Trapping is torture

Cover image from Born Free USA "Crushing Cruelty" report released in April.

Trapping is perhaps the most egregious abuse of our wildlife. The targeted animals (and often, untargeted creatures who get caught incidentally) can sit in a trap for up to 96 hours in the state of Nevada without the requirement for trappers to check on them. Don’t bet that every trapper will check after four days, if it isn’t convenient for them.

Reports from the Born Free USA wildlife advocacy organization have exposed the trapping industry and found that the few existing regulations that monitor trapping are often ignored by trappers who leave traps out after the close of the trapping season, continuing to capture animals. There are no authorities present when traps are set or an animal is killed.  

The animals who get caught in these barbaric, archaic devices (conibear, leghold, and snare traps) are helpless as they experience the elements, pain, hunger, thirst, fear and possible attacks by predators. Sometimes they leave behind cubs or pups who are too young to survive on their own.

Oftentimes, a mother will chew off her own limb in a desperate attempt to get back to her young. She will risk blood loss and infection in doing so; and she will be severely hindered for the remainder of her life by the loss of that limb if she does survive.

It’s not uncommon for an animal to become an incidental victim. A Born Free USA investigator speaking with a trapper reported the following:  “In one of [the foothold traps] we find a fox squirrel, caught by both front paws. [The trapper] released the fox squirrel from the trap. Both of its front legs are stripped down to the flesh by the trap. He doesn’t usually use fox squirrel, though others will use the fur, so he lets it go. At the same time he says it probably won’t survive and that seems the case as it limps off slowly.” One can imagine that animal’s agony.

The steel-jaw leghold trap is more commonly used by both commercial and recreational trappers. More than 85 foreign countries have banned the use of this trap, but only a few U.S. states have either banned or severely restricted its use. While a few states have reduced their trap check time to 24 hours, Nevada isn’t among them. The American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, World Veterinary Association and the National Animal Control Association have declared leghold traps to be inhumane.

Federal and state wildlife services also kill a staggering number of animals with various trapping devices, in addition to using poison and aerial shooting. These techniques are primarily random and non-selective, which result in the deaths of untargeted animals, as well. Those can include dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, turtles, bears, squirrels, and endangered species. 

In 2017, Nevadans who were polled indicated strong support for the reform of the state’s trapping regulations in order to reduce the suffering of wildlife, and to protect pets and public safety.

In 2019, the Nevada Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Mining introduced Assembly Bill 473, which would have banned the use of leghold traps and reduced trap check time to 24 hours. Sadly, there was little progress as it seems that the general public’s wishes are continually ignored in favor of sporting interests in spite of the fact that trappers comprise a minority of Nevada’s population (voters/constituents).

Our representatives should be urged to implement alternative humane methods of animal control; and where trapping is still permitted, to reduce the trap check time to 24 hours and ensure that regulations are enforced.

We should all be on the lookout for hidden traps when hiking with our dogs and report any incidents to local law enforcement and Nevada’s Department of Wildlife (be sure to document).

Those who reside in rural areas are encouraged to post signs and prosecute anyone who sets a trap on private property.

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Annoula Wylderich is the founder of Animal Protection Affiliates, a grassroots organization based in Las Vegas.