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PUBLIC AND PROFESSIONAL ATTITUDES ABOUT TRAPPING:
This is a summary of two articles by Bob Noonan published in the March/April and May/June 2019 issues of the Trapper’s Post. Noonan summarized information provided at a seminar about trapping, held in Maine. Samara Trusso, a Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Management Supervisor who also conducts public education programs, presented some interesting facts on the demographics of the US population: total population is about 327 million, 81% is urban/suburban, 19% rural. Average age of urbanites is 36 while the average age of the rural folks is 43. Results of 2017 research by the International Association of Fish and Game Agencies revealed that the US has 33.1 million fishermen (10%), 13.7 million hunters (4%) and 175,000 trappers (.0005%). Of trappers 98% are male, average age is 48, typical income is $40,000 - $60,000, annual fur income is $1,000 - $4,000 and 70% do some ADC. 3 – 10 million animals are trapped for fur. The top four species trapped were raccoon, coyote, muskrat and beaver. Motivations for trapping were: lifestyle, appreciation of nature and wildlife management, traditions and social relationship. Money, while listed wasn’t as important as the other reasons.
95% of the public approve of fishing, 80% approve of hunting and 74% were OK with trapping if it was for damage control and population control. 87% said it was fine to wear fur, only 18% said it wasn’t (I realize this totals 105%!)
The vast majority (of the public) does not share animal rights philosophies. Even those who oppose trapping don’t hold that attitude strongly. They do care deeply about wildlife resources and do not take killing lightly. Research also shows that the public is highly uninformed about wildlife issues.
A troubling survey in 1998 of 1,000 conservation professionals concerned with protection and sustainability of a variety of natural resources (such as air, water, land and wildlife) revealed that 46% felt that trapping should be outlawed. Of those, 94% felt it caused unnecessary pain and stress, 80% felt it harmed non-target animals and 52% felt it unnecessary for wildlife management. Only 39% of the 1,000 surveyed were not opposed to trapping: 85% of those felt that an efficient wildlife harvest was needed, 79% agreed that wildlife management was needed and 68% said trapping didn’t hurt populations. All respondents were concerned about animal welfare and the selectivity of trapping.
Demographics of animal rights groups: 97% are white, 89% own pets, 82% are college educated, 82% have above average income, and 78% are women.
Trusso said that research shows that “trappers are not necessarily sensitive communicators”.
So, who does the public regard as the most credible source for wildlife information in the Northeast? In descending order: 1) state fish and game agencies, 2) US Fish and Wildlife Service, 3) state game wardens, 4) state environmental agencies,5) university wildlife biologists, 6) the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (which deals with domestic animals), 7) local sportsmen’s clubs, 8) the media, 9) veterinarians, 10) animal rights activists, 11) trappers, 12) celebrities.
So, how do we communicate to the public? Go into the conversation knowing, as precisely as possible, what we want the audience to feel/believe/do. Know our message and keep it simple. Several main points are enough.
And, it must be a two-way conversation – we have to listen to the other side even if we disagree. It cannot be an ideological, take no prisoners battle. We must show empathy both for the people we are speaking with and the animals we are talking about.
We must stick to key messages:
Trapping is humane.
Trapped wildlife are abundant, not endangered. Regulated trapping does not endanger wildlife (populations).
Trapping is managed through scientifically based regulations, enforced by game wardens.
Regulations and methods are continually reviewed to ensure humaneness.
Regulated trapping provides many benefits to both wildlife and people and maintains a balance between them.
We must avoid these messages:
Trapping is recreational, a sport we have a right to.
Trapping is a tradition going back to colonial times.
Trapping is legal.
Trapping benefits the economy.
Animals are a renewal resource. (The public considers solar and wind renewable, but is largely against considering animals or even trees renewable.)
Don’t use the word “euthanize” – to the public, this means the animal is sick.