Turning the Tables on Trespassing

As a wise forester once said, “Unless your woodlot is on the moon, you’ve probably had trespassers.” Trespassing is a nuisance, but also a fact of life for many landowners.

Someone trespasses any time they enter your property without your permission. In most cases, trespassers mean no harm. They may not realize they’ve entered private property, or they may be confused about their rights. (This isn’t as strange as it sounds—after all, laws vary considerably from state to state. Some states allow public access to private property that isn’t posted with clear “No Trespassing” signs, while other states don’t.)

Children are frequent trespassers for many landowners. A child might venture into your property just to explore a pond, abandoned building or other enticing landmark, and may put himself or herself at risk as a result. Child trespassers are a special case, with special legal protections on the books because they may not understand the consequences of their actions as well as an adult would.

Some adult trespassers knowingly enter private property, either for recreation or for criminal purposes. ATV riders, hunters and other recreational users may not know or care to ask you for permission when traveling or tracking onto your property, removing branches or other vegetation to clear their way, or otherwise leaving their mark on your land. Loggers harvesting on nearby land who mistakenly wander onto or harvest trees on your property are also considered trespassers.

Occasionally trespassing can be a dangerous and expensive problem, because some trespassers engage in destructive or illegal activities that can threaten your woods. Criminals may enter private property to intentionally harvest timber they don’t own, set up marijuana farms or meth labs, or conduct other illegal activities.

Whatever the reason for doing what they do, trespassers create a dangerous situation and can leave costly damage in their wake. So how can you protect yourself? By staying alert and proactive, and following a few low-cost steps, which are outlined in this section: How to discourage trespassers. And if you’re concerned about your legal liabilities or want more information, our legal guide and resources page.


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