Neighbor's Nasty Animal Traps
June 4, 2012 3:13 PM   Subscribe

My neighbors have booby trapped the wall behind my house and I'm not happy about it. Who can help me with this?

I share a 6 ft. concrete wall behind my detached apartment. I'm waiting to hear back from the property manager if this wall is part of our property or not. So my neighbor on the other side of this wall has installed some very nasty, deadly anti- bird/cat/squirrel/I-don't-know-what booby traps on top of this wall. They aren't directly attached to the wall, so he think's he's clever I guess. He has these iron garden poles that extend above the wall, and he's attached a series of boards to them. All along the top of these boards are a row of nails, about 1/4" apart, and a series of nasty looking, home made spiky balls of death. He also has what appears to be a cat toy(!) installed among the nails.

Where can I get some help or ammo to deal with this guy? Frankly anyone who would do this is probably not open to reasonable discussion.
posted by Brocktoon to Pets & Animals (44 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is he doing it to try to kill your cat? If so, have you had any interaction with him regarding your cat before now or is this out of the blue?

(Also yeah holy shit this guy sounds totally nuts)
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:15 PM on June 4, 2012

Would/could any of these items end up into your yard? I would have called the cops if the property manager hadn't been able to get that stuff taken down within 24 hours. Looming projectiles is generally not congruent with peaceful enjoyment of ones residence.
posted by kellyblah at 3:16 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I assume you are a renter; your rights may not apply here if you don't own your property. I'm assuming the neighbor does not have the same landlord.

You need to specify your biggest concern here; that the neighbor will harm cats? That he will harm your cat (or other animals)? Do you just hate it because it's unsightly?

If he is doing it to repel cats; is there a feral cat problem in your neighborhood he is trying to address?

Try to find out what's going on. Maybe the guy has feral cats pissing on his back door day and night and is trying to put a stop to it. Or maybe he's nuts.
posted by emjaybee at 3:17 PM on June 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Do you have a cat that goes in his yard? Because otherwise I can't see how this affects you at all. Which means the police aren't going to care.
posted by fshgrl at 3:17 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My cat is indoor, so it's not my cat. I have seen a few cats that roam around the neighborhood, and the occasional opossum. I've never spoken with him before; never wanted to.

I called animal control, they said it was a civil matter, but he was kind of trying to rush me off the phone.

This is in Costa Mesa, CA, Orange County, BTW.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:18 PM on June 4, 2012

Response by poster: It affects me because I don't like the idea of animals being maimed by assholes.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:19 PM on June 4, 2012 [32 favorites]

Do you or other neighbors have a cat?
Does the cat defecate in his garden or kill native songbirds that he likes to feed?
Has he talked to you or neighbors about these problems and not had results?

It can be quite frustrating to deal with nuisance animals, so keep in mind that a solution that works for everyone will keep the cats out of his space, even if that means keeping them indoors.
posted by cakebatter at 3:20 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Emjay, I don't care if big bird is shitting 20 lbs of crap in his head, I don't want booby traps on this wall.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:20 PM on June 4, 2012 [20 favorites]

I would call the police. Something like that is a real danger to others so it may be illegal where you live. If he's renting, it almost certainly would be illegal.
posted by Circumstands at 3:21 PM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Call the police. Even if the presumed target is cats or raccoons or whatever, something that might hurt a human is Very Bad Idea. I can imagine all kinds of scenarios where emergency personnel could be injured.
posted by ambrosia at 3:26 PM on June 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

The Orange County SPCA might be able to do something/ get involved. They are probably different from the animal control people.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 3:27 PM on June 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

You can report a community nuisance to the local code enforcement office.
posted by sageleaf at 3:28 PM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Is it that he's constructed his own bird spikes? Cause that's a real thing in the world -- not that I think it's pretty to look at, but it's a normal pest control way of dealing with birds like pigeons.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:28 PM on June 4, 2012 [8 favorites]

Most places have code requirements for fences. Check and see if this breaks those guidelines. Your personal feelings about animals will not change what the law allows or doesn't allow.
posted by werkzeuger at 3:29 PM on June 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Take a friend over and talk to the guy. Be really nice about it, ask about the things he's put on the wall.

