Too close for comfort? Animal refuge center claims neighbor’s traps are feet from their yard

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich— It's the time of year when some are out in the woods working to trap small game. A facility in Vicksburg that's working to rescue and rehabilitate everything from raccoons to white tail deer says their neighbors have gone too far this trapping season.

Jeff and Pam Decuypere claim their neighbor is moving traps closer and closer to their facility, trying to kill all the animals they set free after spending thousands of dollars to nurse them back to health.

Pam and Jeff Decuypere run Circle D Wildlife Refuge in Vicksburg.  They say they aren't against hunting or trapping, but question the ethics of their neighbors.  They say they've found traps less than 80 feet from their front door, and now they’re worried the animals they're nursing back to health won't get a second chance in the wild.

“I'm not a tree hugger trying to shut down hunting or anything. I am just trying to say that there should be, if nothing else, a moral compass for trappers that you don’t trap right outside the door of your neighbor,” said Jeff Decuypere.

The Decuyperes say they spend thousands of dollars and dozens of hours nursing animals like raccoons back to health to set them free in the wild.

Hunters have a 150 ft. limit from any homes or dwelling areas, but for trapping there's no limit.

Jim Penny talked to us off camera. He says he as 200 traps on his family's 1200 acres of land, and that he had caught two raccoons alone on Friday.

“They do it because they have a right and if we don't get past the hunting communities ‘right to do things’ we will never recognize we have a responsibility to take care of these animals,” said Jeff Decuypere.

According to the DNR regulations Jim Penny does have the right. There's no limit to how many raccoon he can hunt, and the traps all lay on his land. Traps need to be tagged with his name and address. Penny claims they all do. However, he got ticketed Friday for a trap being untagged. He claims a neighbor took it off.

“I don't believe they represent all trappers in Michigan,” said Jeff Decuypere.

Circle D Wildlife Refuge says just because its legal doesn't mean it's right.

“The Conservation Officer measured off 83 yards today from the trap to the front of our house. That's a little close,” he said.

Jeff and Pam hope one day the laws will change, but for now they expect their neighbors to not prey on rehabilitated animals just let out into the wild again.

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26 comments

  • Kelly

    This story is very one sided. I know the trapper, and he is a hardworking man taking care of his family. He is doing absolutely nothing wrong! I don’t personally know the people rescuing the animals, but on Facebook they are calling the trapper a scum bag and a piece of shit. They seem like great people-maybe they should try treating other humans more like they treat the animals.

    • RR

      You seem like a great person Kelly maybe you should get to know an animal maybe then you could treat them and understand why people love them

    • kjr

      This story is more about mentally challenged people rehabilitating nuisance animals. Raccoons are varmits and will be shot if not trapped . They don’t have to release them at that property, I am sure short Bus will take them to state land to release them and then bring them back home. kudos to the trapper

  • Get With It

    Maybe those traps should just…vanish. UFO’s maybe ?
    Lets be honest, if he knows its a critter refuge area and his traps are getting closer he’s being a poor sportsman/hunter.
    I’m a hunter and am Anti-trapping. I was a taught a clean fast kill or nothing.

    • Chris

      There is a big difference between 83 feet and 83 yards ~ distorted fact by this article. Furthermore, it is the choice of the rehab facility to take on these animals. No one is forcing them to spend that kind of money on the wild animals ~ maybe that money could be better spent towards helping more unfortunate people such as the homeless, meals/clothing for children, etc. ~ instead of animals such as raccoons that are overpopulated and a nuisance in most areas. As for the ‘hunter’ that is anti-trapping ~ maybe you should actually learn about trapping a bit before voicing an uneducated opinion. Animals killed by traps are done so just as humanely as a deer by gun or bow. The only difference is most hunters do not witness the expiration of there prey because they usually run off after being shot, and hunters are taught to give them time to expire. Traps that do not kill, such as the foot hold trap, are meant to merely hold the animal until the trapper arrives. They are not designed to break the skin, break bones, maim, etc. Often times these animals are released for various reasons with no long term effects on the foot. People need to educate themselves with facts, not emotional rhetoric based on misinformation and downright lies.

        • Chris

          That’s interesting ~ considering every single trapper I know is an intelligent, hard working asset to society. Most people whom make these types of comments do not have a rational argument to support their position ~ therefore they resort to emotional, irrational statements, which usually include name calling or belittlement, which does nothing more than magnify their ignorance of the balance of the environment in which they live.

  • Chris

    Also caught one more piece of information within the article ~ hunters are required to be 150 yards, or 450 feet, from an occupied dwelling such as a house, unless given permission by the owner of such dwelling. You’d think a news reporter could spent 5 minutes reading the rule book given out by the DNR to gather the facts….

