Hiker Found Guilty In Alaska In Tripping Traps That Killed Bald Eagle and Endangered Hikers

trapped-eagle-e1441350775692-930x699There 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?


40 thoughts on “Hiker Found Guilty In Alaska In Tripping Traps That Killed Bald Eagle and Endangered Hikers”

  1. Let me clarify….if trappers didnt trap near trails….there would be predators….ones hikers dont want to encounter. Trappers are doing hikers a favor.

  2. I think they should ban all trapping were yuppie toyrists hike. Then the predators who don’t go there because there is no food source would have a food source territory. Dah? Sometimes hikers are just plain dumb. Their alternative is the bears, mnt lions, wolves, and coyotes move in and they become the prey. And how those hikers will have to plan ahead to carry a sidearm. Some ppl think they are so smart. Just idiots.

  3. I don’t know. Oil companies get fined quite a bit if a bird flutters accidentally into one of their pools and dies. Intent doesn’t matter. But that’s a business regulation, so may private individuals are different.

    You’re lucky to see Bald Eagles and Ospreys. I’ve seen them flying at Big Bear, and they were so beautiful. But it’s true – in the wild Might Makes Right.

  4. Shouldn’t they prosecute the trapper for having inadvertently harmed bald eagles?

    @ Karen

    I would think that unless they can show that he was deliberately trying to trap bald eagles instead of the eagles accidentally being trapped they really can’t do anything to him. If he did accidentally trap the eagles and didn’t report it and was in possession of the eagle feathers etc then he could be processed for that.

    Bald Eagles are really not all that noble anyway. They are scavengers, bullies and thugs. The bait in the trap that was meant for some other animal could draw the eagles.

    We can see Bald Eagles all the time from our deck flying across the valley and the river below. The Ospreys will fish and get a bird and as soon as they do the eagles will attack the osprey to get it to drop the fish. They are bullies and are not at all uncommon. Beautiful to watch fly.

  5. ModernMiner:

    That is my question, too. Shouldn’t they prosecute the trapper for having inadvertently harmed bald eagles?

  6. I consider her actions civil disobedience. Good for her, but be prepared to face the consequences for breaking the law. In the meantime, raise awareness to try to change the law.

    Leg traps are also like land mines, in that they do not limit themselves to the target species.

  7. I hate leg traps. It seems like a cruel and lingering way to die. And I’ve never understood why modern man traps fur bearing animals. The fur is not needed, and it’s wasteful to kill an animal if all you’re going to use is the skin.

    In the interests of disclosure, I use mouse traps which kill quickly. Mice just ate $100 of supplements for my horses, they can carry Hanta virus, and they’re getting completely out of hand. They’ve become trained to come at the sound of me putting my horse’s goody bucket in his stall. I do not use glue traps for the same reason stated above, and I do not use poison, because that’s the equivalent of a land mine among wildlife and pets.

    For squirrels, I use live traps, but I am beginning to suspect they just run back to my house. I’m ready to start shooting them before they undermine the foundation to my house, the little fiends. Again, I would not want them to suffer.

  8. Three generations of imbeciles are enough: the judge, the trapper and the trapper’s offspring. No pun intended. Sterilize them all. The judge first.

  9. Traps along public rights of way and drones in the sky owned by anyone and allowed to do any thing and we the public have no defense. The world has literally been turned over to the aggressive, armed and belligerent and the rest of us are simply told to live with it by the government we pay to protect us. I’m impressed.:(

  10. In Wisconsin, interfering with a trap is a $1000 fine or 90 days in jail. To make matters worse there is a Bill being introduced to the legislature that will criminalize free speech and efforts by conservationists to reveal the horrors of some hunting practices in Wisconsin.


    “Wisconsin Representative Adam Jarchow has chosen Wolf Awareness Week
    to introduce the unconstitutional ‘Right To Hunt Act’, which would criminalize the use of cameras or driving on public roads if a hunter feels that they are being harassed. Jarchow has targeted Wolf Patrol as the reason behind proposing this tightening of existing hunter harassment laws in Wisconsin, citing our recent citizen-monitoring of bear baiting season in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.”

  11. ‘Tis OK, I answered my own question, and yes, it’s very much against federal law to even meddle with Bald Eagles, much less trap or kill them.

