Is Trapping Necessary in the 21st Century?
Many countries in the world (and several states) have banned certain traps or furbearer trapping. Why doesn't the United States follow?
Within the United States, each state (not the federal government) has the responsibility to manage its resident wildlife species. Some foreign countries with warm climates and no fur animals have banned certain types of traps without consequence because they are not needed. Virtually all countries allow effective types of traps to be used to control pest and damage-causing animals. All 50 states (and all Canadian provinces) provide regulated trapping programs to properly manage wildlife populations. Traps are simply needed in North America to protect, maintain and restore appropriate balances between the needs of wildlife and man.
State wildlife agencies have a vested interest in trapping because they make money selling trapping licenses. Is this a conflict of interest?
No. The cost of scientific wildlife management far exceeds the value received from license sales. Sportsmen are happy to contribute toward wildlife management programs that benefit our wildlife and the public as well. It is also true our wildlife managers use the services of highly trained wildlife professionals who care about our wildlife.
How is trapping regulated or controlled?
Professional wildlife managers have a number of tools to regulate trapping. This includes licensing of trappers, establishing harvest seasons and regulating the use of types of traps and trapping methods. Trapper training materials and opportunities are available from the National Trappers Association, many state trappers associations and state game management agencies.
Wouldn't it be better to just let nature take her course without the effects of trapping?
Dynamic wildlife population swings happen without applied wildlife management techniques. The effects of diseases in stressed wildlife populations are rampant and occur without appropriate wildlife management programs. Some threatened and endangered species now protected from excessive predation by trapping programs would become extinct. Uncontrolled habitat degradation takes many years for recovery. Public safety and health is compromised whenever overly abundant populations of animals invade suburban and urban areas. The effect of regulated trapping is a balanced and healthy environment.
Trapping even occurs on many of our National Wildlife Refuges. This proves even the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has a vested interest in trapping, doesn't it?
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has an interest in trapping because it is often the best tool available to protect, maintain and enhance the value of the particular refuge. A number of alternatives to trapping are employed on our national wildlife refuges including electric fences, scare devices, screens and exclosures to deter predators. Nesting islands are often developed to protect nesting birds from excessive predation.
Approximately half of the national wildlife refuges have determined occasional or seasonal trapping programs are wise for the following reasons:
- Predator control for threatened and endangered species
- Predator control for migratory birds
- Habitat management or protection
- Facilities protection
- Survey or monitoring species
- Public safety and health
- Feral animal control
- Population management
- Disease control
Trappers tend to select only the most valuable animals, so how can anyone say trapping adds "balance" to the environment?
While it is understandable a trapper might prefer to target a specific species, other abundant furbearing animals may also be caught in the same trap sets. While trap selectivity is a function of the trap type, bait used and skill of the individual trapper inquisitive skunks, opossums and raccoons can be difficult to exclude from trap sets made for foxes or coyotes, etc. Regardless of intent, the net effect is the most abundant species are harvested when trapping, and this helps to add balance in the environment.
Isn't it inhumane when trapping removes mothers away from baby animals?
Trapping seasons occur during winter months when juvenile animals are often fully grown and fending for themselves. Exceptions sometime occur during summer when experts determine an animal is causing damage to private property or threatened or endangered species. Under these particular circumstances, a quick removal of the offending animal is often determined as best.
Isn't wearing furs silly?
Furs are not needed today to keep people warm, even in cold climates. Wearing furs is a choice. Many people in cold climates wear and prefer fur garments. Furs are often fashionable and luxurious. It is more sensible to use the furs of harvested animals rather than not use them. Wild furs are an annually renewable resource either used or wasted.
Many environmental organizations are committed to stopping trapping. Will they succeed?
Many animal rights organizations disguise themselves as environmental organizations and attempt to stop trapping. Emotional appeals for funding to halt trapping may seem reasonable to urban people until they realize they too may need traps for protection against invasions of mice, rats, raccoons, etc. Better alternatives to traps do not exist for many wildlife species in need of control. Trapping will continue into the future because the need to trap excessive numbers of damage-causing animals will require trapping efforts and skills. The survival of animal rights organizations is less certain as the public learns some animal rights organizations have an agenda that includes terrorism, violence and criminal behaviors.
Why can't we have better traps in this day and age?
A variety of types of traps are available today and include snap traps, cage traps, snares, body-gripping traps and foot-holding traps. Federally funded research has discovered all types of traps have applications, and no single type of trap has universal applications. Each of these trap designs may be defined as "best" when measured against the values of safety, practicality, efficiency, selectivity and the welfare of the trapped animal. Great advances in trap designs have occurred in recent years and may be expected to continue.
Don't experts agree steel jawed foot-holding traps have no place in modern wildlife management programs?
Foot-holding traps are often preferred and were essential to the successful relocation of Canadian wolves in the American West. These same types of traps are now needed and being used to relocate and reestablish lynx populations where they are needed. Foot-holding traps are also necessary if we are to protect endangered shorebirds from extinction by foxes and other predators.
Isn't it kinder to allow natural diseases to control wildlife rather than killing wildlife to prevent disease outbreaks?
There is no known or practical method to effectively prevent or treat diseased wildlife. The best we can do is strive to maintain wildlife populations at levels where the various species have sufficient room, food and space to remain healthy enough to resist the growth of germs and viruses. Several important wildlife diseases attack multiple species including man and his pets. Most wildlife diseases are far from kind as infected and malnourished animals often suffer pain and stress for weeks or even months before death ultimately occurs.
Aren't foot-holding traps a threat to many non- target species?
Federally funded research has discovered non-target catches with foot-hold traps amount to approximately 6 percent of captures. Most often these incidentally taken animals can be released without any permanent, disabling or significant injury. Trap selectivity is a function of trap design, bait type, availability of non- target species and trapper expertise.
Isn't it true there are no wildlife problems in those areas where trapping has been abolished?
Whenever trapping is removed as a wildlife management tool, problems are certain to occur as many species are prolific. Alternatives to controlling some species with trapping programs do not exist. Uncontrolled muskrat populations destroy levees and dikes. Uncontrolled beavers flood roads, railways, basements and contaminate wells. Uncontrolled raccoons invade suburban and urban buildings, sometimes creating house fires when eating insulated wires and spreading several life-threatening diseases to pets. Uncontrolled coyotes invade towns to prey upon pets. Uncontrolled moles and gophers destroy lawns, cemeteries and golf courses. Whenever a trapping ban is implemented in a jurisdiction, exemptions are soon required to address any number of wildlife related problems that follow.