Home > Trappers education > You are here: The evil "steel-jawed leghold trap", a fact sheet

The evil "steel-jawed leghold trap", a fact sheet
By Keith Dewars*

"Steel-jawed leghold trap".  What a misnomer.  I cannot count how many times I've seen those words in the last few years.  It is a term that was invented by anti-trappers to invoke compassion and solicit donations from an unsuspecting urban public.

Well, first things first.  There is no such thing as a "steel-jawed leghold trap".  They are correctly called foothold traps or live-hold foot traps.  These traps are designed to restrain an animal by the foot.  Anti-trappers like to talk about animals getting their feet chopped off by a trap.  Do you know what?  It does not happen.  Modern traps are designed to absolutely minimize the damage done to the trapped animal.

Did you know that wolves are trapped using foothold traps in the United States?  That's right.  Wildlife biologists in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Idaho and numerous other states use the foothold trap to catch and relocate wolves to other areas where they are trying to re-establish populations of the predators.

Did you know that river otters are trapped using foothold traps in the United States?  That's right.  Otters have been trapped for relocation (very, very successfully I might add) in New York, Indiana, Missouri, Louisiana and a host of other states.

Did you know that pine martens and fishers are trapped for relocation using foothold traps in the United States?  I think you can see where I am going with this.

Today's modern foothold trap, many with offset or laminated jaws, are designed to minimize damage and stress to the animal.  Think about it.  Would a person who is trapping to sell the pelts want to have damage to that pelt?  I don't think so.

Take it from an actual trapper, not an animal rights activist that has never even seen the animals they are "protecting".

Here are the REAL facts about trapping-

  1. Animals are not "left for days to suffer".  Each state or province has trap check laws, in most areas traps must be checked at least once every twenty four hours.  Think about it.  Most animals are caught at night and most trappers check their sets early in the morning.  It is good business.  They want the animal to suffer as little as possible and they want the least amount of damage done to the pelt, so they keep time in the trap to a minimum.  Case closed.
  2. There is no such thing as a "trash animal".  Anti-trappers like to say that "two non-target animals are trapped for each target animal" and that these so-called "trash animals" are simply thrown away.  Hmmm, I wonder what they consider a "trash animal" to be.  Most of the time, a good trapper will catch only what he intends to catch.  A novice trapper will have some non-target catches, he might catch a raccoon instead of a mink, or a mink instead of a muskrat, or a possum instead of a raccoon.  There is a market for all of these pelts.  The "trash animal" statement is totally false and was made up by animal rights groups to spread misinformation to an uninformed public.
  3. Traps are a danger to your pet!  Yeah right.  As I wrote earlier in this article, foothold traps are used by wildlife biologists for relocation purposes.  If your dog or house cat is caught in a trap they can be easily released.  Calm your pet, call your local warden or animal control officer and they will take care of the rest.  One exception to this is in the use of body-grip style traps.  Body-grip traps are regulated by state laws as to where and when they may be used.  Any trapper that is using a body-grip trap outside the guidelines of the law is opening themselves up to some potential trouble.
  4. Trapped animals do not "chew their feet off".  Although this has been known to happen in the past (especially with raccoons), today's modern laminated and species-specific traps have lowered the incidence of chewing to almost zero.

So there you have it.  Now that you have the real facts, how about checking out your local trapper's education class?  You might find out you like it.

Here are some actual photos taken by trappers showing animals that have been trapped.  There is a noticeable lack of stress to the animal in all of these photos.

(Click on a photo to view a larger picture with a description)



Special thanks to FoxtrapperSteph, Rick B. and others on Trapperman.com for the use of their photos.

*Keith Dewars is a freelance writer, avid outdoorsman and owner/webmaster of Malum Internet Properties. He can be contacted at keithd@maluminternet.com.

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