Coyote found trapped in popular recreation area near St. George sparks concern

A coyote lies captured in a trap on public state land just south of St. George, Washington County, Utah, Jan. 14, 2019 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A coyote caught in a trap near a road south of St. George and Washington City on public land frequented by outdoor enthusiasts has ignited concerns about wildlife welfare and the safety of pets and children.

Jill Chatelain’s day started as a routine Monday morning when she joined her friend for a walk with their three dogs along a dirt road just south of the Little Valley area, but the day soon made an upsetting turn.

About 2 miles into their walk through rocky, red-dirt terrain in the hills just west of St. George Regional Airport, the pair’s dogs began barking incessantly near a patch of bushes in a dry wash just off the road.

“We realized there was something there that was capturing their attention,” Chatelain told St. George News.

Recognizing there may be a problem, the women rushed toward the dogs where they found them surrounding and harassing what at first appeared to be another dog. After making their way into the brush, the pair recognized the animal’s distinctive silver-tan fur coat.

“We realized then that it was a coyote,” Chatelain said. “And my friend said, ‘Oh, it’s trapped.’”

The animal’s leg was fastened to a coil-spring leg-hold trap, and try as it might, it couldn’t move more than a few inches in a circle around the trap as the dogs barked at it.

A coyote is captured in a trap on public state land just south of St. George, Washington County, Utah, Jan. 14, 2019 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

“It could do nothing except surrender to the big dogs,” Chatelain said, explaining that she and her friend then moved their dogs away from the area.

Not knowing exactly what to do in this situation, Chatelain called Kris Neal, a friend with extensive experience in animal rescue.

Recognizing that the coyote’s ultimate fate was death, Neal said her first inclination was to put the suffering animal “out of its misery” by shooting it, but that wasn’t an option available to Chatelain at the time.

“I had to walk away from that animal,” Chatelain said. “I did not have the privilege to have a firearm to put it out of its misery.”

However, even if Chatelain had been carrying a gun, killing the animal would have been illegal. According to Utah state law, a coyote caught in a legal trap becomes the property of the trapper, who has sole discretion in claiming it for a bounty. Illegally captured animals need to be dealt with by law enforcement.

After multiple calls by Neal and others to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, a ranger was dispatched to the area late in the afternoon to assess the legality of the trap.

“Trapping in Utah is highly regulated,” Phil Tuttle, outreach manager for the DWR’s Southern Region Office, said in statement to St. George News. “This includes trapping devices and sets, trapping locations and trap check times.”

Red circle indicates the area where a coyote was found in a leg-hold trap west of St. George Regional Airport in Washington County, Utah | Image courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

The trap was set on state land owned by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Land Administration, which is typically open to public use, including trapping. A trapper has up to 48 hours to retrieve an animal, after which they are in violation of the law.

As of Tuesday morning, DWR Lt. Paul Washburn told St. George News rangers are still investigating possible violations committed in this particular incident.

The coyote was reportedly euthanized.

“In general, when wildlife is taken illegally, we seize the animal and any equipment used to take the animal,” Washburn said, explaining that after evidence is gathered, depending on the type of animal, it is then either donated to people for meat or sold at DWR auction for parts, such as antlers or fur.

Concerns for pet and human safety

Regardless of the legality of the trap used to catch the coyote, Chatelain said it was extremely concerning that such a device was planted in an area often heavily populated by people recreating on mountain bikes, four-wheelers, dirt bikes and on foot.

“Where we were, there are runners and bicyclists everywhere,” Chatelain said. “There are little kids’ footprints in the dirt. I’m also upset that it could have been our dogs that got in that trap.”

A coyote is captured in a trap on public state land just south of St. George, Washington County, Utah, Jan. 14, 2019 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

Shane Kitchen, the ranger dispatched to the scene, said legal traps must meet certain criteria.

“These traps are specially designed so that people can’t get in them. It would take a baby foot,” he explained. “If it’s a legal trap, it does very little damage to the animal.”

However, Neal said such traps are indiscriminate in what they capture.

Neal runs the One More Chance C.A.T.S. rescue group specializing in the “trap, neuter and release” of feral cats in Southern Utah.

Over the years, she has retrieved several cats caught in traps otherwise intended for raccoons or coyotes. She said the outcome each time has been extensive physical trauma to the cats’ legs.

