DEAR JOAN: Is it legal to set traps on the top of the backyard fence to snare squirrels and let them die in the heat?

I grew up here in Contra Costa County and am a humanities community college instructor share-renting in Concord. I have never seen anything like this.

The owner of the house seems to be a mild-mannered guy with pets, but right now there is another squirrel trapped in a wired box trap on the top of the backyard fence specifically set to ensnare squirrels.

A few months ago I set free the first trapped squirrel I saw, with some minor personal repercussions. Currently, I am on semester break and am in huge personal stress watching this poor squirrel trying to chew its way our of this wire cage.

Is this legal?

Julie H.

Concord

DEAR JULIE: Well, there is legal and there is humane; in this case, one trumps the other.

Under certain conditions, trapping tree squirrels is legal. Certain tree squirrels are classified as game animals under the state's Fish and Game Code and can be trapped only during hunting season, which starts in our area on the second Saturday in September and runs through the last Sunday in January.


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There are two exceptions. Native gray squirrels can be trapped out-of-season with a permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The property owner must prove that the squirrels are destroying crops or property, and then the state regulates the type of trap and what can be done with the squirrel. They may require that the trapper release the squirrel in a designated area, not kill it, which is an exception to the law that forbids releasing trapped animals outside of where they were caught.

The other exception involves the Eastern fox tree squirrel, a non-native squirrel introduced in California in the 1800s. State law allows that Eastern fox squirrels found to be harming crops or property can be trapped and killed without a permit. However, there are conditions and laws that must be followed.

If the homeowner is trapping Eastern fox squirrels and only Eastern fox squirrels, he is within his rights. However, the manner he is using is deplorable, and it is in violation of anti-animal cruelty laws, not to mention just basic humanity. Trapping and killing must be done humanely.

State law also regulates the types of traps that can be used and requires that they be set and tended in a manner so that some other animal is not accidentally trapped. He seems to be in violation of that law as well.

If you feel comfortable talking to him, tell him that he is violating the laws against animal cruelty. If not, report him to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and animal control.

Before you do any of that, please muster up your courage and set the squirrel free.

DEAR JOAN: I have some old rat poison that I would like to dispose of. What is the safest way?

Mike Gordon

Walnut Creek

DEAR MIKE: Your area waste disposal company should accept it and dispose of it safely. Contact the company for instructions on how to get it to them.

Having old rat poison lying around, or sent to a landfill with the regular garbage, is dangerous. Other creatures can be exposed to it and die.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read the Animal Life blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/pets.