    The “Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act” was passed by Congress in 1940 (originally to protect Bald Eagles) and amended in 1962 to include Golden Eagles. Maximum fine includes $5000 and one year imprisonment for the first offense, and doubles for the second offense. Permits are needed (primarily for Native American rituals) just to obtain feathers and talons or to relocate nests in danger of being disturbed by human activity.

    So, I’m not sure it was a wise idea for Mr. Forrest to sue Ms. Turley and bring attention to his traps considering he’s probably in violation of this act. If the feds catch wind, he might be in a bit of hot water.

  12. I think that trapping with the old style leg hold traps is a horrible way for animals to die, cruel and painful, but sometimes necessary. For instance in our area muskrats, which are not native to this particular area, were introduced as a way to raise animals for furs back in the early 1900’s. Since then they have escaped the now defunct fur farms and have become invasive species who burrow into the levees and stream banks causing flooding and much damage to the rivers and streams as well as the natural ecology. Muskrat pelts make a lovely coat and were very popular in the early 1900’s. There are still several ‘trappers’ that we know who do a pretty big business in muskrat pelts.

    We use traps often on our property to remove small predators like foxes and nuisance raccoons and skunks. We use live traps, not leg traps, and remove the animals to other habitat far away. I feel a bit bad about it because the animal has to become acclimated to a new area and it may not always be successful. I just cannot justify killing the fox etc so, I try to tell myself this is better. 🙁

    I also think that it would depend on where the traps are set. If they are near clearly marked hiking trails and are where people and their pets tend to recreate then they are a danger and should not be trapping in those areas. For example the Pacific Crest Trail winds through this area and there are many many people who hike the area on the trail and take a few off shoots of the well marked trail.

    However, if the traps are being used in remote wilderness areas where ‘normal’ hikers do not go and are well away from the trails, even though I find the practice repugnant, the trapper has a legal right to trap and is making a living from the process.

  13. There are efforts in California to eliminate leg hold traps. There is some headway but currently there are loopholes you can drive a truck through.There are time requirements to check on traps that are not enforced. If your dog is caught in a trap, it becomes the property of the trapper. It is illegal to release any animal including your own pet. Trappers reply that they would not enforce that rule and release pets all the time in reference to how magnanimous they are. After saying all that, the absolute worse trappers are in the employ of the US Government. They tend to flaunt their immunity to the law.

  14. @JackW, you’re right, but bringing coyotes into this is a Bad Idea. “..a coyote kills little Fluffy, who escapes from a yard in Phoenix.” How about a coyote that comes thru the pet door & disembowels your poodle on the kitchen floor? It happened in the LA basin. True fact. “Controlling” coyotes is fruitless…the more you kill, the faster they breed. But huge $tax$ is spent every on it every year.

  15. I have a hard time gripping my teeth on seasonal hunting with a gun or bow other than for primary subsistence, so trapping is just out of the question to me even in the farthest reaches of Alaska.

    Animals are not here to serve man, contrary to the Judeo-Christian tenet, lest we human animals serve, too.

  16. I would have tripped the traps too, in a heartbeat. Except, I would not have TOLD anyone.

  17. Ross–in my state people can trap, snare and kill anything classed as a non-protected mammal all day long and twice on Sundays on public land next to hiking trails. These “varmints” include a lot of animals like coyotes; we even have, as do most states, coyote/wildlife killing contests with prizes awarded for killing the most, the youngest, the smallest, the biggest, etc. Our current administration has a mission to kill predators even though after birthing, weather, sickness, domestic dogs, etc., predators are responsible for about one percent of livestock deaths. Here’s a policy question, should public lands subsidize ranchers and trappers to the extent they do? Here’s another: because a coyote kills little Fluffy, who escapes from a yard in Phoenix, should the government send its hitmen to decimate coyotes?

  18. Some states ban jaw traps and similar devices because they are inhumane methods of capture or killing, as they cause great pain and suffering for the animal when its leg or foot is caught. The appropriate response to the situation for this Turley woman would have been to get copies of these laws and take the photo of the eagle and other images like it to the legislature of her state and lobby to get a similar law passed. She probably could have gotten thousands of signatures by sympathetic, animal-loving citizens on a petition to help bolster her cause. But perhaps this is too rational, or too much work, for someone like her.

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