by Duane Fronek
Trapping has been around since this country began and was the driving force behind the exploration of the west, mainly beaver. Trapping still exists today, and like hunting has gone thru many changes over the years like technique but more importantly, the tools or equipment that we use. Just like guns and bows, traps have morphed into more efficient tools to ensure better results. Guns and bows are more accurate resulting in quicker cleaner kills as well as more user friendly. Traps are no different, improvements over the years have made them more humane to human standards. I say human standards because ma nature isn’t so humane as outdoorsmen and women are, not by a long shot. But in the minds of people, pain and suffering is looked at in the human sense and not the animal kingdoms sense, they are two completely different plains. Take for example a deer that gets hit by a car and breaks a leg and runs off. There’s a good chance that animal will heal and be fine with no intervention from anything. A person on the other hand requires medical attention, pain meds, antibiotics and physical therapy. The reason is we are made completely different than animals. Animals have different pain receptors in the brain than people, and they have too in order to survive the elements.
Now with taking this into account, lets look at traps. There are basically 2 kinds of trap catagories, live traps ie cage traps, footholds and live catch snares aka cable restraints. The kill types are snares and body grippers. Cage traps basically hold the animal in a cage, a simple cage with an opening and the door closes when the animal trips the trigger, simple concept, but is mainly efficient for animals like raccoon, squirrels, rabbits etc. Footholds aka legholds innappropiately because the trap holds the animal by the paw and not the leg, is one of the most popular traps for general trapping. Though their design looks similar in appearance as their older counterparts, much like bows and guns, there function is productive and humane. We’ve all heard the stories of animals chewing their leg off to get out etc., the truth is, older traps back in the earlier days could cut feet or break a foot and the animal would twist out or the trap would cut off circulation to the toes held beneath the jaws causing them to go numb, the animal would chew on the trap that has a hold of them in defense, but being the numb toes beneath the jaws were easier to chew they would chew on them, they didnt feel it so they chewed not knowing its their toes. An animal can’t reason that if I chew my toes or foot I can get away, they would have to done it a number of times to make that reasoning, just like teaching a dog a trick. The other part of this is, being that the toes or foot are numb they don’t feel it, an animal will not inflict pain on itself, it seems humans are the only species that tend to self harm. So what makes footholds today more animal friendly? If you think about, if traps result in animals chewing their foot or pulling out, it is of no benefit for the trapper. It results in a lost animal, which in turn means lost fur or food, much like a gun that fails to do what its intended for. Footholds today have improvements built into them that not only insure animal comfort, but also prevents losses and also allows the trapper to release unwanted catches unharmed. These improvements include smoother jaws with rounded edges that prevent any cutting along with wider thicker jaws that cover more of the paw to ensure blood flow, and gaps in the jaws when closed to ensure blood flow even more, some have rubber jaw pads on the trap, but rubber if not the right hardness like the older types can cut blood flow by comforming to the foot if left too long. These traps have springs on them that ensure the proper amount of tension on the foot to just hold the animal, not a crushing strength, they also have added swivels in the chain to allow the animal free movement while restrained so no twisting can break a bone. They also have the ability to adjust the tension it takes to trip the trap, each species puts a certain amount of weight on each foot when it steps down, so like a canine like coyote it takes about 2-4 lbs, so if you set the trap with that much tension, you can avoid catching animals that exert say a ½-1 lb like raccoon, the trap won’t fire. Now couple that with the fact that an animals paw is tough and fleshy and able to walk on whatever terrain it encounters whether its wet, dry or sub-zero temps, and you have a device or tool that really treats the animal well. The nice thing too is, if want to release what you caught because its say a non target animal or fur that isn’t quite prime, you can. These traps have been used often in relocating and reintroducing animals such as wolves. They use them to catch wolves then move the wolves to areas they want to introduce them to, with no harm done to the feet. Because animals like wolves and other canines are hard to coax into a cage trap, thats why footholds are used extensively on canines. So now days even though the foothold looks the same or similar to its older counterpart, the improvements in the modern traps have made it humane and also user friendly, much like our modern firearms and bows.
Now lets look at snares. They’re two types, kill snares and live catch cable restraints. Kill snares do what the name implies, they kill. But they kill humanely, they are not the crude snares of yesterday, they are like the foothold with improvements implemented into them to make them fast, efficient and humane. We all remember the animal rights adds with animals heads hanging by a thread or cut completely off from snares. In reality not you or I or any other living thing could live long enough for the time it would take to do that struggling in a snare, you’d be dead way before the skin was even cut. The AR groups work on emotion, not common sense or the law of physics or reality. Any how, snares today have what we call locks, these locks cinch down and dont back off, when the animal goes through the snare the loop closes on the neck and cinches down tight with the aid of a small spring on the lock that ensures the lock not backing off. The animals air is cut off and thus passes out not regaining consciousness. This all happens in a matter of minutes and a lot of times faster than the time it takes for an animal to die from a bullet or arrow, and if you’ve done any tracking of an animal that has been shot, you’d see this to be the case. Like the foothold the snare can be used to be animal specific by adjusting how high the loop is set off the ground, allowing non targets to walk under or step over or push over, they can also be set with certain loop sizes to further ensure avoiding non target catches. Most states trapping regulations will list what can be used and what can not, just like hunting regs. Same goes for footholds or any other traps. Live catch snares or cable restraint are another type of snare but just holds the animal alive, and some states like here in WI, this is what can be used. Live catch snares have whats called a relaxing lock that doesn’t stay cinched down, but relaxes when the animal quits pulling and to ensure that it does not kill they have what is called a stop on the cable that only allows the loop of the cable to close only so far, so that it does not choke the animal. It basically works like having a dog on a leash, and here again the trapper has the ability to chose whether to release or to dispatch the animal. The other thing, studies have shown that if a dog gets caught in these, that a dog being use to being tied up, just sits and waits to be let out. On that note I’d like to say that most animals I have trapped with snares, cables and footholds, most were relaxed and laying down or sleeping. Studies have shown with the modern day trapping equipment, that the animal will initially fight the trap, but soon settles down and relaxes.
The other style trap we have is called a body gripper. Its designed to be a lethal quick kill trap, and that it is. Its used mainly on raccoon and water animals. It works by the animal sticking its head thru when going into a hole or tight trail, which it trips and catches the animal by the body or head, instantly knocking the animal out, but the animal does not regain conciousness because it cuts off its breathing. Regulations on these type traps are very specific in most states depending on there size, some can only be set in water for animals like beaver and otter, and the smaller ones may have to be set inside an enclosure like a cubby box to prevent domestic animal catches like dogs or cats, so the regs are quite strict on their uses. But they are very humane that they kill quickly and effectively.
As you can see, traps of today have had many improvements through the ages, as well as being species specific. Trapping has taken a bad rap through the years, basically due to things that happened years ago with outdated equipment then toted by animal rights groups as gospel today, and being trappers make up the smallest percentage of the outdoor user groups they are a prime target by these groups, many times times turning other sportsmen and women against trappers using fallacy. All user groups need to stay educated on not just what they do as their outdoor pursuits, but educated on others chosen outdoor pursuits so they don’t get pulled into the lies that will eventually be used against them when others passions are outlawed.
I hope this article has helped shed some light on traps and trapping, and dispel some of the fog thats been exploited by the anti groups over the years. Good luck out there in whatever you do.