Leg-hold traps explained (Yes, they are STILL LEGAL!)

Image of a leg-hold trap
A padded leg-hold trap. These traps are legal and used widely across Canada by trappers.

Terms like “humane” and “certified” make it seem like trapping wildlife is a painless process. But traps cause suffering – and leg-hold traps, still in use, are no different.

The leg-hold is referred to as a ‘restraining trap’. It is used primarily on foxes, coyotes, raccoons, wolves, lynx, and bobcats. These traps are placed in areas where animals are known to pass through and will catch the animal by the limb (ensuring the pelt remains unspoiled).

The leg-hold trap is comprised of a metal foot plate and curved jaws, powered by strong springs. It is usually anchored into the ground by a short chain and metal spike or is secured to a tree or a large branch.

Once triggered, the trap immobilizes the animal. This prevents them from eating and drinking, caring for their young, fending off predators, or sheltering themselves from the elements. Leg-hold traps are designed to hold a wild animal who does not want to be caught. In their distress and panic, many animals become so desperate to escape that they resort to chewing or wringing off their trapped limbs, breaking their teeth and bones in the process.

Animals endure a painful and panic-filled period until they either die from exhaustion, blood loss, predation, dehydration, hypothermia, or are clubbed, choked, or stomped to death by the trapper (so as not to damage the pelt).

The following are the most common models of leg-hold traps:

A padded leg-hold trap.

The so-called ‘padded’ trap clamps onto an animal’s leg with enough power to hold an adult wolf. The only difference between a padded trap and a regular steel jawed leg-hold trap is a strip of synthetic nylon lining the powerful steel jaws. This can be likened to slamming your hand in a car door. This trap is marketed by the fur industry as “humane”.

An offset leg-hold trap.

The offset trap is a regular steel jawed leg-hold trap with a 3/16” gap between the closed steel jaws. The small space was thought to allow for blood flow to the trapped limb. When blood flow is restricted, it numbs the trapped limb, increasing the likelihood of an animal chewing or wringing off their limb and escaping.

A laminated leg-hold trap.

The laminated trap is a regular steel jawed leg-hold trap with extra steel added to the jaws to make them wider (thicker). The pressure of the jaws is spread over a larger area with the intention of allowing for increased blood flow. As described above, when blood flow is restricted, it numbs the trapped limb, increasing the likelihood of an animal chewing or wringing off their limb and escaping.

Despite being banned in many countries around the world and several states in the US, the leg-hold trap is still legal in every province and territory in Canada (only leg-holds with ‘teeth’ have been prohibited). The American Veterinary Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, the World Veterinary Association, the National Animal Control Association, and the Sierra Club all oppose the leg-hold trap. Every Canadian should know how to open a leg-hold trap in case of an emergency. The Fur-Bearers has provided a short video tutorial of how to open a leg-hold trap here.

Take Action!

There’s a few ways you can take action to end the use of leg-hold traps and prevent suffering:

  1. Talk to your MPP, MLA, or MNA about leg-hold traps. Trapping is regulated at the provincial and territorial level. Meeting with your provincial, elected representative is an effective way to communicate the need for change and ensure you’re heard.
  2. Get updates from The Fur-Bearers. Sign up to receive our email newsletter to find out about action alerts related to trapping, seasonal information, and more! Click here to get started.
  3. Share this page. Simply sharing the facts about leg-hold traps as shown on this page can go a long way in changing minds and activating people’s willingness to take on an issue. 
  4. Don’t buy fur products. While much of Canada’s exported fur comes from fur farms, trapping is still responsible for many animals suffering for the commercial fashion industry. Don’t buy fur, and you can help end the need for trapping.
  5. Become a Defender. The Fur-Bearers is a registered Canadian charity that relies on the support of individuals like you! By becoming a monthly donor, you will help us plan long-term campaigns as well as respond to crises as they arise. Click here to learn more about the benefits of being a monthly donor and to get started. Monthly donations are eligible for Canadian charitable tax receipts, issued as a year-end summary by The Fur-Bearers.

This page was last updated on September 15, 2022. Click here to see sources related to this content.

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Established in 1953, The Fur-Bearers is a charitable, non-partisan organization whose goals are to end the commercial fur trade and promote solutions for wildlife coexistence in communities. Your donation is tax-deductible. Charitable registration number: 130006125RR0002

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