In the last year, she said she’s rescued multiple cats that ended up losing their limbs after being freed from the traps. Maimed and no longer able to fend for themselves, the cats are now living out their lives in her animal sanctuary.

However, perhaps more concerning, she said, is the risk such traps pose to people.

A stray cat named “Lucky” recovers from a paw amputation after she was found caught in trap in St. George, Utah, November 2017 | File photo courtesy of Kris Neal, St. George News

She recounted an incident last year in which three boys came across a trapped cat and were injured while trying to free the animal, which became aggressive and bit them in its anxious state.

Read more: Council addresses animal trapping on city property following reports of cats, children getting hurt

“That is where the problem is, in my opinion,” Neal said. “All the way around, there are injuries trying to take care of animals caught in these traps.”

Within St. George city limits, trapping is illegal on city-owned property. Both St. George Animal Services and the DWR urge anyone who comes across animals in traps not to try to release them on their own but to instead call for help from experienced rangers or animal control officers who can free them and coordinate possible follow-up care.

Tuttle also suggested that pet owners “follow leash ordinances that will help protect pets from being inadvertently captured in traps.”

Chatelain said she’d rather see these particular types of traps banned outright.

“I’m not saying they shouldn’t trap at all. I think the method needs to change,” she said, suggesting that more humane cage traps could be used as an alternative.

A St. George animal control officer removes an illegal trap after a feral cat became clamped in it near a parking lot in St. George, Utah, October 2017 | File photo courtesy of Kris Neal, St. George News

“We get it that the population of these animals need to be kept low,” she said. “But to trap an animal and have it lay there in pain for two days before it has to be checked on, that is unbelievable to me. It’s so barbaric. It’s just not the way things are done in our world today.”

While Neal said she would also like to see leg-hold traps banned, she said a more middle-ground approach may be more reasonably achieved, such as more heavily restricting where they can be placed or significantly reducing bounties placed on animals in order to reduce the incentive to engage in the practice.

The state currently pays $50 as a bounty on coyotes.

Tuttle said trapping is an effective way to manage wildlife, particularly in Southern Utah.

“Recently in Washington County, we have received reports of pets being killed by coyotes and bobcats,” he said. “Trapping near residential areas can be helpful in reducing the number of pets killed by coyotes and bobcats.”

Trappers are subject to regulation and, in many instances, must be licensed to use certain traps, like the leg-hold traps used to catch coyotes and raccoons. However, in other instances, licenses aren’t required — trappers placing devices within 600 feet of a building used by humans or livestock may do so without first registering with the DWR.

Neal said these regulations are often ignored by irresponsible trappers, referencing many instances of skeletal remains found in traps placed by people who never bothered to check on them within the allotted time.

“There’s no checks or balances on whether they do in fact check within 48 hours,” she said. “There’s got to be a lot of animals out there suffering, and I cringe at the thought of them out there suffering in storms or freezing-cold temperatures.”


Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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  • Comment January 15, 2019 at 11:51 am

    leg holds are unnecessarily cruel, no doubt about it.

  • Kaber January 15, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    So is the state going to pay 50$ to who ever kills it ?

  • Fester January 15, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    FTA – “Neal runs the One More Chance C.A.T.S. rescue group specializing in the “trap, neuter and release” of feral cats in Southern Utah.”

    So this “rescuer” takes feral cats, an invasive species, and then releases them back into the wild to continue killing birds and other native wildlife. And she wants more regulations to prevent other people from trapping nuisance predators. Do-gooder hypocrisy on display.

    • Comment January 15, 2019 at 3:00 pm

      even PETA is against “TNR”. Best thing for ferals is quick euthanization.

    • Carpe Diem January 15, 2019 at 6:55 pm

      Yep, feral cats need to be taken out. They kill native birds and other wildlife. I guess if a coyote gets one, it’s good karma, but then that brings the coyotes to the suburbs where they attracted to, and catch and eat pet cats and dogs. Such a vicious cycle on the edge of town! woof woof gimme dat fifty bucks!

      • William January 16, 2019 at 5:24 pm

        Funny, why do people with contempt for wild nature always blame wild animals for the actions of stupid, lazy, and irresponsible pet owners?
        Utah is a backward state.
        It’s 2019 and we are giving predator haters bounties to kill coyotes year round

  • Kat January 15, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    Not only inhumane for the animal to wait “up to 48 hours to retrieve,” but what about safety concerns for people of all ages and their pets? Washington County is growing so quickly, these areas are too close in proximity to housing and businesses. Laws must be revisited and changed accordingly.

