Trials & Litigation

Woman is liable for springing traps, Alaska judge says, but he awards hunter no damages

  • Print.

An Alaska trapper said he filed a small claims suit against a Juneau woman for springing several of his lawfully set traps to teach her a lesson.

But after a several-day trial it appears that the case may have been a learning experience for both sides.

Hiker Kathleen Turley is liable for springing the traps and hindering John Forrest’s trapping, ruled Juneau District Judge Thomas Nave on Friday. But because the plaintiff didn’t prove damages, the judge gave him no monetary award, reports the Juneau Empire.

Earlier Juneau Empire and KTOO articles provide additional details.

Forrest had initially sought $5,000 in damages but later lowered the amount to between $1,000 and $1,200.

“We’re not here to try to run up some big number or something against Ms. Turley,” the trapper’s lawyer, Zane Wilson, told the judge on Thursday. Because Turley was “unapologetic” about springing traps set near the Davies Creek Trail in December, however, the attorney said he and his client were hopeful that she would “learn something” from the lawsuit, the newspaper reported.

Turley admitted to springing several of Forrest’s traps. She did so after discovering an injured bald eagle in one that he had baited with an entire beaver carcass in an effort to get a wolverine, according to testimony in the case. The eagle had to be euthanized, and Turley was not at fault for freeing it, the judge said.

Attorney Nick Polasky represented Turley and argued that she had sprung the additional traps because they were set too close to the trail and presented a safety hazard to hikers.

“Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s safe,” he argued, adding: “Reasonableness and the law don’t always match up.”

Turley was cited by a wildlife officer for violating a state statute that protects the rights of trappers, but the criminal case was dropped, KTOO reports.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.