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

Posted at 10:30 PM, Dec 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-19 22:30:17-05

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.