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Why do we trap?

Updated: Oct 23, 2020


Article on trapping by Alyssa Myhrer & Alicia Owen


Trapping is just as important as hunting in order to keep wildlife numbers to a point where animals are not spreading disease or starving to death.   It is natural, sustainable and renewable when done properly it can help the environment in many ways. There are many reasons people trap including family traditions, nuisance control, invasive species control, and as a wildlife management perspective. Most of what you hear like animals suffer for days in traps from anti-trappers is not true, traps are checked regularly and trapping has strict regulations regarding this. Foot holds hold an animal until you come to dispatch them or release them. Most people don’t realize that the trap number represents how many pounds of pressure that the spring has. The most common trap for k9s is around a #2 coil spring or long spring. This means that trap is only putting 2 lbs of pressure on that animal’s foot. It is just enough pressure to keep the animal from pulling out of the trap, but not enough to injure it. By choosing the correct trap size for the intended species, it helps make sure the targeted animal stays in the trap, while larger animals tend to pull out of the trap and non-targeted species can be safely released. They do not chew legs off or any other body part. Most times when you approach an animal in a trap they are resting until they see a human or any other wild animal. Their first instinct is to try to get away from you.

What kind of traps do we use?

Live traps also known as “have a heart/cage” traps are commonly used to safely relocate animals without causing them any harm. These traps are commonly metal cages with a trigger located near the back that is triggered when the animal goes into the trap. 

Foot hold traps are a non-lethal type of trap that holds the animal by the paw/leg in a certain location until the trapper arrives to either dispatch or release the catch. They hold an animal by the paw. These traps are normally used for foxes, coyotes, and bobcats.

Dog proof traps are a specialized trap to catch raccoons. The trap has bait inside of it and has a small opening that is just large enough for a raccoon to fit its paw into. Once his paw is in the trap the trap closes holding the animal at that spot. The opening is too small for K9s and other larger animals to get into. These are popular for nuisance raccoon in populated urban areas

Conibear traps also known as a body gripping trap are lethal to any animal that gets in them.  The number of the traps is how many pounds that spring has. For example, a 330 conibear trap has 330 lbs of pressure to kill beavers almost instantaneously. They are commonly used as a blind set for beaver, otter, muskrat or mink. They can also be put inside cubby boxes to catch bobcat, mink, fisher and American marten. 

Snares/cable restraints can be set as a kill trap or as a restraint. Each state has different regulations on snares including cable size, deer stops, use of only restraints, breakaway snare etc. Depending on the type of lock of the snare it will either hold the animal tell you get there or quickly dispatch the animal. Snares can be used on land or underwater. In states where these are legal to use, they are a common type of trap because they are cheap, easy to set up, and easy to carry large amounts of them into the woods. In places where there is a lot of snow, these are good to use for K9s and cats when the snow is too deep for foothold traps. 

How is trapping regulated?

There are many ways that trapping is regulated including Conservation/Fish and Game Officers, trap regulations, trap check days, season date, bag limits, and harvest registration. Every state has different regulations so it is very important to make sure you understand all the regulations before you start trapping. Certain types of traps need to be checked more often than others depending on if it is a kill trap or not. Certain species need to be brought to a DNR office and registered similar to what happens when a deer is harvested. Heads or entire carcasses may need to be brought in along with the pelts for certain species so the DNR can analyze the animals harvested. If a species has a high population, there may be a larger bag limit or a longer season. Animals that are not as abundant may have small bag limits or short seasons. The seasons and bag limit also can change year to year depending on the previous year’s data. Even within one state there may be different sections of the state that are divided up with different dates or trapping regulations. 

What happens to an animal after it is trapped?

After something has been trapped and dispatched, it then gets skinned and fleshed (meaning the fat will be removed from the hide). After that, it will go through the chemical process of tanning. There are many different ways to tan a hide; like brain tanning which our ancestors used, or newer methods using chemicals. Once the hide is tanned it then gets stretched which breaks the fibers in the hide to make it flexible. Once all of this is complete the hide is ready to be made into garments or as a beautiful wall hanger with great memories. 

Why is real fur better than fake fur?

Real fur is a natural, sustainable and renewable resource. It is 100% biodegradable and organic. The fur industry provides employment to workers in rural countries and helps clothe those in colder climates. Regulations state that the animal must not go to waste and many countries are upholding this rule by using animal parts for bio fuel and fertilizer. 

Fake fur pollutes our oceans because it is made out of plastic. It is estimated that as many as 1900 tiny plastic particles are released every time you wash fake fur in your washing machine. These tiny particles pollute our waterways. Faux fur and most synthetics are made from petrochemicals. They can take more than 3 times as much non-renewable energy to produce as real fur. Like other plastic these materials do not break down easily and will remain in our landfills for centuries. Fake fur is usually made by children overseas. 

Common Species that can be trapped

Each state has different animals that can be trapped, but this is a list of possible species that can be caught using traps: Weasels, mink, otter, beaver, muskrat, coyote, fisher cats, American marten, fox, badger, raccoon, skunk, bobcats, wolves, lynx, wolverine, woodchucks and squirrels

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