There are more wild furbearers in the U.S. today than there were 100 years ago.
Government quotas and strict conservation practices keep wildlife, including furbearers, at optimum levels.
No furbearing animals in the U.S. or Canada are endangered or threatened by fur harvesting.
Millions of North Americans depend on fur harvesting for their livelihood. These people have a vested interest in protecting the natural environment.
Natural fur, used in coats and other garments, is a renewable resource.
Nothing is wasted in the production of a wild fur garment. Furbearers provide food, organic fertilizer, medicines, and other biodegradable products.
Conversely, synthetic materials exhaust our limited supply of oil and other nonrenewable resources.
Sound wildlife management programs ensure the necessary supply of natural wild fur for today's needs and those of tomorrow.
Information for the General Public
In a world where humans interact with wildlife habitat in countless ways, management of certain animal populations will always be necessary. Uncontrolled, many species can infringe on real human needs. We may only think of rodents or insects in a grain storage facility to appreciate the need for action.
Parts of the world, like Western Europe, are now so heavily urbanized that the main challenge for conservationists is to protect what little is left of wildlife habitat. Even in these countries, however, wildlife must be managed. In Holland and Switzerland (often cited as places where trapping has been discouraged), state employees must now be paid to trap and shoot muskrats which are seriously damaging dikes, canals and riverbanks. Uncontrolled muskrats are capable of astounding rates of reproduction: females can produce more than twenty young each year, while females born in the first Spring litter may produce their own young by Fall.
Some countries including Canada and the United States, are fortunate to still have vast undeveloped lands and plentiful wildlife. The "surplus" produced by most wildlife species each year represents a valuable natural renewable resource for people living on the land in these countries.
Regulated trapping helps to smooth out the "boom and bust" cycles which characterize some wildlife populations when Nature is left to do the managing.
In many areas, animal populations must be controlled to protect human activities: bears destroy beehives; coyotes kill livestock; wolves prey heavily on young moose, deer, and caribou which local people depend upon for food and income; raccoons raid cornfields; hungry deer and elk ravage winter-stored hay; foxes, mink and weasels have a taste for domestic poultry; beavers can flood farmland and roadways.
Wildlife can also serve as a reservoir for diseases (like rabies and tularemia) which are potentially dangerous to humans. Beaver and muskrat can suffer horribly for weeks before finally succumbing to tularemia or other infectious diseases. (Foxes with rabies also take weeks to die.) Natural, yes, but hardly "humane."
Household pets are susceptible to distemper, rabies, heartworm, parvovirus, mange, and leptospirosis, all of which can be acquired from infected furbearers. According to Charles Pils, a Biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: "While trapping is not the solution to every wildlife disease outbreak, under certain circumstances it can reduce threats to the health of humans and domestic animals....By removing population excesses which promote diseases such as canine distemper....in a localized situation, trapping can reduce and even stop the spread of a disease outbreak."
For all these reasons — even if furs were not valuable — trapping would remain an important wildlife management tool.
Rebuttal to 'Trapping Information'
The following is a factual rebuttal to "Trapping Information," which was published by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
1. HSUS Statement: Body-gripping traps (steel-jawed foothold traps, snares, and Conibear traps) cause severe distress, fear, and pain to both wildlife and pets. Body-gripping traps slam closed on and grip tightly an animal's leg or other body part. As a result, animals can suffer lacerations, broken bones, and joint dislocation. As the animal struggles to get free, he/she sometimes chews off a leg to escape or breaks teeth by biting the metal trap.
Factual Rebuttal: The correct terminology and classification of trap types includes 3 different categories. The first category is 'live-capture restraining devices' that allow the release or harvest of trapped animals. foothold traps are included in this category. The second category is 'killing' devices that result in a near instantaneous death for trapped animals. This category includes Conibears and other brands of body-gripping traps. The third category includes traps that can function either as 'live-capture restraining devices' or 'killing' devices dependent on how and where they are set. Snares are included in this category.
Since Conibears and other body gripping "killer' traps are designed to provide a near instantaneous death via force applied directly below the base of the skull, the likelihood of extraneous injury, and/or self mutilation is extremely low. When snares are used as a 'live- capture restraining device they function in a similar manner to a dog collar and leash. Therefore, the likelihood of extraneous damage and/or self mutilation is also extremely low. Highly structured and replicated studies have repeatedly shown that foothold traps are the only efficient, practical, selective, humane, and environmentally benign 'live-capture restraining device' currently available for many furbearer species.
By design, capture devices used to reintroduce extirpated species or augment Threatened and Endangered populations have to ensure minimal damage probabilities to target animals. foothold traps have been used almost exclusively to capture and re-establish red wolves, gray wolves, mexican wolves, lynx, and river otter.
2. HSUS Statement: Trapped animals can suffer from thirst and starvation; they may die as a result of exposure to the elements or predation.
Factual Rebuttal: DNR regulation stipulates that traps set in uplands and non-tidal wetlands must be checked once per calender day. This frequency prevents or severely limits the probability of these occurrences. Any person that would violate this regulation would also violate trap prohibition regulations.
