“Excruciating pain.  Lost limbs.  Even death.  These are the results of trapping. . .not only for the wild animals whose furs are stripped from their bodies, but also for family dogs and cats and even endangered species who are ‘incidentally’ caught in the remorseless jaws of leghold traps, Conibear traps, or snares (cable nooses).”  – Born Free USA

As I researched trapping, I found out that the United States catches more wild animals for the fur trade than any other country in the world, with three to five million animals getting trapped each year by commercial fur trappers in the U.S. 

Millions of “non-targeted” animals get trapped as well, including pets and those on endangered species lists.  We call this “collateral damage,” which I’ll address later in this article.

Trapping is used by the fur trade, as well as wildlife control and by the federal government in the killing of native carnivores.  Some states permit wildlife damage control operators to sell the pelts of killed animals, which serves to encourage the killing of animals rather than using non-violent means of problem resolution. 

Types of traps that are used include the body-gripping variety (leghold traps, snares, and Conibear traps).  The steel-jaw leghold trap is a commonly used trap by both commercial and recreational U.S. trappers.  Approximately 89 countries have banned the use of this trap, while here in the U.S., some eight states have either banned or severely restricted its use (a pretty pathetic number).

Traps cause intense suffering and death to millions of animals every single year.  If the animals are not mercifully killed instantly by the trap, they sustain severe injuries and can suffer from exposure to the elements, dehydration, physical trauma, or fall victim to other predators.  Another fallout from trapping is the number of cubs and pups who are orphaned when their parents are caught and killed.  These orphans cannot fend for themselves or protect themselves from predators, and end up perishing from starvation, dehydration, exposure and attacks.

Trapped animals are usually clubbed, drowned, suffocated or have their chests crushed, rather than being shot and having the blood stains reduce the value of the pelt.  These methods would be considered cruelty to animals if they were inflicted upon cats or dogs.  Consequently, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, the World Veterinary Association, and the National Animal Control Association have declared leghold traps to be inhumane.

While trapping regulations vary widely from state to state and are poorly enforced, some states have no laws whatsoever requiring traps to be regularly checked.  Thus, many animals linger for days suffering tremendously from their injuries.  And while the National Wildlife Refuge System’s original intent was to provide a safe haven for wild animal species, trapping is permitted on more than half the refuges across the U.S.

Trapping is an extremely cruel practice; and despite claims to the contrary, all traps cause horrific injuries and intense suffering to trapped animals.  If you don’t believe this, just try sticking your hand or foot in a leghold or Conibear trap. 

In 2011, Born Free USA conducted an investigation which exposed this highly unregulated, inhumane, dangerous industry.  The investigation bore out that the few existing regulations that monitor trapping are often ignored by trappers who openly use (illegal) snares and leave traps out after the close of the trapping season, continuing to capture animals.  There are no authorities present when traps are set or an animal is killed.  Most states don’t require trappers to report the number of animals they kill.

It’s interesting to note that a branch of the USDA, called “Wildlife Services,” spends $100 million annually on the goal of killing wildlife, mostly because they’re deemed a nuisance to municipalities, farmers or ranchers.  Wildlife Services kills a staggering number of animals using steel-jawed traps, snares and other body-gripping traps, in addition to the aerial shooting of animals and the use of deadly poisons.  These techniques are primarily random and non-selective, which results in the deaths of “non-targeted” species, as well.  Species that are killed include dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, turtles, bears, squirrels, and many others.  Ironically, though Wildlife Services’ work is conducted on behalf of the livestock industry, data show that wildlife plays an insignificant role in livestock losses.

Then, of course, there are also the “damage control trappers,” who each year trap and kill more than four million animals in the U.S. (in the name of game or livestock protection).  Or they may use “nuisance control” for the killings.  Taxpayers should note that many of these animal control programs are funded with our tax dollars.

Earlier in this article, I referred to the collateral damage related to trapping.  Non-targeted animals routinely fall victim to the traps which are set for other species.  Dogs, cats, hawks and many threatened and endangered species often become victims.  A Born Free USA investigator speaking with a trapper reported the following:

“In one of [the foothold traps] we find a fox squirrel, caught by both front paws. [The trapper] released the fox squirrel from the trap. Both of its front legs are stripped down to the flesh by the trap. He doesn’t usually use fox squirrel, though others will use the fur, so lets it go. At the same time he says it probably won’t survive and that seems the case as it limps off slowly.”  (I’m going to assume that it had to be in sheer agony from its injuries.)

Dogs are the most common non-targeted victims of traps and I read of two incidents (out of many) where a therapy dog for children of disabilities choked to death in a trap (“it took three men to pry the trap’s springs open in order to release Rupert”); and another pet ran home in agony, covered in blood, with his head locked in a Conibear trap.  He died in transit to the vet (“it took four people to get the trap off the dead dog’s head”).

During trapping season, hundreds of thousands of body-crushing traps and snares are baited and set, many of which are not retrieved by trappers at season’s end.  Unretrieved traps are waiting and ready to do their deadly damage, in addition to those traps which are set illegally by other trappers.  While State Wildlife Agencies don’t track data on unintended victims of trapping, Born Free USA does so all across the country and maintains a database of incidents that are reported to them.  This information is used to educate lawmakers and others to help prevent future injuries.

There are steps we can all take to help organizations like Born Free USA on the issue of trapping.  The goal is to expose the truth about this awful practice and to eliminate the cruel devices that are used to inflict suffering and death to both intended and unintended victims.  It is important that legislators and policymakers enact stronger laws and ensure the enforcement of existing protections.  Additionally, we need to urge the use of alternative humane methods of animal control.

You and your friends can be on the lookout for hidden traps when hiking with your dogs. 

Report incidents to Born Free USA at (916) 447-3085 x 208; or www.bornfreeusa.org/trappingreport; or your local animal welfare group.

You can write letters to the editor of your local paper addressing this issue.

Post signs and prosecute anyone setting a trap on your property, if you live in a rural area.

Don’t buy anything made of fur.

Check out www.bornfreeusa.org, for other suggestions, or to join their Action Team.  For more information about the gruesome consequences of trapping, go to their Victims of Vanity tab where they provide investigative video and graphics.

Below is an image of a discarded coyote whose fur was deemed “unsatisfactory,” and thus, died a needless, agonizing death.

discarded coyote

– Annoula Wylderich

Advertisements