Trapping our wildlife
Editor of the Reformer:
The public has been misled to believe that trapping is a necessary wildlife management tool. This claim is not supported by any hard, scientific data; if anything, the data available points to the opposite conclusion. state agencies, including the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department promote trapping since wildlife departments are largely funded by trapping licensing fees and federal grants. Follow the money trail.
Traps are indiscriminate in the animals they trap. It is estimated that at least two "non-target" animals are trapped for every animal species actually targeted. Moreover, traps are just as likely to capture healthy, young, and productive animals, as diseased or mature ones. Therefore, trapping cannot target certain animals in order to "manage" a population. Since the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department relies on self-reporting by trappers, trapping cannot even provide reliable figures on animals killed, on which to base sound management decisions.
Leghold traps, commonly used in Vermont, are a particularly cruel way to trap an animal. These traps are not designed to kill, but rather, to forcefully immobilize an animal until the trapper returns to either shoot, bludgeon or suffocate the animal. Many non-target species are caught in leghold traps, including birds of prey such as owls, and Vermont endangered animals like the American marten. Since trappers are only required to check traps every 24 hours, the animals suffer for hours on end, often with injuries and exposed to weather extremes, before being killed and skinned for their fur. Leghold traps set underwater kill the animals by drowning, which can take up to 20 minutes for beavers.
Trapping poses additional harm when undertaken on public lands, which are accessed by a wide sector of the public, accompanied by their pets. This is why an initiative in Montana proposes to ban trapping on all of its public lands, despite the presence of a strong hunting and trapping culture there. Vermont should do the same.