State: No laws broken when trooper set traps

WASILLA, Alaska (AP) - A longtime Alaska State Trooper didn't break any laws by setting snares for coyote and fox on private property near Wasilla, a review found.

That's because the area that the trooper and his trapping partner used to access the property wasn't posted with no-trespassing signs, the agency said this week.

John Cyr, a trooper who works wildlife cases out of Palmer, and Rick Ellis set the snares on land that belongs to Ralph Kircher, who now lives in Auburn, Wash., the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Kircher says he opposes trapping for sport, and no one sought permission from him or the couple that leases his land for a gravel pit. The couple, Nicolene Jordan and husband Mark Loomis, filed a complaint Nov. 16 with the Department of Public Safety's Office of Professional Standards.

A review by the troopers determined no laws were broken.

"If the land's not posted, it may be trespassing in your mind, but it's not criminal trespassing by Alaska statute," said Alaska Wildlife Trooper Capt. Burke Waldron, who supervises Cyr.

The Fish and Game Department said it's the responsibility of trappers to check with landowners after they acquire trapping licenses from the agency.

"We do hunting and fishing laws. As far as trespass laws, the state troopers would be enforcing those," Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh said.

Jordan noted that there were no-trespassing signs at the front of the property, but not at the back near Colony High School. She said Cyr should have known the property was private and that he knew about the couple's gravel operation, because she had sold him gravel previously.

Cyr didn't return calls seeking comment, the newspaper said, but Ellis, his trapping partner, did.

Ellis, former president of the Alaska Frontier Trappers Association, said he and Cyr trapped in the same area last year because no signs were posted. Ellis said he's 60 years old and disabled, so he looks for trapping sites he can access easily.

Ellis said his rights as a trapper were violated when the couple removed the snares from the property.

"If anybody broke the laws, they did," he said. "Not me."

Even if Cyr didn't violate criminal trespass or state game laws, he may have disregarded state guidelines for ethical trapping practices, which urge trappers to get landowner permission.

"I was never contacted, and I would never allow that," Kircher said.

Ellis, asked about the ethics of trapping without permission on private land, said the code was structured after the Lower 48 states, where notification is a legal requirement. Alaska, with huge amounts of unmarked property, is different.

"A lot of what would apply in the Lower 48 doesn't apply up here," he said. "If (Jordan) had made it known she didn't want me on there, then certainly I would have honored that. But otherwise it's fair game."