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A Missoula woman is looking for clarification after finding an apparently illegal leg-hold trap near her apartment.

Marilyn Morrison said two of her daughters, Naomi and Claira, were playing on the hillside behind their Pullman Street apartment on the Northside on Friday when they found the rusty trap on the ground.

“I thought it was just junk, but when I ripped it out all of this was here,” Morrison said, gesturing to cables and a plastic stake that had anchored the trap to the ground.

Aside from the trap itself – which had already been sprung – the parts appeared to be brand-new, Morrison said, and were either obscured or buried.

Morrison went to the Missoula Police Department on Monday to ask what she should do with the trap and was referred to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Because of the President’s Day holiday, FWP’s offices were closed Monday, and officials with the agency could not be reached for comment.

Lora O’Conner, executive director of the Humane Society of Western Montana, said Morrison contacted the organization during the weekend asking to share information about the trap on its Facebook page.

“She said she removed the trap because she felt it was a danger to animals and children in the area,” O’Conner said.

O’Conner said she recalls previous incidents of pets being caught and hurt in traps placed within city limits, and she wants residents to be aware that it’s possible others are out there.

The jaws of the trap were more than big enough for a child’s hand or foot to get caught in, Morrison said. For now, she has told her children – who regularly play on the hillside – to stay out of the area.

“I’m just hoping there’s not more up here that aren’t sprung,” she said. “There’s a lot of kids up there during the summer, especially, and a lot of people walk their dogs and bike up there.”

The trap did not have a metal identification tag with the name of the owner, a violation of Montana law for anyone other than a landowner trapping on their own property.

Morrison said she is unsure of who owns the land, which sits between her apartment building and Interstate 90, and she’s hoping to hear more from FWP officials Tuesday.

“I just don’t know what kind of animal would you even be trying to trap over here? It just seemed dangerous,” Morrison said.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.