Trapping small animals is regarded by some to be a cruel endeavor. After all, how could these snares and traps that looks so much like tiny torture devices not be cruel? How could a live trap that suddenly shuts doors around a wild animal not be cruel? As the daughter of a trapper who has been raised around the evolving practice of trapping, I’ve never seen it as a sport – but I have learned its essential role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Done right, trapping does not have to cause undue pain or stress to the animals involved either. Killing can be fast and humane. The reduction in small fur-bearing animals can mean profit for the trapper, as well as a habitat that can better support the remaining animals without encroaching on nearby human activity that could hurt both animals and humans.
What is the purpose of trapping small fur-bearing animals?
In the United States alone, trapping has a history that reaches back for hundreds of years. No one knows where it started. It is a means of obtaining furs for warmth and meat without directly disrupting the animal population with a physical human presence. Native Americans used animal hides to create clothes, footwear, bedding, transport equipment, and even their own homes. At the same time, trapping has been used as a means of reducing surplus predators in limited habitat areas to ensure a stable population of prey animals.
Today, along with the ages old ecological benefits of trapping, most trappers do their work for economical reasons. Thinning the vermin population around farms and ranches can improve production of human food, while also reducing the risk of certain diseases in human communities. These animals carry such diseases as rabies, tuberculosis and trichinosis among others, and diseases such as the bubonic plague are still alive in certain wildlife populations.
Is trapping animals cruel?
Regardless of why or where you’re trapping, and inexperienced or unscrupulous trapper can inflict pain and be cruel to the animals they are trapping. The wrong size trap or too much time between checking traps can be cruel to animals. Severe heat or cold can stress the animal in any type of live trap. Does this mean that trapping in itself is cruel? No, it just means that, like anything, there are good and conscientious trappers, and then there are those who are not.
Any responsible trapper will know their equipment and the animals they’re seeking. They will be aware of what each trap does and which animals it can effectively trap, as well as those that can easily suffer injuries or a slow death in that trap. In the middle of summer and the dead of winter, an ethical trapper will either check the traps more often or trip them and leave them inactive until more hospitable temperatures.
Are kill traps more humane than live traps?
In some cases, a kill trap such as a snare is much more humane than something that keeps the animal alive until it arrives. This is not all cases, however. Bear in mind that most trappers operate near human activity, including homes and towns. Pet dogs and cats are likely to be attracted by the trapping bait, and may themselves be caught if the owners aren’t careful. Leg hold and other such live catch traps are designed to hold an animal without injury so pets and non-target animals can be released without harm.
Overall, the most humane thing a trapper can do is know the equipment and make sure it is in good, working condition. Any firearms used on the trap line must be properly sighted in, and the trapper must take time to become proficient with its use. In addition, it is each trapper’s responsibility to know which species are in surplus in each area and trap only those. All usable parts of the animal should not go to waste. When all is said and done, natural furs produce less environmentally harmful waste than faux fur and fake leather, and it lasts longer than most artificial options. This makes it a truly “green” option when one adheres to the lines of humane treatment and ethical trapping.