Archives for posts with tag: trapping

“Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself.” – James A. Froude (1818-1894)

I have yet to hear any acceptable justifications for hunting, although many have tried to come up with convincing arguments in favor of this very unsportsmanlike sport.  So, after talking with hunters and conducting some research, I offer the following. . .

Hunters claim that hunting helps to control the wildlife population. It seems that we cannot trust nature anymore, so we need to intervene and assume Mother Nature’s job of taking care of her own. Actually, the balance of ecosystems ensures their own survival, as long as they are left unaltered. Natural predators will help to maintain this balance by killing only the sickest and weakest among them. Additionally, when faced with a diminished food supply, animals such as does may stop ovulating, while bucks reduce their sperm count. Hunters, on the other hand, kill any animal who they covet, including the strong and healthy ones who are integral to keeping the population going. When they talk about targeting overpopulated animals, they’re usually referring to white-tailed deer, which represent about 3% of all the animals who fall victim to this ruthless sport. Even so, I wonder how many hunters search for starving animals versus shooting at random or going for the ones who will bring home the most impressive trophy.

Should any unusual natural occurrences result in an over-population, natural processes will help stabilize the group. Although tragic, disease and starvation are nature’s ways of making sure that healthy and strong animals survive to maintain the rest of their group. The argument that shooting an animal because he/she might become sick or starve is a destructive, self-serving and arbitrary one. Hunting for sport jeopardizes the balance of nature and causes other problems.

Aside from the extreme suffering that hunters impose upon their victims, there is significant collateral damage to non-targeted animals (both of the domestic and endangered species variety). Much of this can be viewed at in their investigative footage and graphics. Hunters have severely wounded countless animals who have been left behind to suffer prolonged deaths. For every animal that a hunter kills and recovers, approximately two are wounded but not recovered, resulting in infection, starvation, predator attacks, dehydration, or slow painful deaths from blood loss. Many who survive end up with disabling injuries. Hunters have also rendered extinct many species, including eastern elk, the Florida black bear, and the dodo. Last, but not least, a search of hunting casualties will bring up countless reports of injuries and deaths to companion animals and humans.

During canned hunting, where hunting occurs mostly on private land and laws that protect wildlife are often inapplicable or difficult to enforce, hunters pay to kill native and exotic animals. These animals might be either from the area or brought in from elsewhere; many are purchased from traffickers who obtain unwanted or surplus animals from circuses and zoos. The sole purpose for these animals is to provide a trophy for the hunters. I am incredulous that this can even be called a hunt or a sport. The animals on these canned-hunt game preserves and ranches are often accustomed to humans and might not feel in any danger. Also, they are usually unable to escape from their enclosures, which might range in size from a few yards to several thousand acres. The helpful owners who want to ensure their clients a successful “hunt” offer guides who are familiar with the animals’ locations and habits. They additionally supply “feeding stations” to lure unsuspecting victims to food while the hunters await. If this is not enough, the use of dogs is also permitted. While many states have limited or banned canned hunts, I am not aware of any federal laws regulating this practice presently.

I’d be remiss to exclude fishing, as this is another form of hunting; it just happens to not take place on land. We can’t be selective, after all, if we are talking about animals who are targeted by humans in their search for the biggest, best, and most impressive catch. Many people might not think much about whether fish can feel, but they do. Imagine swallowing a barbed hook and being dragged, then suffocating; or worse, being sliced open and gutted. Fish are not the only water creatures who suffer, as millions of turtles, seals, birds, otters and other animals suffer injuries or starve to death after becoming entangled in filament line or swallowing fish hooks. When I lived in Florida, pelican sanctuaries were constantly treating birds for injuries sustained from hooks or monofilament lines.

There is the argument that one must feed their family. According to Karen Dawn, in her book, Thanking the Monkey, she estimates that about .00001 percent of the population hunts because they have no other way to feed their families. I’m inclined to agree with her, because I had a difficult time locating populated regions that were so remote that the only way to survive was to hunt for dinner.

Since hunting has been an American tradition for so long, it’s expected that few who engage in this sport would stop to question their actions. However, I wonder how fair a sport it is when a hunter, armed with handguns, bows and arrows, rifles, shotguns, and other high-powered weapons, chases after an unarmed victim with no defense. How ethical and fair is this? More than 200 million animals are killed annually, with millions more being maimed, crippled, orphaned, and stressed. And while hunters and wildlife agencies promote the idea that hunting is integral to the management of wildlife, agencies intentionally breed some species to ensure that there are enough animals available to be hunted. The bigger picture has nothing to do with decreasing the number of overpopulated animals or protecting certain species, but increasing the number of potential hunting licenses sold since this is a major source of income for wildlife agencies.

Who are these people who think it’s okay to chase after defenseless animals, terrorize them and wound or murder them? Well, I have learned that the hunting community is composed of mostly men, though there are some women. They enjoy killing small and large animals because it’s “fun, exciting and challenging” (though I fail to see how challenging it is when the odds are stacked in the hunter’s favor – perhaps I’m missing something, here). Apparently these people need to feel powerful; and inflicting cruelty upon animals, away from public view, is one way to accomplish this. Although participating in outright brutality, many hunters will use denial and self-delusion in order to avoid taking responsibility for being the cause of horrible suffering. There are supporters of the theory that some hunters are trying to compensate for other problems in their lives. Clinical psychologists have offered their thoughts that perhaps there is some sexual inadequacy, erotic sadistic motivation, or a need for reassurance of masculinity among hunters. According to Karen Dawn, in her aforementioned book, she writes that clinicians report that incidents of wife-beating are at peak the day before hunting season opens. During my research, I read of numerous people who have been wounded, harassed and killed by hunters.

Ironically, taxpayers help subsidize the public lands used by hunters, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs (which hunters benefit from) get the majority of their funds from general tax revenues – not the money from licenses and stamps that hunters buy, claiming they are helping pay for conservation.

What can you do? The obvious is to refrain from hunting! Encourage your legislators to enact or enforce wildlife protection laws. Insist that non-hunters be equally represented on wildlife agency staffs. Post “No Hunting” signs on your land or form an anti-hunting organization. Before supporting a “wildlife” or “conservation” group, ask about its position on hunting. Protest organized hunts. Spread deer repellent or human hair from barber shops near hunting areas. Call 1-800-628-7275 to report poachers in national parks to the National Parks and Conservation Association. Educate others about hunting.

Contact PETA, the Humane Society, Born Free USA or In Defense of Animals to offer support of their campaigns and get more information.

By Annoula Wylderich








“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; 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, 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