JOYCE — The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending Clallam County authorities file 16 gross misdemeanor charges against a Joyce-area man who allegedly set numerous illegal animal traps, unwittingly catching a family dog and an eagle.
Both the adult raptor and Moose the mastiff were released without serious injury last November after the dog’s owner came upon both animals imprisoned in the traps’ steel jaws within a few feet of each other in rural Joyce, state Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Sgt. Kit Rosenberger said Tuesday.
As a Fish and Wildlife officer, Rosenberger’s contact with animals is too often limited to dead ones.
“To see a victim animal still there, and to let them loose and free that day without damage was pretty cool,” he said.
Fish and Wildlife officers monitored the site and seized additional illegal traps, he said.
The agency tracked down the man who allegedly set them and last week recommended the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office file 16 charges against him, Rosenberger said. The man had not been cited, arrested or charged as of Tuesday.
Rosenberger said the man admitted to placing several unpadded leghold traps and wire snares to capture and kill two coyotes.
Michele Devlin, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, said Tuesday the recommendation is under review.
The property owners were unaware the traps were on their property, Rosenberger said.
Rosenberger said Moose’s owners freed the canine from the trap, the maw tied to a fan trigger that snaps the vise shut, bite-like, when touched. Voters outlawed hunting with poison and with the body-gripping traps in 2000 by passing Initiative 713.
Meat bait was placed close to the traps, likely first drawing down the eagle before Moose came along, attracted to the smell and commotion, Rosenberger said.
It’s also illegal to place bait too close the trap and where raptors can see it, he said.
Rosenberger said it was tough tromping through the woods and coming upon the raptor, its talon caught.
“It’s pretty hard to see an animal struggling like that,” he recalled.
Rosenberger flung a blanket over its head, squeezed its wings together, freed it and checked for injuries.
“There was no real significant damage and loss of blood,” he said, opening the door to the next step — freeing the bird.
“It’s a once-in-a-career type thing to release an animal and watch it fly away, a once-in-a-career mental snapshot to see an eagle fly away in a blue sky.
“It’s a day you won’t forget as a game warden.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.