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Use of certain raccoon traps may proceed to N.J. Supreme Court
SCOTT FALLON
NORTHJERSEY
They are a ubiquitous and often an irksome part of suburban life in New Jersey, known for carrying rabies and tearing through garbage. Now raccoons are at the center of a legal battle between animal rights activists and state regulators, one that may soon head to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The case hinges on whether “enclosed foothold traps” approved for use last year by the New Jersey Fish and Game Council are similar enough to steel jaw traps that were banned 32 years ago by lawmakers because they were considered “inhumane and cruel.”
The new traps will be used again when raccoon season begins on Nov. 15 after an appellate panel sided with fish and game last month saying there was a enough of a difference between the two traps to uphold the policy.
A coalition of animal rights and environmental groups will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court this month, their lawyer said. The traps are very effective. Used for the first time during the previous raccoon trapping season from last November through this past March, the traps helped catch 12,600 raccoons — a 77 percent increase from the year before and the most in 25 years, according to state trapping data.
Enclosed foothold traps act similar to a mouse trap with a steel bar in a baited, two-inch wide cylinder snapping down on a raccoon or opossums’ paw.
Opponents say they are essentially the same as the illegal jaw traps because they are excruciatingly painful to the animals who are caught in them.“These traps snap on the animal just like the old ones did they suffer for days until the trapper comes around,” said Dante DiPirro, a lawyer representing the coalition. “It causes the same exact kind of cruelty that the legislation intended to prohibit.”

Supporters of the trapping policy say the traps are more humane than steel jaw traps and are small enough to prevent dogs from getting caught. They also argue it will help contain a burgeoning raccoon population.
 
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