A lot of people who do this haven't really thought out the consequences. BUT they're usually pretty rational, even if they find it hard to be emotional. Ask "have you thought about what you will do if somebody's pet dies up there?" That sort of thing.

Then, you can follow up with a letter: "Just to inform you, I am glad we were able to discuss, but there may be legal issues if my cat happens to get out and your animal traps harm my pet, another human, etc."

"I am sending this to you as official notice that I believe the traps may cause harm..." yada yada
posted by circular at 3:31 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here are some better pictures. This is a normal thing.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:31 PM on June 4, 2012

Response by poster: I can't believe that shit is legal. What is wrong with people!
posted by Brocktoon at 3:37 PM on June 4, 2012

Yeah, it's not clear to me whether this is meant as a booby trap (which the cat toy kind of suggests) or just a deterrent a la bird spikes (albeit a somewhat strange and possibly unsafe one). I mean, not to be callous, but presumably you haven't seen any squirrels/cats/birds/etc. impaled on this device? Is it new, or was it there when you moved in? Animals will most likely just avoid it (and probably get into his yard anyway, possibly leading him to even more ridiculous Rube Goldberg-esque solutions).

I mean, PETA recommends using bird spikes as a humane way to deal with pigeons (about 3/4 of the way down that page).
posted by mskyle at 3:38 PM on June 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

The birds aren't supposed to get impaled on the spikes, they're supposed to find it uncomfortable to roost there and move away.
posted by mskyle at 3:38 PM on June 4, 2012 [19 favorites]

Response by poster: It's new, within the last the week, today he added more boards, according to my wife.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:39 PM on June 4, 2012

nth'ing the "this is pretty common" sentiment. The birds/animals aren't supposed to be harmed or killed. They're supposed to walk/sit on it, find it uncomfortable, and fly away.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:40 PM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Maybe he's using these spike things, I'll have to look closer when I get home. I thought they were nails.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:40 PM on June 4, 2012

This doesn't sound like a "booby trap" (by common definition) or a thing that's likely to pose a serious threat to an animal. Bird spikes are a common thing. Barbed wire is a common thing. Razor wire is a common thing. Broken-glass wall toppers are a common thing. Cactus plants are a common thing. Big junkyards full of scrap metal are a common thing.

Animals are generally not stupid enough to impale themselves on plainly visible sharp objects (humans did not invent sharp things, after all). Certainly you're within your rights to find out if this is a legal installation, but it's not some animal death trap waiting to happen.
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:41 PM on June 4, 2012 [14 favorites]

All along the top of these boards are a row of nails, about 1/4" apart,

Are the nails pointed up or down? Bird spikes are just to discourage birds from perching there, but aren't intended to cause injury. Nails are a different matter.
posted by ambrosia at 3:41 PM on June 4, 2012

Is there bird crap all over this guy's wall, or what? BTW I've never seen a bird impaled on bird spikes--I think the idea is that they just never land there.
posted by circular at 3:41 PM on June 4, 2012

Look homemade bird spikes or anti-animal booby traps made of nails in a board aren't actually going to hurt animals. Animals are pretty good at avoiding obvious things that hurt them. And these ones, while they may look dangerous and scary, I suspect will be largely ineffective.

If you think this guy is nuts (and hopefully you have more than just these boards to make that assessment) one concern would be if you raise a stink about these, he'll end up escalating to less obvious dangerous things. Something like a bowl of anti-freeze or something that might actually harm/kill animals.

I'd let it go. It doesn't really matter if these are commercially manufactured bird spikes or homemade ones.
posted by 6550 at 3:42 PM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would also wonder whether these are meant to hurt animals or just deter them - the idea of a booby trap is that you don't see it and then it kills/hurts you. What you're describing is not a trap, it's a bunch of set spikes, clearly visible, to act as a deterrent. That's a major, important distinction in terms of whether this guy is some nutsoid cat-killer or just a frustrated renter who doesn't want stray animals defecating on his property.
posted by Dasein at 3:51 PM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe anonymously drop a flyer for this stuff in his mailbox? We sell it at our garden store and it works great - non-toxic & cruelty free. Don't know if it will help the crazy dude sort himself out, but you never know.
posted by echolalia67 at 3:52 PM on June 4, 2012

Nails are a different matter.

Why? "Official" bird spikes are expensive. If you happen to have handy nails and boards, I'd make homemade ones, too.

