Sound Off: Animal Trapping

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In Oregon, it is legal to trap foxes, coyotes, raccoons and other fur-bearing animals for game. The regulations around trapping remain a vestige of pioneer days. For example, trapping is allowed on public lands as long as the trap is set more than fifty feet from a public trail or 300 feet from trailheads and campgrounds. A trapper is required by law to check what has walked into his trap only once in two days. In November, measure 97, which would restrict trapping, is on the ballot. We reached out to both sides of this debate, but the Oregon Trappers Association declined to comment. 

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Wally Sykes Founder, TrapFree Oregon

ALTHOUGH MOST OREGONIANS AREN’T AWARE, trapping in Oregon is a stark, brutal reality. About 800 fur trappers (.0002 percent of the state population) kill more than 20,000 animals annually using leghold traps, neck snares and Conibear body-gripping traps. The latter two are kill traps. Beyond targeted species, deer, hawks, eagles, cougars, wolverines, wolves, rabbits, dogs, cats, and more are unintentionally trapped. The list is long and the numbers unknown since reporting “by catch” is not required, except for threatened or endangered species. Bobcats are the most valuable, averaging $350 (Eastern Oregon) and $50 (Western Oregon) last season. Most furs go to China, most finished garments to Russia. The season runs from mid-November through March 31 and traps are abundant on public lands, especially along trails, streams, and roads where Oregonians like to hike, ski and snowshoe. Traps are not marked, are indiscriminate, and there is no limit, so a trapper may set 200 or more each season.

What’s wrong with trapping? Well, some object to the commercial killing of wildlife which belongs to all Oregonians, not just trappers. Some fear for their pets, a number of which are trapped each year. Some think traps are dangerous to public safety. The majority find this savage hobby to be indecent, for animals can legally remain in traps up to forty-eight hours and suffer horribly. Some victims chew off a trapped leg (called “wring-off”) or otherwise maul themselves. Neck snares often don’t kill, so animals linger in semi-suffocation, sometimes suffering grossly swollen heads (“jelly-head” to trappers) or the noose tightens around the abdomen or leg. Conibear traps sometimes miss the neck and break spines or crush ribs—a long excruciating death. The trapper ends the struggle by clubbing, strangling or suffocating his catch.

Washington, California, Colorado and Arizona have ended or severely restricted fur trapping. Has Oregon the decency to do the same?

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