YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A picture of an otter caught in a trap at the Mill Creek Wildlife Sanctuary has angered local conservationists.
Jeff Harvey, president of the Mahoning Valley Audubon Society, said he was surveying birds at the park on Saturday when he found the otter.
“As I went down one of the dikes, I saw an otter and I was really excited about it, until I saw it had been caught in a trap,” he said.
Harvey said otter sightings are unique in Mahoning County, and he did not believe the animal should have been trapped.
Harvey notified MetroParks Police and wildlife officials, who released the animal and said they watched it swim away.
Daniel Volpe, the trapper who caught the animal, was given two citations — one for missing a tag on the trap and another, since the trap was on land when it was supposed to be in the water.
Mill Creek Metroparks Natural Resources Director Steve Avery said Volpe was not hired by the parks. He was brought in under a permit issued by the MetroParks to come in and specifically trap, although the otter wasn’t an animal that was specifically targeted for trapping.
One trapper per season is used to help manage the population of muskrats, and even beavers, which can undermine the dikes at the Wildlife Sanctuary. The 160 acres of water is divided into a couple dozen ponds with more than two miles of dikes.
“It’s an extremely advantageous environment for the muskrat. It’s also advantageous for the shorebirds, which is why we’re managing the ponds,” Avery said.
The sanctuary is perfect for seeing chickadees, ducks and geese, even Mahoning County’s only eagle’s nest. Trapping is used to preserve the area.
The park said it considered pulling the trapper’s permit due to the improper use of the trap. Volpe’s permit ended at the end of February, however, which was the last day of trapping season.
Volpe will be in court Friday. He had seven other traps at the Wildlife Sanctuary, and they were all set legally. Those traps were removed on Saturday.
Harvey said he would like to see some special precautions taken by the park to ensure trappers are following all of the proper trapping procedures.