Wildlife trapping in one form or another has been practiced in North American for tens of thousands of years. This practice escalated in the 1700s and 1800s with the switch from subsistence trapping to commercial-scale trapping with the advent of the global-scale fur trade. The results were disastrous and resulted in the local extirpation of species such as beavers, wolves and other furbearers.
Rudimentary trapping restrictions were promulgated and implemented in the early 1900s for seriously impacted species like the beaver, but little was done at that time to examine, monitor or manage the practice of trapping beyond addressing these emergency situations.
Starting in the 1940s organizations in the US and other countries formed specifically to address the trapping issue. By the 1960s and more recently additional trapping regulations were created in the US and Canada. Unfortunately, such rules have been extremely weak and poorly enforced in areas where trapping is still done.
As Asian economies have flourished in the 21st century, the global demand for furs in clothing has fueled a resurgence in North American trapping for species such as lynx, bobcat, beaver and fox across the western US and Canada. The global demand for North American furs is exacerbated by the fact that many furbearer populations in Asian are already depleted by trapping.
Trapping in the US and Canada is primarily done with leg-hold traps and also snares. Such trapping is indiscriminate and often catches non-target species such as family pets, domestic animals, birds of prey and larger predators such as bears and cougars. As several imperiled species such as lynx, wolverine, fisher and marten have been further imperiled by unintentional trapping and poor regulatory mechanisms, continuance of trapping within the ranges of these species has profound biodiversity implications.
Moreover, as the trapped animal is often held for days until the trapper returns to shoot it, there are serious questions about the overall humaneness of the practice. Even a number of traditional hunting organizations identify trapping as being outside the bounds of what they consider “fair chase” or ethical.
As a result of all of the above and other related issues, coalitions of groups have organized ballot initiatives to ban trapping in California, Oregon and Washington. These efforts have been unsuccessful. California recently passed legislation ending bobcat trapping near certain National Parks in that state. The scope of the California legislation was significant reduced as it moved through the legislature.
Cascadia Wildlands believes that trapping regulations across all states and provinces require significant reform to address the above issues. Trapping must be regulated in order to prevent impacts to non-target species—particularly imperiled species or those with declining populations. Trapping regulations must also be modified to address the issue of humaneness as no animal should be held in a trap for days where it suffers unnecessarily or has the opportunity to harm itself in efforts to escape. And we have passed the time where we can allow activities like trapping in the absence of plans or management regimes that include comprehensive monitoring of species or ecosystem level impacts of this activity that removes these important ecological actors from wild places.
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