  • hiker75 January 15, 2019 at 2:59 pm

    Ivins actually allows trapping in city limits. Sick!

    • Carpe Diem January 15, 2019 at 6:55 pm

      Did you know coyotes have been known to attack small children? Sicker!

      • redrock4 January 16, 2019 at 4:54 pm

        Is that really a concern? Because kids are dying from car accidents and suicide so maybe think about that and not a coyote attack. Random.

        • William January 16, 2019 at 6:26 pm

          That is standard reply from predator haters.
          The logic- we need to justify why we collect a welfare payment from the state.
          Pups, adults, who cares!

      • GPJC January 28, 2019 at 5:50 pm

        Did YOU know coyote hunters are responsible for many deaths to people and pets?

  • Craig January 15, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    Someone stated these traps do very little damage to the animal. If so, why did they have to put the animal down?

    I’m confused.

    • Comment January 15, 2019 at 4:22 pm

      UT considers coyotes vermin, hence the bounty. If they’re in the trap for very long they’ll lose the foot/leg when freed–often times the animal will chew off the limb itself. Whoever told you otherwise might be an idiot.

    • redrock4 January 16, 2019 at 4:51 pm

      Do you really think that a bunch of small town hicks are going to save the coyote? Like, get it out of the trap and take it in for veterinary care, rehab it and then release it? Hicks live to kill things – it’s one of their hobbies. Seriously, can anyone argue with that? Find a hick and I want you to ask them what was the last thing that they killed. I promise you they will tell you some stories. And the DWR? They’re no conservation agency. They manage the “resources.” We’re years away – probably never even close to really having a land ethic.

      • GPJC January 28, 2019 at 5:56 pm

        Hate to say it but I agree with you 100%.
        There seems to be little excitement or creativity among them so they resort to blood-letting. It’s pathetic that the DWR caters to that. By saying trapping is “strictly regulated “ they insult our intelligence. If they were really keeping numbers down they wouldn’t have to keep doing it. Utah is backward and cruel.

  • Jmfixitman January 15, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    I’m not happy about trapping by quadding or hiking paths. Really don’t want my wife and kids seeing upsetting stuff like that…

    • redrock4 January 17, 2019 at 7:34 am

      Oh I hope that they don’t see the upsetting things that go on around them. They might actually care enough to start advocating for more ethical treatment of other creatures.

  • justrelax January 15, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    Trapping like this is unnecessarily cruel. The bounty is certainly needed on the predators and I understand the need to control the population because of the damage they do to the deer population, but just shoot them instead of letting them sit and suffer.

    • An actual Independent January 17, 2019 at 6:46 am

      Coyote and deer populations take much better care of themselves without stupid, self absorbed humans intervening.

    • redrock4 January 17, 2019 at 7:41 am

      If you take a look at prey/predator population curves, it becomes obvious that our work to get rid of coyotes results in their populations becoming more robust. Yep, they bounce back. Head back to the 1800’s. Trapping is archaic and a sign of a community that isn’t progressive in terms of treatment of other creatures. How do we really even justify it? Because we’re afraid of coyotes attacking our children? Because your kids are probably depressed and stuck on their phones all day. Ask them just to Google “coyote”, then they’ll be safe. At least it’ll give them a break from memes, YouTube, games and porn.

  • Carpe Diem January 15, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    This reminds me of the pic of the Cougar caught in a basement window well a couple years back in WA city. One was also collected out Santa Clara way, and I have personally seen the tracks of several along the Santa Clara river. One was kicked up on a walk at the development “The Woods” adjacent to the Chapel on Valley View. (when it was just weeds – but the road was in) Deer are common along the river and they go between Southgate and Sunbrook golf courses which apparently attract the cougars but I think the cats also take pets like cats and dogs… Amazing how much wildlife is actually IN THE CITY LIMITS… (Also Kit foxes, coons, skunks, squirrels galore, Great Blue Herons, White Herons, and lots of ducks, geese and swans) Beavers became a nuisance to the large Cottonwoods up Sunbrook way and the City evidently put an end to them.

    • redrock4 January 16, 2019 at 4:43 pm

      Maybe you should write a book that no one will read.

