Operation Game Thief at 800-992-3030.
To learn more about NDOW, go to

Since passage of SB364, law now requires trapper ID or NDOW registration number on all traps set on public land. And the public has the right to disturb a trap that poses obvious risk.

Blaming the Victim

June 30, 2012 Told in person

My husband and I were chukar hunting near Gerlach a few years ago. One of our dogs got caught in a trap. We managed to free him, only to have him step in another trap nearby. This experience hastened the onset of arthritis in his legs. I called NDOW and told them traps need to be marked. They told me “Walk your dog on paved roads.” So they expect us to hunt chukar on paved roads? This is not fair.

I think some men set some traps in Hidden Valley also a few years ago. I saw them going up the hills early in the morning.

Since passage of SB364, law now requires trapper ID or NDOW registration number on all traps set on public land. And the public has the right to disturb a trap that poses obvious risk.

Trapper Points Gun at Dog Owner

April 22, 2012 personal conversation:

I was out with my hunting dog, a Brittany Spaniel, January 2012. We were in the mountains west of Pleasant Valley. She was suddenly caught in a leghold trap by her front leg. I was able to open the trap myself. Along came a trapper and told me: “I didn’t hear yelping. They’re not my traps.” He was carrying a gun which he pointed at me. This was intimidating to say the least, so I didn’t ask him any questions. I did check with NDOW later and they told me the trap was legally set. So nothing was ever done. I strongly suspect the trapper was lying, but I was intimidated by his aiming his gun at me.

A few years before that encounter, my other dog, a golden retriever was caught by her front leg in the same area but further south, toward the highway bridge. I was able to open the trap. I called NDOW and was told the trap was legal and nothing was done.

At hearings, trappers claim they are victims. How are they victims when incidents like this are rarely reported, but do happen.

Two Dogs Caught in Separate Traps

Dec. 1, 2011 Email: I had gotten in touch with Wildlife a few weeks ago when we came upon a bobcat stuck in a trap.  They explained the law, and it was about 96 hours before the bobcat was removed.

The next time out, we had one dog caught in a new trap, not far from where the bobcat was.  Two days later another dog got caught in another trap.  Then this morning, two of our dogs got caught in separate traps not more than 20 feet off the road, and not too far apart.  A person drove up while my husband was getting one dog out of the trap, and said they weren’t his.  My husband said he was going to call Wildlife and the person left the area.  When my husband called me to get the name of the warden I talked to, the person returned and started removing the traps, he did not see my husband.

My husband will be going up to the location with the warden this afternoon.  The warden said the traps have to be at least 200 feet off “any” road, that includes power line roads.  He will also be giving the warden a picture of the vehicle and license plate.

You can put the story on your website and add me to your email. Let me know how to make a donation to your organization.  I would like to help stop this

Since passage of SB364, law now requires trapper ID or NDOW registration number on all traps set on public land. And the public has the right to disturb a trap that poses obvious risk.