two-by-four board with nails sticking out

Guilty Plea: Booby-Trapper Targets Bikes, Snares Hiker

A Montana man set up a ‘wicked’ booby trap of wood and sharp nails to keep bikers off a trail.

If you don’t like sharing a trail with cyclists, this is what not to do. Richard Joseph Stratton, 54, pled guilty in U.S. District Court on Thursday to setting up a booby trap to “keep bikes out of the area.”

The trail, located in Bitterroot National Forest in Hamilton, Mont., is legal and open to mountain bikers. In fact, it’s one of the highest-rated trails in the area according to MTB Project. (The trail is also open to hiking and horseback riding.)

forested view of mountain biker in orange on the Bitterroot trail
A bike trail in Bitterroot National Forest, Mont.

The plank was found in November 2019 by a man who stepped on it while walking with his family on the Coyote Coulee Trail, the Missoulian reported. Witnesses described the piece of wood with 10 nails stuck through it as “wicked.”

It remains unclear how authorities found Stratton to bring him to justice.

Stratton pled guilty (after originally pleading not guilty) to placing a Hazardous and Injurious Device on Federal Land, a Class A misdemeanor. With the plea, Stratton waives any right to appeal his sentence. Although according to Assistant U.S. District Attorney Ryan Weldon, prosecutors will recommend probation.

“That [sic] wasn’t my intentions to hurt anybody,” Stratton told the court.

Stratton is scheduled for sentencing in March 2021. And this won’t be his first time in court. Stratton is also registered in Montana as a sexual and violent offender. 

Use Your Words, Not Nails

This isn’t the first time that people have maliciously targeted other trail users, namely those on bikes. Wires, nail traps, and snares have become a scary hazard. And these “traps” meant to deter cyclists are not only dangerous for them but everyone else on the trail.

This serves as a reminder that trail etiquette isn’t just yielding to others and saying hello. We didn’t think we’d have to say this, but etiquette also includes not shooting, injuring, or otherwise harming others on the trail.

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Mary Murphy

Mary is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and is based in GearJunkie's Denver, Colo. office. She has a degree in English and journalism, and has a background in both newspaper and magazine writing. Her outdoor interests span from running to sport climbing, from landscape photography to skiing to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.