Dangerous animal traps set near kids at play

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A disturbing find in an Omaha park as raccoon traps were set in an area where children typically play. Not only is it dangerous, it's illegal.

It came to light Thursday afternoon when an animal control officer was sent to Barrington Park at 162nd and California streets along the Papio Creek and trail where a raccoon had been caught in a trap.

Raccoon in Trap
A group of children, ages 12-15, were playing in the park when they came across the raccoon. The animal control officer arrived and was able to free the animal from the trap, but it ran off before it could be checked for injuries.

The officer then located a second trap that had been set. Authorities say these traps were within 20 yards of where the children had been playing.

On Friday morning, the animal control officer went back to the park to check for more traps. He found one that had snared a raccoon trapped sometime since Thursday afternoon. The officer released the animal from the trap and tended to an injured paw. “Just need a little bit of a break to get back on his feet, we will definitely give him that and then get him back out where he belongs," said Animal Control officer Ruthie Pohl.

Nebraska wildlife rehab said it will take 6-8 weeks for the raccoon to recover. Most likely there's a pinched nerve that if it had been left untreated, the raccoon would have chewed off its own paw.

In addition to the trap with the animal in it, yet another was found set during the return trip to the park on Friday morning. The Nebraska Humane Society says these traps pose the threat of severe injury to inquisitive kids, dogs and cats. The traps have powerful coils and a sensitive trigger system. They were staked to the ground with a thick chain. “We've seen these buried pretty far in," said Pohl. "Down here there is bait, once that is set, put your hand in and once you activate that it's done. Extremely dangerous, not just for animals, but if kids come and look around, try to put a finger in because, well, it's not going to hurt that bad and it will be extremely dangerous in this area right by a park."

Omaha city ordinance prohibits traps like these being set. “I hope whoever did it will not do it again.” Randy McAlpine lives in the neighborhood next to the park, left frustrated that someone thought it okay to illegally trap raccoons where his kids and many other children play. “I've got an almost 7-year-old, 4-year-old and a 2-year-old and they know they wouldn't know better not to mess around with it. It is very concerning that someone would put those in a park."

Investigators say they don't know why someone set the traps, but they would like to locate the person responsible. If you have information, call NHS Animal Control at 402-444-7800, option 1.