Is Trapping Necessary in the 21st Century?
States Have The Responsibility To Manage Its Resident
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
Survey or monitoring species
Public safety and health
Feral animal 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.
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Trapping done legally is humane, rooted in science
Chance Thedford “Your view”
This Feb. 20, 2019, file photo, shows a foothold trap intended for bobcats, set by licensed trapper Tom Fisher, on the outskirts of Tierra Amarilla, N.M. In North Carolina, trappers after game like raccoons or coyotes may legally use foothold traps as long as they meet certain requirements. The traps can't have a spread larger than 7.5 inches, and the jaws must be smooth-edged and without teeth or spikes, according to the Wildlife Resource Commission's guide to legal trap types in North Carolina.
I would like to take a moment to explain a little about trappers and to dispel the myths which a few very vocal activists continue to produce.
Trappers are just like you. They live in every community in New Mexico. They attend church, send kids to school, support their local boosters club, go to HOA meetings, love their pets (especially dogs), worry about how to pay the mortgage and enjoy taking their wives or husbands (yes women trap) out on date night once a week. Trappers aren’t buckskin-clad mountain men hell bent on the domination of nature and the destruction of every furbearing species of wildlife in this state and they aren’t crazed mad-men who revel in the pain and suffering of animals.
Trappers are doctors, lawyers, business owners, farmers, mechanics, house wives, veterinarians, high school sports stars, honor students, scientists, teachers, ecclesiastic leaders and just about every other vocation or walk of life you can think of. However, it is likely that few who read this article trap. In fact, I suspect most don’t even know someone who traps and that is unfortunate. They are good people and you probably wouldn’t believe all the half-truths and outright lies some people say about them if you knew one.
Trappers are license-buying sportsmen/women who love wildlife and love New Mexico’s wild lands, just like you do. Like hunters and anglers, they have chosen to participate in nature rather than simply watch it from afar. Those of us who have chosen to participate receive blessings that few watching can fully appreciate which is why most of us are so passionate about the outdoors. In a world which is increasingly electronic and instantaneous, trappers find necessary solace in the natural world. I realize that trapping isn’t for everyone and that’s fine, but just because you don’t want to participate in an activity doesn’t mean it should be banned.
Regulated trapping, when done legally, is safe, humane, selective, biologically sound and is supported by wildlife biologists across North America. Trapping is regulated in New Mexico through scientifically based regulations that are strictly enforced.
Poachers, not legal trappers, have been the cause of nearly every single conflict in recent history in New Mexico. The highly publicized example of the dog caught and killed north of Santa Fe a year or two ago was portrayed as representative of trapping, despite the fact that the suspect was not following any of the trapping laws. That poacher was no more a trapper than the person who mutilates a deer out of season is a hunter. Poaching is illegal, and New Mexico’s trappers want all poachers to be caught and prosecuted. Banning an entire group of sportsmen/women from using their public lands because of the illegal actions of a few bad apples is not the right answer.
I would strongly encourage everyone interested in this subject to research trapping from the professionals. Don’t take my word for it and don’t believe the hyper-emotional, fearmongering produced by anti-trapping activists. Take a look at what the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), The Wildlife Society, The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) and The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) have to say on the subject. These organizations and groups are comprised of professional wildlife biologists whose sole job is to manage and protect our wildlife. They are not advocacy groups and they don’t have an agenda other than to manage wildlife in the most biologically and scientifically sound manner possible.
Listen to the trained, professional wildlife biologists who know what they are talking about. As trappers, we choose science.
Chance Thedford is president of the New Mexico Trapper Association and resident of Doña Ana County. Learn more at: http://www.nmtrappers.com/contact.html.