To both sides of the trapping debate in Grand Island, the topic boils down to rights.
For pro-trappers, it’s the right to continue an activity that has been happening on the island for at least 175 years. For anti-trappers, it’s the right to use public land without having to worry about coming across traps or an animal caught in one.
Both sides will be heard Monday evening as the Grand Island Town Board holds its third public hearing on the topic. This time, two laws will be proposed.
Law “A” allows trapping on town land only with a nuisance or scientific research permit, after review by the Conservation Advisory Board. Law “B” allows trapping on town land with a permit issued by the Town Board, without the stipulation that it be for scientific research or nuisance situations.
The hearing starts 8 p.m. and will be held at the Town Hall, 2255 Baseline Road.
Both versions of the law prohibit trapping in town parks. Trapping is permitted on private property.
Councilman Michael H. Madigan supports Law “B,” which he said gives non-property owning residents a chance to trap. Citing the fairly large amount of land the town owns, Madigan said Law “A” would limit a practice that is nearly 200 years old on the Island.
“Residents’ rights shouldn’t be restricted,” he said.
Supervisor Nathan D. McMurray, who is behind Law “A,” said trapping on town land restricts residents from participating in other activities because of the space needed to trap. Besides, he said, “Nobody is trapping.”
Trapping became an issue in the town after Dave Reilly and Nicole Gerber found traps three feet from their property, near paths where they walk their leashed dogs, in October. Reilly said it was “incredible” the town was still deciding on a trapping law when a large part of the community has come out against the practice. Law “B,” he said, could lead to more sport trapping on the island.
“By default, sport trapping should not be allowed on public land,” he said. “There’s no benefit to sport trapping, other than to the trapper.”
Madigan said while the gap between Grand Islanders for and against the practice isn’t as large as it seems, he represents all residents on the island, not just the pro-trapping faction.
Despite his position on the matter, Madigan said he has listened to the anti-trapping side and understands its point of view.
“I greatly appreciate listening to other opinions,” he said. “Both sides are legitimate.”
Madigan also said trapping helps to keep rabies at bay, which is especially important in light of recent warnings of increased rabies exposure from the Erie County Health Department.
But Reilly said there are other ways to deal with rabid animals, including calling the police.
Reilly and other anti-trapping residents are working to hold informational sessions in Grand Island on how to deal with wildlife so residents are prepared when they come across an animal on their property.
Reilly said if the Town Board decides to pass the less restrictive Law “B,” his group will continue to fight for passage of the “nuisance” version of the law.
“We’re in it until the end,” he said.