The fundamental economic realities of commercial trapping also discourages these occurrences. The margin of profit in commercial trapping is relatively small. Every consecutive day that an animal is in a trap, that trap is non-functional and cannot capture additional animals. In effect, if a trapper allowed this to occur they would be jeopardizing potential revenue.
3. HSUS Statement: Animals still alive when the trapper checks the trapline are killed by bludgeoning or stomping or, less often, by strangulation or shooting.
Factual Rebuttal: Portions of this statement reinforce the inherent value of foothold traps. foothold traps are live-restraining devices and the animals are "still alive", thus affording the opportunity to release or harvest captured animals. Although not aesthetically pleasing, blunt force trauma (bludgeoning) and shooting are recognized as humane euthanasia techniques by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Trapper education provides information on humane techniques to put an animal down.
4. HSUS Statement: The steel-jawed foothold trap has been declared "inhumane" by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the World Veterinary Association, and the American Animal Hospital Association.
Factual Rebuttal: These organizations characteristically represent domestic small animal health care providers. The very nature of their professions predetermines that they typically examine only worse case scenarios involving trapped animals. It can be logically assumed that few examinations would be requested for un-injured animals captured in foothold traps.
Animal health care professionals that specialize in wildlife health issues clearly support trapping and the use of foothold traps to manage health concerns in free-ranging wildlife populations.
5. HSUS Statement: Body-gripping traps are indiscriminate. They victimize any animal unfortunate enough to trigger them. Animals caught include protected species such as eagles, kit foxes, fishers, and wolverines, as well as family pets. The majority of smaller animals (birds, rabbits, squirrels, etc.) unintentionally caught in traps die or must be destroyed because of serious, disabling injuries.
Factual Rebuttal: The selectivity of foothold traps has been documented in studies conducted by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in 21 states. The capture of thousands of furbearers resulted in non- target capture rates as small as 3% of total captures, and included no threatened and endangered species. foothold traps are live-capture restraining devices that experience minimal injury rates, and allow release of captured animals. Over 4,000 river otter captured predominately in foothold traps have been released in reintroduction projects in 18 states.
Traps pose no realistic threat to human safety. An exhaustive investigation of trapping incidents in the U.S. during the last twenty years could only document 3 cases of injury to the public that resulted from regulated trapping. All of these injuries were considered minor.
6. HSUS Statement: Commercial trapping is not a "wildlife management tool". There are no bag limits and no limits on the number of traps that can be set. Trapping activity is driven by the price of pelts, not by the need to manage wildlife populations. Some fur-bearers (coyotes for instance) have natural fertility and breeding controls when not disturbed by humans, while others (such as muskrats) experience natural boom-and-bust cycles.
Factual Rebuttal: The professional wildlife conservation community universally endorses traps and trapping as critical and essential wildlife management tools. The Wildlife Society and the International Association Of Fish and Wildlife Agencies are the largest international organizations representing professional wildlife conservation employees and governmental wildlife agencies. Both organizations have issued policy statements that strongly support the role commercial trapping plays in achieving wildlife management objectives.
Harvest season length, bag limits, permissible size and types of traps, and total number of traps permissible per trapper, are all considered during the development of management strategies for individual species. Population growth characteristics of some species require strict harvest regulations that include bag limits and limiting the number of traps per individual. Conversely, harvest and population characteristics of other species require liberal regulations to meet prescribed furbearer management objectives.
All wildlife populations possess inherent bio-feedback mechanisms that eventually limit population densities. Most species can exhibit classic 'boom and bust cycles'. The reproductive capabilities of coyotes, muskrats and many other furbearers allow non-regulated populations to increase at exponential rates until they approach and/or surpass the carrying capacity of their respective ecosystems (boom). When this occurs, competition for limited resources compromises the health of the entire population. At that time, the weakened condition of these animals allow density-dependent mortality factors such as starvation, disease, and social strife, to decimate entire populations (bust). Oftentimes, the health of the entire ecosystem including all aligned wildlife species and the public are also negatively impacted by these inflated furbearer populations.
Regulated commercial trapping manages populations by moderating the extremes of 'boom and bust' cycles. This results in stable populations of healthy animals that are in balance with the biological carrying capacity of their ecosystems and the cultural carrying capacity accepted by the general public.
7. HSUS Statement: Trapping is not useful in fighting wildlife diseases. Scientists, public health officials, and government agencies are on record stating that trapping is an ineffective and costly method of controlling rabies and other diseases.
Factual Rebuttal: Wildlife biologists and wildlife health care professionals have long recognized the integral role of regulated trapping in the control and/or abatement of density-dependent wildlife diseases. Although disease normally occurs in all wildlife populations, stress resulting from increased population densities may precipitate or confound the occurrence of disease. Non-regulated furbearer populations can function as disease / parasite reservoirs that pose a continual threat to humans, and likewise decrease the viability of wildlife populations. Furbearers are primary vectors for numerous threatening maladies including: rabies, giardias, distemper, tularemia, and mange. While trapping may not always prevent the onset of these afflictions, it will significantly decrease the severity and duration of outbreaks.