There is a bizarre case out of Alaska where hiker Kathleen Turley (no relation despite our shared name and mutual love for hiking) was found liable for springing traps John Forrest’s near a hiking path. The Juneau native insisted that she encountered the traps when it caught a bald eagle that she rescued from the trap. She tripped other traps to protect fellow hikers and her dog. However, the court found that that was no defense and that, under Alaskan law, she is liable.
It is bizarre for many of us that state law allows, let along protects, trap hunting — particularly near hiking areas. Yet, John Forrest sued Turley for hindering his trapping. The court however did not award damages despite Forrest’s initial demand for $5,000 (later reduced to between $1,000 and $1,200).
Forrest’s lawyers said they sued to teach Turley a lesson, who they said was “unapologetic” about springing traps. However, Turley had a plausible explanation. She said that Forrest baited the first trap with an entire beaver carcass in an effort to get a wolverine. The eagle had to be later euthanized after she carried it to get medical attention.
She said that she decided to spring the other traps to protect her dog and nearby hikers. A wildlife officer gave her a citation for springing the traps in violation to state law.
It is a surprise that Forrest can bait traps and kill a bald eagle without repercussions. It is equally bizarre that the state allows people to set traps near this trail or any trail. This year, illegally set traps led to police warnings to hikers and dog walkers.
Judge Thomas Nave asked the public not to judge him given his verdict: “When you read it, no matter who you are, please keep in mind that it will represent what the law requires. It will not represent any notions of approval or disapproval on my part… It will be a strict application of the law.”
That brings up the state law and the obvious need for reform. That law reads as follows:
AS 16.05.790. Obstruction or Hindrance of Lawful Hunting, Fishing, Trapping, or Viewing of Fish or Game.
(a) Except as provided in (e) of this section, a person may not intentionally obstruct or hinder another person’s lawful hunting, fishing, trapping, or viewing of fish or game by
(1) placing one’s self in a location in which human presence may alter the
(A) behavior of the fish or game that another person is attempting to take or view; or
(B) feasibility of taking or viewing fish or game by another person; or
(2) creating a visual, aural, olfactory, or physical stimulus in order to alter the behavior of the fish or game that another person is attempting to take or view.
First there is a legitimate question of why to allow trapping in areas with hikers. I may be wrong but I assume that the number of hikers is far greater than trappers in these areas. There is also the question of baiting traps that endanger bald eagles. Finally, there is the question of why the statute lacks a defense (or definition of intent) to excuse the tripping of traps to protect nearby hikers.
What do you think?