Council bosses are warning people to be vigilant after a lethal wildlife trap was found in a South Tyneside park.
The spring-loaded fenn trap, with the limb of what is thought to be a small animal still attached, was found in West Park by a dog walker over the weekend.
It was spotted on woodland just off the main central path in West Park, South Shields, and South Tyneside Council says this could cause serious injury.
Coun Moira Smith, lead member for area management and community safety, said: “The council does not use such traps or snares for pest control. It is also illegal to set up a trap without the landowner’s permission and we would never consent to one being left in a public place.
“They are designed to kill small wildlife with maximum efficiency and this could have easily caused serious injuries to a child or a dog.
“We would urge people to keep an eye out in our parks and open spaces and report any traps they come across.”
After being made aware of the find, Chairman of the Friends of West Park and West Park ward member, Coun Norman Dick, carried out a search the wider area and a further detailed inspection of the grounds is also underway.
He said: “It’s extremely worrying to think that someone left this in a local park that is well used by local families. The trap itself is quite small so not easily seen but the potential damage it could cause to a child or a dog would have been devastating.
“This is very thoughtless and irresponsible behaviour. We were unable to find the injured animal, but we would expect it to have suffered excruciating pain. It certainly would not have been a very pleasant thing for visitors, including youngsters, to have to witness.
“We would encourage dog walkers not to let their dogs roam free until we can be sure the area is clear of traps.”
This type of trap is legal however they have to be set under strict rules, such as set in an artificial or natural tunnel to avoid catching non-target species, and with the landowner’s permission.
Sergeant Stephen Prested, of Northumbria Police, said: “We are obviously concerned about this report as we know that this park is popular as a place for people to walk dogs and take children to play.
“The safety of the people in our communities is a top priority and we would encourage people to take care while in the area. Please be vigilant and if you do see something suspicious, report it to the council or call 101.”
Local people who come across any such mechanism on public land are advised to stay well clear and report it to the council on (0191) 424 7000 so that arrangements can be made for its removal.