The illegal laying of gin traps in the Redwood Forest has been described as "madness" by a district councillor, while forest users are being warned to take extra care while walking the popular trails.
Members of the public spotted the traps, used to catch possums, near main tracks in the forest and alerted Rotorua Lakes Council staff who then found and removed three of them.
Council sports and recreation manager Rob Pitkethley said staff were very concerned about the discovery.
"We've searched the area thoroughly and haven't found any more but we can't be sure so as a matter of public safety we urge people to be careful and keep their children close and dogs on short leads.
Whoever has done this has obviously given no thought to public safety - it's a crazy thing to have done
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"It's not the first time this has happened but it's not usually so close to main walking tracks right down in the Redwoods."
The Redwoods are a high use area frequented by tourists and popular with many locals - including families and people walking their dogs.
"At the moment it's extra busy and there are lots of children around," Mr Pitkethley said.
The sale and use of traps is restricted under the Animal Welfare Act and Rotorua's local general bylaw prohibits the setting or use of any form of animal trapping or snaring device in a public place or reserve without written approval of council.
"Any pest control operations which are undertaken in the wider Whakarewarewa Forest from time to time are always very well planned, managed and controlled and we do not use these types of traps," Mr Pitkethley said. "It seems unlikely the person or people who set the traps we've found this week is an experienced trapper."
The council's Sports and Recreation portfolio leader, councillor Charles Sturt, said he wanted to warn those who had set the traps that if there were any left in the forest to remove them, or face police prosecution if caught.
"This is just madness. A very serious matter. The likelihood someone wondering off these trails is pretty high.
"If a 4-year-old stood on one of these it could cut their leg in half. The person who laid these traps would be the one responsible for that. There is no way they should be in such a high use area," Mr Sturt said.
The council has asked anyone who spots a trap to visit the Redwood Forest Visitor Centre or call (07) 348 4199.