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Residents get chance to discuss trapping law for Grand Island

Grand Island residents will get a chance to weigh in on whether sport trapping should be allowed on town-owned land when a public hearing is held Monday in Town Hall.

Supervisor Nathan McMurray said that he intends to listen but that people “should be ready to hear me speak back.”

He said he intends to share his own research and opinions.

“I’ve been around the island, I’ve been talking to people. There is a lot of emotion on both sides of this issue,” he said.

The hearing is scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday in Town Hall.

The Grand Island trapping issue surfaced in late October, when Nicole Gerber and Dave Reilly found leghold coyote traps that a teenage trapper placed on public land 3 feet from their posted Grand Island property and next to paths where they walk their leashed dogs.

They learned that hobby or sport trapping is permitted on all town-owned land on Grand Island, but have campaigned since then to prohibit sport trapping, arguing that it poses a hazard to people and pets and injures other wildlife.

The Town Board acted about two weeks later to ban trapping on George Alt Boulevard, the town-owned undeveloped “paper road” next to the Reilly-Gerber property, but the couple wants the board to ban sport trapping on all town-owned land, including parks, trails, meadows, town commons and paper roads, which are lands marked on a map for possible future use as roads.

Gerber said that she and Reilly have offered the board a proposed law that prohibits recreational trapping on all town land, requires the town to first use nonlethal methods to address “necessary and documented town-authorized wildlife management and control,” and requires visible signs to be placed if traps are set.

McMurray said that although lawmakers were still working on the final draft of the proposed law, it is not as extensive as Gerber and Reilly proposed.

“I’ve drafted a town law saying, ‘No trapping on town-owned property’ – and we’re figuring out a way to define that – with the exception of these so-called ‘paper roads,’ because these are places in the middle of nowhere on the Island,” he said. “We’re just trying to figure out a way to write that in.”

“We’d like to ban it in parks, just like Tonawanda,” he said.

“I’m trying to balance interests on the island,” said McMurray. “We’re going to take the comments and update the law; I’m still looking forward to working this out and trying to figure out what the right solution is. There is emotion on both sides of this. I want to do what is right.”

McMurray said he has spoken to trappers and the DEC, who he said “have strongly advised me not to ban trapping on the Island, that it’s a very effective way for eliminating nuisances.”

After the public hearing, the Town Board will agree on wording and then at some point vote on the new law, McMurray said.

Many of the recent letters McMurray has received urged him to ban all trapping on the Island, including “16 this morning,” he said. “I’m still going through them.” But he said he has also received letters from trappers and people who support sport trapping.

Gerber said she has collected “more than 1,050 hard copy and online signatures on a petition requesting that town officials adopt a local law banning ‘recreational’ for-profit trapping on public lands, with about half the signatures from Island residents.”

Gerber also said,  “We received the endorsement of our position from the Grand Island Parks and Recreation and Conservation Advisory Boards, Riverside Salem Church on Grand Island, Sierra Club Niagara, the Erie County SPCA, and Animal Advocates of WNY. We have received additional support from national organizations such as Humane Society of the United  States, Wildlife Watch, and Born Free USA.”

Besides the teenager who set his traps next to the Reilly-Gerber property line, trapping is not widespread on the island, said McMurray. “There is the one kid who does it all the time, and there are a few elderly guys who do it when there is a nuisance on their property. There is no major trapping happening.”

The hearing will begin at 8 p.m. in the upstairs courtroom at Town Hall,. Those who wish to speak will not be required to register beforehand, but will be asked to identify themselves by name and address before speaking. There is no time limit for each speaker, but McMurray said if many people are waiting to address the board, he may ask speakers to limit the length of their remarks.

However, “We’ll go all night if we have to,” said McMurray.