  • Brad

    The article says the trapper has 1200 acres, maybe the rehab place should consider some other place to release animals because it is more than likely that some of this 1200 acres is farmed and the rehabed animals are helping to destroy crops, guess I’d be setting traps for prevention as well! They could rehab then transport to some state land for release.

  • KJP

    As a trapper I love when people complain about us and know nothing about the heritage surrounding it . Like the guy before said them saying a few feet and its almost a football feild from there house, come on you live next to a 1200 acre farm and its there land they pay the taxes on it. If you rehab animals thats great we need people in this world that do that but then dont release them out your back door if you know your neighbor traps if your so worried about it but just remember there are trappers everywhere.

  • Melissa

    the raccoons are NOT the problem..the people building houses in the woods are! in the garbage you say? where in the hell are they supposed to find food when your damn garage now sits where their TREES used to be! .. and whining about garbage really? how about the feeling of you hands or feet stuck in a trap while some IDIOT beats you to death and for what??? I know those raccoons IS soo tasty to the rednecks of this here world!

  • Leslie J. Hill

    People that rehab animals is a wonderful deed. I know it is not something you just do… you do it with passion and heart.
    I’ve cared for sick and injured birds and when they were ready to be re-homed into the population NO WAY would I release them where I knew there were animals or other birds of prey that could harm them. I would think that the complainants may consider releasing the animals in a more secure area, now that they know that the neighbor is not going to cease trapping near their property line… Sometimes you just gotta be the one that makes the change.

  • Cherie

    Omg I am mortified at the cruelty of some of these stupid people! I’ve raised and loved many of these animals myself. My heart breaks at the thought of these ignorant,self absorbed excuses for humans. Its so criminal.You bastards can go to the store,buy your damb meat and leave nature alone.

    • Tansy

      I can’t tell if that was facetious or not – buy your meat from a store and leave nature alone? Where, my dear, do you think meat comes from? Do you honestly think slaughter houses are more humane than hunters?

    • Roadkillstewie

      …and deer crossing signs are so the deer know where to cross the road too Cherie?

      Where do you think all those meat products int he grocery stores, butcher shops & meat markets come from Cherie, labs?

  • TRB

    I am concerned that the Decuypere’s might have overstepped in their efforts to bring attention to their own agenda. It’s my understanding that this trapper had out multiple traps on his property this past Friday and all but one of them was tagged properly. The one not tagged properly just happens to be the one the Decuyper’s pointed the DNR officer to, (while all of the other traps were properly tagged)? Also, how did the Decupyper’s know it wasn’t tagged properly if it wasn’t on their property? Lastly, what complaint brought the DNR officer out to Penny’s to begin with? It’s too bad Jim Penny didn’t have the foresight to realize how easy it would be for one of his traps to become tagged improperly, (accidental or on purpose). Hmmmm, makes one think maybe the wrong person(s) is being featured here. Additionally, If the Decuyper’s are so concerned about the release of the animals they rehab, I suggest they release them in an area where they would be free, (at least for a little while longer), from trappers, such as on state owned land.

  • Jan Morse

    Why is it that I can’t, as a licensed trapper trapping raccoons for fur or to remove nuisance animals, transport a LIVE raccoon ANYWHERE in this state legally, yet these people can fix up sick/injured ‘coons and release them back in the wild to spread God knows what nasty diseases. You see, it is illegal to move a live ‘coon from one place to another. That is what I’m taking from this slanted article.

  • Ulric

    Why is it that it’s the landowner, the trapper that needs to make the sacrifice for the sake of the ‘rehabbers’.
    Let’s consider for a minute, 83 yards (mentioned in the video) is 250 feet. That’s a simple line, let’s add 83 yards to the left and right of the rehab facilities driveway. Now we’re looking at 166 yards by 83 yards…498 x 249 feet, 124002 square feet that’s ‘too close’.
    What then is an acceptable ‘distance’, what is not too close? 100 yards?(180,000 sq feet), 150 yards(405000 square feet). How much land, is the trapper supposed to lose use of for the emotional ‘comfort’ of the rehab couple?
    Why must the trapper change and lose use of property he pays taxes on, when the rehab lacks even a fence (as shown in the video) to prevent critters from directly crossing from the ‘rehab’ to his property?

  • KB

    I am somewhat surprised that this incident is news-worthy. I love animals and see them as a critical component of the natural balance here on Earth. I also love a civilized society where laws and rules govern our actions. Laws are voted into action by the people who live under them. In this particular case we have a farmer to who owns 1200 acres of land, which he farms, pays taxes on, hunts and traps. It is his land! He is not breaking a single law and is protecting his livelihood. This particular Animal Rehabilitation Center is about 5 miles from Fulton State Game. If they are concerned about releasing animals why not drive them 5 minutes down the road? As said before, why is this even an issue?

  • Jan

    These wonder Christian people would NEVER hurt a fly!! what a ridiculous biased newscast’!!!! Are these so called animal refuge people even licensed???