Illegal traps discovered in Makara bush

Last updated 13:08 31/07/2012
Possum trap
Maarten Holl
SPCA Inspector Ritchie Dawson with a banned possum trap.

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Inhumane possum traps were discovered dotted throughout a Makara forest.

A dead possum in an illegal trap dragged home by a family dog leading to the discovery of inhumane trapping on the block.

Brent Lyell Still, of Upper Hutt, was yesterday convicted of using the illegal traps.

Guy Holmes' called the SPCA after his dog came home dragging a leg trap in August last year.

Mr Holmes told the animal welfare inspectors he found 10 possums in traps and had to kill them. The SPCA found traps had been set on Mr Holmes' land and his neighbour's to catch possums.

Carcasses taken to a vet showed crush injuries that would cause distress and significant pain before death.

Mr Holmes had planted pine trees on his Makara Rd property intending to mill them and had never given permission for the traps to be set on the property.

Still, 45, yesterday pleaded guilty and was fined $300 and ordered to pay costs of $353.22 for illegally using size 1.5 leg traps, which were banned at the beginning of last year.

It was the first time someone has been prosecuted for using the illegal traps.  The traps grab a possum, most often by the leg, which can be crushed.

A further charge of setting traps that could entrap companions animals like dogs and cats was withdrawn.

Still had been asked by the neighbour to do the trapping but had laid several traps on Mr Holmes' property as well.

In three days he killed over 600 possums.

Still's lawyer Tim Blake said Still had been trapping for 20 years and had not known the law had changed.

Wellington District Court judge Bill Hastings agreed with Mr Blake that there had been little publicity about the recent law change but said ignorance of the law was no excuse.

Judge Hastings said despite possums being pests, there was still an obligation to treat them humanely.

To set the traps in place, a nail is driven into the tree.

SPCA prosecutor Liz Hall said any nail found in a tree at a mill would result in all logs being rejected by a mill because of the dangers of metal going through machinery.

Blake disputed there would have been any problem, saying the nail was set only a couple of inches from the ground and the trees would be cut down higher than that.

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- The Dominion Post

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