  • Carpe Diem January 15, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Oh, here is a cougar story from just last fall! A good read and warning about your “pets” being left out at night. One German Shepard barely escaped!

  • JJ January 16, 2019 at 8:49 am

    Why in the world is the outreach manager for the DWR’s Southern Region Office, Phil Tuttle, advising people that “Trapping near residential areas can be helpful in reducing the number of pets killed by coyotes and bobcats.”? He should be telling people to be responsible with their pets, not only to keep them out of traps, but to keep them from from being killed by these wildlife animals and to prevent them from killing native wildlife and being a nuisance to their neighbors. The responsible way to keep pets safe is to keep them contained on your own property. Wildlife is supposed to be free-roaming in the environment. Domestic pets are not. Keep pets contained. Use predator-proof enclosures if possible. Don’t feed pets outdoors. Don’t feed feral cats ever.

    • redrock4 January 16, 2019 at 4:42 pm

      The DWR is not a progressive agency. You make alot of good points which unfortunately are based upon logic and so will likely not even be understood by many of those posting on St. George News. Welcome to rural Utah.

  • William January 16, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    Utah and the two snake oil anti predator fake conservation groups- SFW and BGF, got the Utah legislature to agree to a year round coyote bounty program.
    This after a 6 year study done in Idaho showed no difference in Mule deer herd numbers.

    The legislature also gave these “sportsmen” groups (chuckle) over a million dollars to promote Wolf and coyote hysteria in their misinformed and clueless constituency.

  • redrock4 January 16, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    It’s funny that coyotes respond to hunting by actually increasing in numbers. I hope we see a population explosion. Humans are not worth more or less than coyotes. But coyotes may be better survivors. Our days are numbered.

    • Carpe Diem January 17, 2019 at 7:00 am

      “Humans are not worth more or less than coyotes. ”

      Coyotes are worth fifty bucks. You? N A D A

      • William January 17, 2019 at 9:05 am

        This type of animal persecution happens in most of the NRM states.
        A lack of decent values.
        Let a bunch of money grubbing yokels kill coyote pups to “save mule deer herds.”
        (All laugh here)

  • Carpe Diem January 17, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    “Humans are not worth more or less than coyotes. ”


    “A lack of decent values.”

    What we have here, folks, is a lack of a decent argument. Regardless, the State makes the rules and regs, yes the same State that has the awesome liquor and MJ laws, so don’t expect perfection. I did note the quote at the top of your link, however, and it plays well here as well as it does there.

    “All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.” – Will Rogers

    • Comment January 17, 2019 at 1:38 pm

      I guess at the end of the day it’s all about protecting the sheep. Kind of like the LDS religion is all about protecting the sheep from thinking for themselves. And then when there is an actual wolf amongst the sheep they are too stupid to even realize it, because they have been trained by their religion to be so &%%#&#& ignorant.

    • redrock4 January 17, 2019 at 5:03 pm

      The argument that humans are equal in worth to other creatures has been well delineated – though I assume by your comment you are unaware. It is a sound philosophical argument. As you noted, the laws of the state are not perfect. And, on that point I think we agree. Which may be the most important thing to arise out of a bunch of comments on St. George News.

  • Comment January 17, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    UT wildlife management really does tend to being incompetent, backwards, half-…, and cruel.

    That is really one sad, defeated-looking canine. Probably quite young and a healthy, good looking one. I figure rednecks hate them because they are so similar to humans in the sense that they are cunning opportunistic predators. Of course rednecks hate prairie dogs too, and pretty much any animal they can’t kill and torture for “sport”/fun. If your killing for fun you are very likely a psychopath. And these type of traps should be banned outright, really.
    Ed. ellipsis

  • Puller January 19, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    So who will pay for pets caught in traps on public land? Anyone who thinks a leg hold is ‘harmless’ and you can just release the animal and expect it to live is mistaken. Vet care for a large dog trapped last year in another state and not released by the trapper for 3 days, ended up with a bill costing thousands of dollars. The dog was hospitalized for over two months and ultimately required the amputation of a foreleg as the paw had become gangrenous. In the end, the dog died of toxic shock syndrome, she hadn’t been found ‘soon enough’. Would citizens be able to obtain the contact information of trappers on these public lands to sue them for vet care if their pet is harmed or killed?

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