If they are bird spikes, they aren't cruel, just ugly, as other people have said. Birds, cats, rats, etc rarely impale themselves on spiky objects.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:52 PM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I haven't tried echolalia67's stuff, but the other versions I tried repelled me for the same reason they repel other animals- it smells pretty awful. In a small, enclosed yard it could be pretty ripe.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:54 PM on June 4, 2012

This is a safety issue for humans too. Codes and ordinances vary by city, but I think this kind of thing is very restricted in residential areas because of fire/rescue and law enforcement access.
posted by snsranch at 3:54 PM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Nthing that you need to talk to code enforcement, not animal control. Costa Mesa is, in my experience, a fairly uptight and controlling kind of town, so you can probably get something done (though it might just be that he gets more civilized-looking spikes.)
posted by SMPA at 4:01 PM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

On the outside chance that he is actually trying to trap and/or kill wild animals, state authorities could be a resource. In Minnesota, the appropriate agency would be Minnesota DNR. Think hunting, fishing, protected species, those sorts of areas. Describing this as someone trapping animals out of season, or in an urban area, or otherwise illegally, might get attention. (I can't speak to how aggressive or interested California authorities might be, though. If this person isn't trapping, this doesn't apply.)
posted by gimonca at 5:27 PM on June 4, 2012

Please post picts of fence/booby trap. I think it may be bird spikes also.
posted by jmd97 at 6:24 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is hard for me to visualize what you are talking about. If it's just bird spikes, completely fine. They are just there to make it an unappealing place for the birds to sit. But if it is some kind of booby trap, where the spikes are meant to fall down and impale an animal, call the cops or the animal safety people. Report seeing illegal traps that seem to be meant to maim or kill small animals.
posted by gjc at 6:52 PM on June 4, 2012

Response by poster: Ok I took a closer look. It's nails alright, but they are facing down. I will try to post a photo. And I'm pretty sure the wall is on my property; it turns at ninety degrees at the end onto my property. I have a strong urge to just push these boards over. I don't think these poles are secured.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:17 PM on June 4, 2012

Just be careful, and don't make yourself a target. Having watched my parents live through a couple of nasty neighbour disputes, all I can say is that it sounds like this person is just looking for a fight, and is weird enough to make your life unpleasant.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:36 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Call your city councilmember. The staffers working in their office are paid to find out who you need to speak to. Calling a home inspector out to issue a citation for dangerous boards with nails sticking out is just part of the routine for them.

And a landlord getting a citation for their tenants fuckery, of that will be delt with toot sweet.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:00 PM on June 4, 2012

It sounds like these are ugly but harmless, and poorly constructed on top of it. If you ignore them they will eventually fall down, with no injury to wildlife. It might take a year but is far preferable to getting int a fight with a neighbor, because that can consume your happiness like nothing else.
posted by LarryC at 10:30 PM on June 4, 2012

I just wanted to counter, factually, with photo evidence, claims that bird spikes "are not cruel."

Pigeon caught on bird spikes, unable to escape. It would have died if I hadn't found neighbors with a ladder.

Nthing everyone who's mentioned going the building code route. Also, don't just let it fall down, nails rust and getting injured by one can cause tetanus.

In any case, don't engage your neighbor in any manner except politely and calmly.
posted by fraula at 1:04 AM on June 5, 2012

If it is not secured, is there a risk of it becoming a dangerous flying object in a high wind?
posted by onhazier at 6:09 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Brocktoon: "I can't believe that shit is legal. What is wrong with people!"

Um, nothing. Birds don't actually hurt themselves on those things, BECAUSE they're smart enough to avoid landings that look dangerous.

In that respect, it's far more humane than poison, traps, or even letting your cat roam outdoors.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:03 AM on June 5, 2012

fraula: "I just wanted to counter, factually, with photo evidence, claims that bird spikes "are not cruel."

Pigeon caught on bird spikes, unable to escape. It would have died if I hadn't found neighbors with a ladder.

The plural of anecdote is not data. I've seen hundreds of these things, but never seen a corpse stuck in one.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:04 AM on June 5, 2012

I would call 311 and ask someone to come out and look, the same way you would if they were dumping trash there. This doesn't sound like it's safe for people, much less animals.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:09 AM on June 5, 2012

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