Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trapping, the Barbaric “Sport”

by GEORGE WUERTHNER

Years ago I was backpacking in Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness with my friend, Rod, and his  Malamute, Jake.  Like most dogs, Jake was happily running ahead of us investigating this and that.  Suddenly Jake let out a sharp cry and began yipping from someplace up ahead in the brush. We rushed to him to find with his leg snared in a giant leg-hold bear trap set by a deer carcass. This trap was the size of a car tire. We desperately tried to free him from the trap, but even with the two of us trying to open the contraption, the springs were just too stiff and we couldn’t get Jake’s leg out. So Rod and I took turns carrying 100 pound Jake on our shoulders, along with the heavy trap plus our backpacks, to our car so we could rush him to a vet.

The vet had to get a special trap opener to compress the springs so we could open the jaws enough to remove Jake’s leg. Jake was lucky. Because the trap’s teeth were so large, Jake’s leg was caught wedged between the teeth instead of having it go through his leg. He fully recovered from the experience. But most pets and nearly all wildlife are not so lucky.

There was no sign indicating the presence of the trap, nor any other effort to warn people of the lurking danger. Had either one of us stepped into the track, we might have suffered serious damage.

Unfortunately the trapping of wild animals is a legal activity in all of the United States. In fact, I am not aware of a single state “wildlife” agency that doesn’t promote trapping, instead of questioning its legitimacy.

It’s amazing to me that in this day and age we still allow this barbaric activity to be justified in the name of “sport”. Leg-hold traps and snares are particularly treacherous devices. Animals caught in such traps suffer pain, exposure to weather, dehydration and often a long painful death.  Snares are even more gruesome with animals slowly strangling to death as the wire noose tightens. How is it that cock and dog fights are now illegal and yet we permit state wildlife agencies to sanction an equally cruel activity?

The statistics are astounding. More than 4 million animals are trapped for “fun” each year, many enduring immense suffering in the process.  Millions more are trapped as “nuisances” or die as “non-target” animals. For example more than 700 black bear are snagged each year in Oregon as “nuisance” animals by timber companies (because in the spring bears eat the inner cambium layer of trees).

Only a few states have banned the use of leg-hold traps for sport trapping and then usually only through citizen initiative process.  Yet 90 countries around the world have banned these traps and the entire European Union has banned these contraptions.

Most trapping targets “fur bearer” animals like lynx, musk rat, beaver, marten, fisher, river otter, weasel, mink, bobcat, red fox, coyote, and bears, and in some states like Idaho and Alaska, trappers also take wolves.  Most of these animals are important predators in their own right, and help to promote healthier ecosystems in many, many ways from the way that wolves reduce the negative impact of large herbivores like elk to reduction of rodent populations by coyotes.  Thus indiscriminate trapping disrupts natural ecological processes, often in ways we don’t appreciate.

And while most trappers might scoff at the idea, their “enjoyment” of trapping comes at the expense of the pleasure of other wildlife lovers who might rather see a red fox scampering across a field, a river otter swimming in a stream or hear a coyote howling in the night than see it’s skinned and fur used for frivolous purposes like clothing—we have other alternatives to fur.

The major arguments used by trappers to defend the legitimacy of their “sport” can largely be refuted.

One argument is that trapping promotes family time, learning about nature and gets people outdoors. However, there are many other ways to spend time together as a family, learn about nature or to get outdoors that does not involve traumatizing animals.

Another argument is that if we don’t kill the animals, they will overpopulate and die of starvation and/or disease.  If you believe this line of self-justification, trappers are really acting out of a sense of mission, responsibility and kindness by killing animals to save them from a greater misery. Beyond the obvious rationalization of such assertions, a problem with this logic that not all animals, or animals in all places are in jeopardy of overpopulation.  And trapping doesn’t necessarily remove the animals that are most likely to die from these natural events.

A third justification often heard in trapping circles and from state wildlife agencies, is trapping helps to remove “problem” animals—beaver that clog up culverts or coyotes preying on livestock.  There are numerous issues with this line of reasoning. The first is that trapping, as practiced by most “sport” trappers, is indiscriminate. They are not taking the specific animals that may be “problematic”.  Most trapping is random, killing any animal unfortunate enough to wander into a trap.

Beyond that, because agencies like to promote trapping (some like Wildlife Services entire existence is dependent upon having “problem” animals to kill) there is little incentive to educate or even regulate the public so that conflicts are not created in the first place. In many cases, the “problem” is “problem humans”.  So livestock producers who fail to adequately monitor their animals and utilize guard animals along with lambing/calving sheds, have more issues with coyotes.  Honey producers who do not use electric fences around their bee hives have issues with bears. And so on.

Not every instance can be alleviated by some creative action by humans, but in most case we don’t even try because neither the government wildlife agencies nor the trappers want solutions other than trapping and the broader excuse for trapping that they believe these so called “problems” justify. In those instances, where changing human behavior fails to reduce conflicts, we may have no choice but to rely upon the surgical removal  of “specific” animals, not the wholesale killing of any animal that happens to have a fur coat. And such removal should be done in the most humane way possible.

If you want to see how sport trapping harms wildlife, view this video of a bobcat trapped in a snare. Hint it does have a happy ending. If you can, support groups that attempting to end this barbaric “sport.”

George Wuerthner is an ecologist with among others, a degree in wildlife biology, and is a former Montana hunting guide. He has published 35 books. 

 

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail