Raccoons now at the center of New Jersey court battle

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When I was little, one of my favorite books was Rascal by Sterling North. In it, North recounts his boyhood experiences — including his unique friendship with a raccoon called Rascal. North’s relationship with Rascal begins when Rascal is just a little cub — and they have more than their share of interesting adventures. But Rascal is never really tame — and North soon realizes the folly of keeping his “pet.”

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Before he turns Rascal loose, however, North also realizes that hunting and trapping — activities he has always enjoyed — put Rascal and animals like him — at risk.

He says: “How could anyone mutilate the sensitive questing hands of an animal like Rascal… I burned my fur catalogues in the furnace and hung my traps in the loft in the barn, never to use them again. Men had stopped killing other men in France that day; ad on that day I signed a permanent peace treaty with the animals and the birds. It is perhaps the only peace treaty that was ever kept.”

Today, almost 100 years after North reached that conclusion, a debate about racoon trapping is still raging — in New Jersey, of all places.

According to published reports, animal rights advocates say the use of certain traps recently approved by a state agency is inhumane. The state disagrees and the matter is reportedly heading to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

As it now stands, all New Jersey trappers must abide by the following rules:

  • A trapping license is required and a Trapper Education
    course must be passed.
  • All traps set or used must bear a legible tag of
    durable material with the name and address of
    the person setting, using and maintaining the
    traps. Trap tags with Fish and Wildlife-issued
    trap identification number or the trapper’s Conservation
    Identification Number (CID#) may be
    used in lieu of name and address to mark each trap.
  • All traps must be checked and tended at least
    once every 24 hours, preferably in the morning.
  • No trap shall be permitted to remain set on any
    property at the close of the trapping season.
  • It is illegal to possess or use steel-jawed leghold
    traps anywhere in New Jersey.

The rules that now apply specifically to the use of “foothold traps” for raccoon trapping are as follows:

  • All triggering and restraining mechanisms shall
    be enclosed by a housing.
    • The triggering and restraining mechanism is accessible
    only by a single opening when the trap is set.
    • The access opening does not exceed 2 inches in
    diameter or when measured diagonally.
    • The triggering mechanism can be activated only
    by a pulling force.
    • The trap has a swivel-mounted anchoring system.

Whether or not the rules pertaining to foothold traps will remain in effect remains to be seen.  So all I can say about the matter for now is, stay tuned…

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