ONLY ON 8: Exploring pitfall traps and its effect on mammals in the Amargosa Desert

LAS VEGAS - The middle of the Amargosa Desert hides an illegal secret. Hundreds of thousands of animals are caught and killed in pitfall traps.

Located in Nye County, the Amargosa Desert is about an hour and half northwest of Las Vegas. The traps are set by commercial collectors to find scorpions or other insects. But the traps mean death for nearly all mammals that wander inside, and more than 50 percent of reptiles, including endangered species.

Now the Nevada Department of Wildlife is asking the public to weigh in on whether these pitfall traps should be banned outright in Nevada.

"I've never heard of something of this scale across the landscape, so it came as a shock," said Jason Jones, Nevada Department of Wildlife.

A pitfall trap preys on an animal's desire to seek shelter in the hot desert sun.  The traps have been hidden in the Amargosa Desert for decades, and they have to lead to the deaths of many animals.  

Between 130,000 to a quarter of million reptiles and untold numbers of other mammals.  

"What we see with mammals is nearly 100 percent of them are dead; it's like 95 plus percent of all mammals are dead," Jones said.  "To give an example: A place in the early 90's was discovered, and there were 80 traps on one line and over 450 dead reptiles in those traps, including three dead desert tortoises."

Officials estimated that there are more than 700 traps hidden in Amargosa alone. The Horn Lizard is the most commercially targeted animal in the state of Nevada.

The traps for the Horn Lizard are set by commercial collectors who want to sell them. 

"That is not legal to collect vertebrate animals out of traps," Jones said. 

Other neighboring states outright ban catching invertebrate animals, but in Nevada, it's possible with a permit.  

"We have no idea what this will do in terms of the lasting effects of a population whether it be small reptiles or mammals," Jones said.

To get your voice heard visit the County Advisory Board located at 500 S. Grand Central Parkway on Tuesday night.  The meeting will be held until 9 p.m.

Another meeting for recommendations to the wildlife board of commissioners is scheduled for Saturday at the Clark County Government Center in the commission chambers.  The issue is expected to be addressed around 10 a.m. 


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