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Trapping in Defense of Property


There are little protections for wildlife in Vermont that are considered a "nuisance" by landowners. The  statute that covers "Wild Animals Doing Damage" is dangerously broad and results in the senseless killing of foxes, beavers, bobcats, and other animals with zero oversight. Property owners and municipalities are not required to report animals killed in defense of property, therefore Vermont Fish & Wildlife has little to no data on the number of animals that are killed each year.  

Landowners may use poison and also use traps like neck snares and toothed/serrated leghold traps that are otherwise prohibited for use by in-season trappers. 

This lax law results in tragedies like the case of the red fox who was seen in Hyde Park, Vermont dragging a leghold trap from her leg for days before she was captured and euthanized due to her injuries. It's suspected that the landowner was unfamiliar with how to set traps which resulted in the fox pulling the trap out of the ground. The landowner claimed that he was trying to trap a fox who was getting into his chicken coop, but there's no proof that the fox who was gravely injured was even the fox he was targeting. Landowners are not required to hold a trapping license to trap on their property under this statute (trapping in defense of property), so they may be totally unfamiliar with how to use leghold and body gripping kill traps, which only adds to the animal's suffering.

Also, animals are often killed at times of year when they're tending to their young, which results in their offspring becoming orphaned. The fox kits pictured below were orphaned when a homeowner killed their mother. They were thankfully brought to a licensed VT wildlife rehabilitator. Below photo credit: Howling Mountain Wildlife Rescue

Red fox kits orphaned VT Medora.jpg

Property owners may hire "nuisance" wildlife control operators (NWCOs) without understanding that NWCOs routinely trap and kill wildlife using leghold and body gripping kill traps. Prior to legislation we helped pass in 2018, NWCOs did not even have to possess a VT trapping license. NWCOs are also known to live trap animals in cage traps and then drown them off site. Some operations even have what are called "dunk tanks" on their properties for that purpose. Read more on that here. These operations are largely unregulated and untrained in non-lethal, humane solutions. This presents a risk to not only wildlife, but to the consumer as well who doesn't always know what they're paying for. There was a bill before the legislature, H.262, that sought to require training and other requirements for NWCOs, but that bill was never enacted. You can read more about this unregulated, dangerous activity in POW's letter in VTDigger here.


A Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO) set a trap to kill beavers in Proctorsville in August of 2017 and ended up trapping a blue heron by the leg in a leghold trap. The animal's leg was so badly injured that it was euthanized. Perhaps if there were better regulations on NWCO activities, these types of tragedies could be avoided. 

While it is important to allow landowners to protect their property against damage, the current law is dangerously broad which allows for an open-season on furbearers. 

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