Unfortunately, with retrieving a ‘marketable pelt’ as the singular goal of trapping, the life and wellbeing of the animal it belongs to isn’t even an afterthought, as evidenced by the way traps are designed, set, placed, and checked, and also by the way the trapped animal is ‘dispatched’ (killed). Nor is the species of the animal of any real concern, so long as the ‘target’ animal(s) are eventually caught, as ‘trash’ animals can simply be thrown out. These are the realities of modern day trapping.
The three main types of traps are inherently cruel and cause severe injury and pain to any animal caught in their grasp.
Killing Traps (most common: snares, body grip (Conibear) trap): These are intended to quickly kill a trapped animal, however, according to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) “when an animal is caught in a trap not intended for it, or when it enters the trap at the wrong speed or the wrong way, it is often caught but not killed, and suffers excruciating pain until it loses consciousness or is found – sometimes after days”. Because traps are not selective, ‘non-target’ animals are routinely caught in traps not ‘intended’ for them. Sadly, while “most provinces have regulations for checking restraining traps, most don’t regulate the checking of killing traps so animals that aren’t killed immediately can suffer for days or weeks before they are found”.
Restraining Traps (most common: leg-hold trap): These are intended to restrain an animal (while alive) until the trapper returns to “dispatch” him or her (“dispatch” is the industry term for kill). The most common restraining trap is the infamous leg-hold trap. Despite being banned by many countries around the world, as well as Florida, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Arizona, the leg-hold trap is still legal in every province and territory in Canada. The American Veterinary Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, the BC SPCA and the Sierra Club all oppose the leg-hold trap.
Prolonged agony is a guarantee for any animal caught in a restraining trap (and remember that even traps designed to ‘kill’ often don’t even have regulated trap check times). As if this isn’t upsetting enough, these weak regulations are also largely unenforceable. For example, in BC, there are only 92 regional staff in the Conservation Officer Service to enforce the Fisheries and Wildlife Act. That averages about one Officer per 10,269 km2. This guarantees that untold amounts of animal suffering go undocumented and uninvestigated across Canada. Animals die trying to free themselves, as well as from dehydration, blood loss, hypothermia or predation by other animals. Many animals become so desperate they resort to chewing off their own limbs to escape. Animal families are destroyed. For example, in 1975 it was reported at a US Congressional hearing that one Alaskan lynx remained trapped for six weeks while members of his family brought him food to keep him alive. When the trapper finally returns, the restrained animal will be bludgeoned, choked, or stomped to death (so as not to damage the pelt).
Drowning Sets (most common trap: leghold and conibear): These traps are used on semi-aquatic animals such as beaver, otter, and muskrats. Semi-aquatic animals make up 60% of Canada’s trapped animals. Traps are set either underwater or set so that the animal will be pulled underwater once caught. Both are intended to drown the animals, and the CFHS reports that they “undergo excruciating pain and stress as they struggle for several minutes – beavers sometimes struggle up to 20 minutes – before they die”.
(Photo: Left - beaver in underwater Conibear trap.)