top of page

Trapping Myths

• The Myth Behind "Best Management Practices" read here

Information below Credit: Born Free USA

Myth: Only abundant species are trapped.

Truth: Historically, unregulated trapping almost wiped out beaver,  lynx, and other species in many areas of the U.S. Vermont still allows trapping in lynx habitat, including on Nulhegan Basin in the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, even though lynx are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Vermont endangered species, including the American marten, are trapped and killed every year in traps set for fisher and other animals. Traps also kill owls, eagles and other protected species. 

Tragically, Vermont Fish & Wildlife supported a trapper's proposal to expand trapping season on river otters in 2017, even though they acknowledge that otters are at risk of water pollution, habitat loss and changes in prey base. Fish & Wildlife has also been unable to readily provide population estimates on otters, so to claim these animals are "abundant" is fundamentally untrue.

Myth: Trapping is a necessary wildlife management tool.

Truth: Trappers and wildlife managers claim that trapping prevents species from overpopulating and destroying their habitat by removing "surplus" animals from the wild. This simplistic argument, however, belies the dynamics of wildlife populations. First, the term "surplus" as used by trappers is an ecological fallacy — every animal, alive or dead, plays an important role in its ecosystem as either predator or prey. Second, available habitat and food resources generally limit the size of wildlife populations. When a wildlife population approaches the limit that the habitat can sustain — the "carrying capacity" — reproduction and survival decrease because less food is available to each individual, and the population begins to decline. In this way, nature has been regulating itself for millennia without our help.

Trapping generally removes healthy individuals from the population rather than the sick, aged, infirm, or very young animals most often subjected to natural selection. It would be "blind luck" if a trapper were to trap an animal that would have otherwise died of starvation or any other natural cause, so trapping actually works against nature's selection process.

In truth, trappers are mainly interested in manipulating wildlife populations for their own benefit. State wildlife agencies actively manage populations of furbearers to ensure that there are enough animals for trappers to kill, not to prevent biological overpopulation.

Removing wild animals from a particular ecological niche is likely to have two results: 1) increase reproduction by the remaining individuals; and 2) increase mobility of the animal population at large, as territories are emptied and re-occupied. Neither can be considered "good wildlife management." Trapping also may alter the age structure of the species' population. The net result of these social and biological disruptions is increased numbers of wild animals. 

While many, such as coyotes and foxes, naturally compensate for externally caused population reductions by increasing reproductive rates, species such as and fishers and otters do not, and are vulnerable to irreversible population reductions. Trapping is anything but an effective "management tool."

Myth: Trapping controls the spread of disease.

Truth: Trappers and wildlife managers play on the public's fear of rabies and other diseases by arguing that trapping is necessary to control the spread of disease. However, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Academy of Sciences, and the World Health Organization, as well as many other scientific, public health, and veterinary organizations, disagree. The National Academy of Sciences subcommittee on rabies concluded that, "Persistent trapping or poisoning campaigns as a means to rabies control should be abolished. There is no evidence that these costly and politically attractive programs reduce either wildlife reservoirs or rabies incidence."

Rather, trapping can actually increase spread of disease. By removing mature animals who have acquired immunity to disease, trappers make room for newcomers who may not be immune. In addition, animals infected with rabies do not eat during the latter stages of the disease, and therefore do not respond to baited traps. Hence, traps set in an area infected with rabies will more than likely capture healthy animals rather than infected animals, thereby increasing the likelihood that the disease will spread.

The most successful attempts to control rabies in wildlife have utilized bait containing oral rabies vaccine, which is fed to wildlife. Public funds for trapping programs would be better spent on public education emphasizing prevention of rabies through pet vaccinations, securing garbage cans, not feeding wildlife, etc. 

Myth: Trapping is necessary to protect livestock.

Truth: Livestock producers have waged war on predators for centuries, ostensibly to protect livestock. These attempts have been largely unsuccessful in solving conflicts.In a public records request to Vermont's Wildlife Services, POW uncovered that very few coyotes were the actual perpetrators of livestock loss - in some cases where coyotes were blamed, the cause was actually domestic dogs.

 As with many wild animals, the coyote's population is naturally regulated when left unhampered by human control attempts. Lethal control methods, however, can disrupt this process. Killing coyotes may cause pack members to disperse, resulting in more coyotes reproducing in the absence of a pack hierarchy. Exploited populations also tend to have larger litters because competition for food is reduced and more unoccupied habitat is available. In addition, lethal control techniques have ensured that only the most resilient coyotes survive.

Trapping is not the answer to protecting livestock. Non-lethal methods include having guard animals such as dogs, llamas and donkeys; the use of fencing; sheltering animals at night; and improved husbandry practices. Those are just a few ways to protect livestock without killing wildlife. Non-lethal methods also allow wild animals to maintain their important roles in the ecosystem. 

Myth: Trapping is tightly regulated.

Truth: Trapping regulations, in general, are poorly enforced. There are few restrictions on the types of traps that can be used and there are no bag limits on the number of animals that can be trapped or the number of traps a trapper may set in an area. 

There are no regulations as to how an animal must be killed - trapped animals are drowned, bludgeoned, stomped on (to crush heart and lungs), strangled and shot.

Trappers may set traps on public land with no required set-backs from trails , nor are they required to erect signage as to where trapping is taking place. 

Trappers are not required to report most non-target catches, including protected species like eagles and owls. Additionally, countless animals are trapped by private "nuisance wildlife control operators" — or NWCOs — in this growing unregulated industry.


Myth: Fur trapping provides significant income for many Americans.

Truth: Trapping and fur industry proponents claim trapping provides a viable income for many Americans. However, surveys show that most trappers trap for "sport" and a little extra income. In response to a 1997 API survey, state wildlife agencies indicated that income from trapping was either extremely low or non-existent. A 1992 Missouri Department of Conservation study reported that "approximately 30% of all trappers in 1991 reported no household income from trapping ... Most trappers reported earning small incomes from trapping. This suggests that motives other than monetary gain are also important to trappers. The average cost of trapping per day was $30.67." Today fur trapping is little more than a hobby.

The time and expenses incurred while trapping need to be accounted for (equipment, vehicle use and gas, time invested, etc.) to provide a reliable estimate of a trapper's expenses. Income derived from these calculations have indicated that trappers actually lose money. 

The manufacturing of fur products takes place mainly in countries outside the United States where labor is cheap. (The United States is one of the largest suppliers of raw fur to countries that manufacture fur garments.) The fur garments are then imported into the United States for retail sale. This refutes the claim that the fur industry provides significant employment opportunities for Americans. 

The trapping of wildlife for profit is an anachronism in today's society. Its blatant cruelty can no longer be masked under the guise of economics or wildlife management. However, the trapping/fur lobby is powerful and well-funded, and countering its entrenched political power requires dedicated, passionate citizens who recognize that wildlife has intrinsic worth above and beyond its economic value.

The Myth Behind

"Best Management Practices." 

Read here

bottom of page