Ethics & Responsibility


There are a number of reasons why people trap. For some, it is mainly for money or out of a need to reduce wildlife damage, but for most trappers, it is primarily for other less tangible reasons. Several recent studies, done in various parts of the country, have consistently shown that most trappers rate values such as nature enjoyment, challenge, and recreation above economic gain as reasons why they trap. Some of the motivations behind why people trap are discussed in more detail below.

Economics – Although monetary return is important to most trappers, those individuals who begin trapping because they think it will be an easy way to make a “fast buck” soon find out otherwise. If the average trapper took his annual earnings, subtracted the costs of traps, equipment, and transportation, and then divided the remainder by the number of hours spent obtaining permission, scouting, preparing equipment, setting, and checking traps, and handling and selling the fur, he would realize just how low his hourly earnings really are. But for most, that doesn’t matter. The attraction of trapping goes far beyond the dollars earned.

Challenge and Recreation – Trappers, of necessity, must learn the requirements and habits of the animals they seek in great detail. A recent national survey found that trappers were among the most knowledgeable groups about wildlife and were also among the most concerned about the preservation of wildlife habitats.

Not only does trapping require detailed knowledge of animals, but it also involves long hours, physical labor, and the need to be out every day, no matter what the weather. A typical day on the trapline, even for “part-timers,” begins before daylight with trap checking and resetting, and does not end until well after dark when all furs have been properly taken care of and equipment is prepared for another day. Successful trapping is far more difficult than many people realize. Fox trappers, for example, typically average only about one fox per 100 trap nights (a trap night is one trap set for one night).  It sounds like hard work, and it is. Yet to those who understand and appreciate trapping, nothing is more satisfying. If you lack the motivation and perseverance to do the work involved, day after day, regardless of the weather, then you should consider taking another activity that requires less discipline.

Aesthetics and Heritage – Some of the motivations for trapping are difficult to express but are an immeasurable part of the experience. For some trappers, it is the knowledge that they are practicing a skill, which dates back to the time of their forefathers. For others, it is seeing the changing moods of nature – experiencing frosty sunrises and glorious sunsets far removed from the rush of everyday life. There is also a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes from being able to identify animal signs at a glance and interpret what is seen with a fair degree of accuracy.

Damage Control – Some people trap not so much because they want to but because they must. Landowners and livestock producers often fall into this category. Although there are some methods of preventing or reducing wildlife damage that do not involve the removal of animals, the fact remains that the only practical solution to many problems is removing the animals that are causing it. Trapping remains the single most versatile and effective tool for removing many types of problem animals. 

Responsibility – No matter what your motivation for wanting to trap, we want to stress that you should never set a single trap unless you are willing to learn how and where to set it correctly and unless you are willing to check it promptly and regularly as required by law. There is no room in the ranks of trappers for those who are unwilling to accept that responsibility, or who are unwilling to respect and study the animals they seek.

Ethics and Responsibilities

Key Ingredients for Trappers Who Care about Their Sport

Many people view trapping and the use of fur as controversial issues. Much of this controversy stems from misinformation and misunderstanding on both sides. As trappers, we know that our sport is a legitimate use of a natural renewable resource, but we often have trouble putting this in terms that non-trappers can understand or appreciate. Few of us are accomplished public speakers or trained in public relations. Nevertheless, we communicate a message about our sport and about ourselves every time we mention that we’re trappers.


Demonstrating ethics and responsibility while trapping sends many positive messages that non-trappers understand and appreciate more than any explanation. These values are understood universally and don’t require extra time or special training. Yet they tell people that we’re proud to be trappers, we care about our sport, and we care about the resources we’re using.


“You are your brother’s keeper. Your actions reflect either credit or discredit on the thousands of others who run traplines in Minnesota and across the nation.”

Maintain Good Landowner Relations

Obtaining permission to trap is more than the law. It’s an opportunity to earn respect by respecting landowners and their property. Be polite and presentable while asking for permission. If it’s granted, take time to make sure you know where the property lines are so that neighbors’ rights are upheld as well.


Ask the landowner or tenant if they’ve noticed damage or other problems caused by furbearers. Chances are that if you’re taking time to ask permission from a particular landowner, the property has good habitat and high furbearer populations. Asking about damage will help to reinforce the point that trapping provides a service by reducing furbearer populations and the problems they can cause. By the same token, don’t promise more than you can deliver. As always, practice common sense and courtesy by leaving gates the way you found them, walking, or using a four-wheeler when fields and field roads are too wet to drive, and avoiding sets that might result in non-target catches.


