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Traps, Trapping, and Furbearer Management
Position statement from The Wildlife Society

The need for trapping is expressed well in the following position statement created by the Wildlife Society, an international society of wildlife professionals:

Internationally accepted principles of natural resources conservation stipulate that resource management activities must maintain essential ecological processes, preserve genetic diversity, and ensure the existence of species and ecosystems. Regulated trapping in North America is consistent with all three criteria and is a versatile, safe, effective, and ecologically sound method of harvesting and managing species of furbearers.

Trapping provides income, recreation, and an outdoor lifestyle for many citizens through use of a renewable natural resource. It is a part of the North American heritage. It is often vital to the subsistence or self-sufficiency of peoples in remote regions who have few other economic alternatives. Trapping is a primary tool of most animal damage control programs and an important technique in wildlife research. In some situations, trapping is important in management or is effective in reducing or suppressing wildlife diseases.

Despite the values of trapping, portions of the public oppose it, or at least perceive problems with some aspects of it. Some object only to certain trapping methods, particularly the foothold trap on land, but others have moral objections to killing animals. Much of the opposition to trapping is associated with urban oriented cultures, particularly those dominated by tertiary (service-oriented) employment. Those who approve of, practice, or benefit from trapping are primarily from rural cultures or are from areas where primary (land based) employment predominates. This dichotomy of lifestyles and values, combined with a general lack of objective information about trapping creates barriers to understanding and resolving the controversial issues associated with trapping.

The policy of the Wildlife Society in regard to trapping is to:

1.  Support use of regulated trapping for sustained harvests of some species of furbearers for economic benefit, subsistence, and outdoor recreation, and as an effective method for managing or studying furbearers, controlling damage caused by furbearers, and, at times, reducing the spread of harmful diseases.

2.  Recognize that regulated trapping is a safe, efficient, and practical means of capturing individual animals without impairing the survival of furbearer populations or damaging the environment.

3.  Recognize that animals can be injured by some traps and trapping systems, particularly the foothold trap set on land, but that:

    Regulatory and education programs reduce the number and extent of injuries;

    Foothold traps often offer advantages over other techniques in efficiency, safety to humans and domestic animals, release of non-target animals, and lack of adverse environmental effects; and

    Acceptable and effective alternatives are not currently available for many species although commercially produced padded traps appear to have potential for greatly reducing injury while maintaining comparable trapping efficiency for some species.

4.  Recognize that significant opposition to trapping exists, both in North America and abroad, and that comprehensive resolution of trapping issues will require application of well-designed and sensitive research, management, and educational programs.

5.  Promote development of improved traps, trapping systems, and additional methods of taking furbearing animals.

6.  Urge use of trapping devices and systems that kill quickly or that cause the least injury and stress to captured animals, whichever is appropriate, and that are selective, efficient, and safe to use.

7.  Promote programs of trapper education that cover appropriate trapping techniques, proper fur handling, and furbearer management.

8.  Advocate research on furbearers, trappers, trapping methods, and attitudes of the public toward trapping to advance understanding and facilitate resolution of controversial issues and problems associated with furbearer management.

9.  Promote programs that inform the public on values and benefits of properly regulated, sustained use of renewable natural resources, including furbearers.

10.  Encourage appropriate regulation of trapping and rigorous enforcement of trapping laws by responsible agencies to assure that optimum furbearer populations are perpetuated and that populations of other species, including rare and endangered wildlife, are not threatened.

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