FARMINGTON — A hiker is concerned for the safety of families and people with pets who hike the trails on the mountains east of Farmington after he stumbled across a dead fox killed in a trap.
Jeff Johnson said he hikes the trails regularly. He likes the solitude, the beauty and the wildlife. But Monday morning, Johnson was stunned when he stumbled upon a red fox dead in a trap near Firebreak Road in Rudd Creek.
"I was shocked because I thought it was sleeping at first, and then I realized it was dead — right there,” he said.
Johnson said setting a trap that close to a trail is a safety hazard.
“Anybody could've stepped on it accidentally — a dog, a person, a child,” he said.
Johnson reported the trap to the U.S. Forest Service, which passed the information on to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
DWR officials said irresponsible trappers hurt animals and the habitat, and they harm the experience for others.
After Johnson sent photos and a description to the Forest Service, he was told it did not look like a legal trap because it wasn’t in compliance. Each trap in the field must be permanently and legibly marked with a trap registration number.
According to the DWR's furbearer guidebook, those who come across a trap in the Utah wilderness — with or without animals — shouldn't touch it because it's the property of the trapper.
But the trapper also has an ethical obligation not to set the trap in areas that are frequently used by people and dogs, and they can’t use bait that is likely to attract pets or other non-target species.
Additionally, trappers are also bound by law to remove any kill from a trap within 48 hours. Johnson said the fox he found had certainly been there longer than that.
“I imagined it died a week earlier,” Johnson said. "It probably died because of starvation, thirst or fatigue.”
People who want to hunt or trap bobcat or marten in Utah need a permit in addition to a furbearer license.
People do not need a license to hunt, harvest or trap coyote, muskrat, raccoon, red fox or stripped skunk, and trapping is allowed year-round.
If someone accidentally traps a protected species, such as lynx or wolf, they’re supposed to report it to the Division of Wildlife Resources within 48 hours.