Many trappers send a short thank-you note to landowners and tenants. A holiday greeting card can mean a lot as well. Offering to help with a chore or dropping off a pheasant or some venison will do more than words can express. Respect Other Outdoor Enthusiasts.


Autumn and winter are popular times for many outdoor activities like hunting, hiking, bird watching, and cross-country skiing. Taking the time to find out which activities are likely to take place in an area you’re trapping is the first step in avoiding any misunderstandings between you, the landowner, and others sharing his property. Most activities are compatible with trapping and don’t require further thought. If an area receives a lot of hunting pressure, you can time your use of a property to avoid peak times that hunters tend to choose like opening weekends and holidays. If this isn’t practical, use the most selective traps and trapping techniques to reduce the chances of a non-target catch. Doing so will improve your skills, image, and satisfaction.

Keep Familiar with Improvements in Trapping Equipment and Techniques

Nearly all trappers have looked for better ways to do the same job. While this usually involves years of refinement and a realization that simple methods often work best, new developments in equipment and methods often have a place in specific applications or even broader use. Body-gripping traps like Conibears are a good example. Many trappers considered them “gadgets” when they were first made available. Today they form the backbone of the muskrat and beaver trapping industry.

Improving efficiency, selectivity and humaneness isn’t a new idea for the trapping industry. Many time-honored techniques addressed these concerns about trapping. However, research and development are occurring at a faster pace today and require more effort to keep abreast of state-of-the-art developments in equipment and methods.

Keeping up to date with new developments is easier today than it was in the past.  Some sources are Trapper magazines and newsletters, presentations at trapping conventions, instructional books and videos, and contact with other trappers at fur sales and conventions.

Some Methods for Improving Efficiency, Selectivity, and Humaneness

·   Use pan tension devices to avoid non-target catches

·   Use extra swivels and center-mounted chains to hold more animals and reduce the chance of injuries

·   Use modern positioning techniques at dirt hole sets to increase selectivity

·   Use short trap chains for most land sets, especially those targeted for fox and coyote

·   Use guarded or “stop-loss” traps for muskrats in shallow water or dry land sets

·   Use dispatching methods that are quick and humane

·   Use trap sizes that are appropriate for the target species – pad catches are desirable for fox, coyote, raccoon, and many other animals because they cause fewer injuries

·   Use baits and lures that attract target species but not other animals

·   Use cage, box, or species-specific traps near barns, outbuildings, and other locations where domestic animals may be present

·   Use common sense in choosing set locations that maximize opportunities to catch target species and minimize opportunities to catch other animals

·   Use secure methods of attaching traps – tailor methods to hold the largest species you may catch

·   Use traps with padded or laminated jaws where the risk of non-target catches is high

·   Use discretion when setting body-gripping traps

·   Use time to your advantage – don’t set more traps than you can handle

·   Use early morning trap checks to reduce the time an animal is held, reduce its chances of escape, and avoid theft of traps and animals.

Appreciate Perceptions of Non-Trappers

Trappers who act responsibly and ethically don’t have anything to hide. However, they need to appreciate the fact that most people know little or nothing about trapping. Differences in backgrounds, cultures and experience can cause misinterpretation of your words, deeds, and actions. Keep this in mind when communicating with non-trappers. Put yourself in their place if you want an honest evaluation of how you’re portraying your sport. Make an effort to communicate on their level. Above all, remember that high standards of ethics and responsibility form a message that can’t be mistaken.


“Always play the game fairly. Your sense of accomplishment and pride in your success will be all the greater.”

Respect the Resource

Ethical trappers respect the resouces they use. Part of this involves making the most of your catch. Follow proper pelt handling procedures and take pride in your work at all times. Look for secondary markets for carcasses, castor, and other by-products for baits and lures when possible. If not, dispose of them properly.

Wildlife laws are designed to conserve our fur resources while allowing for responsible use. Become familiar with and obey all regulations. Report voilations to a Conservation Officer. Violators are stealing from trappers and non-trappers alike, as well as giving the sport a bad name.

“Trapping’s rewards are great, not only in the harvest of fur, but in the very special satisfaction gained from time spend afield. Accept your share with gratitude and don’t waste a precious gift.”


You may be the only trapper that many people will ever know. Leave them with a gold impression by upholding high standards of ethics and responsibility in your words, deeds, and actions. Be proud to be a trapper and a good representative for others who enjoy the sport.

· Maintain Good Landowner Relations

· Respect Other Outdoor Enthusiasts

· Keep Familiar with Improvements in Trapping Equipment and Techniques

· Respect the Resource

· Identify and record all trap locations accurately

· Pick up all traps as soon as you are finished trapping

· Cooperate with wildlife management agencies

Ethics and Responsibility

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