Trapping Ethics

Each trapper has the duty to become as knowledgeable and skillful as he can, and to apply that knowledge and skill in a responsible manner. Although there is a long history and tradition associated with trapping, the future is uncertain unless the trapper is willing to adapt. Today’s trapper must be willing and able to accept new ideas and to adopt new trapping systems when necessary.

The biological facts about trapping and hunting are clear. Harvestable surpluses can be used as a renewable resource to the benefit of both people and wildlife populations. On the other hand, the moral issue of trapping is very unclear because philosophical views toward trapping vary widely. Two individuals may have opposite and extreme viewpoints on the propriety of trapping – yet neither is inherently “right” or “wrong”. There is nothing wrong with disagreement, but all individuals should have the opportunity to choose what is right for them, rather than having that decision forced on them.

Trappers are responsible for their own actions. In addition, all trappers will be judged – to a greater or lesser extent – by the actions of each individual. Each trapper is therefore accountable not only to himself, but to all other trappers.

Common Mistakes to be Avoided

Some of the most common mistakes made by beginning trappers are listed below so that you will be aware of them and will avoid making them.

1. Use of the wrong size, style, or type of trap for the animal or situation.

Examples include using foothold or killer traps in situations where there is a high likelihood of capturing domestic animals; using traps that are too large for the intended animal; using a standard foothold in a situation where a “stoploss” is called for, etc.

2. Failure to fasten traps properly.

Improperly staked or wired traps can result in extremely severe injuries to trapped animals, which pull the trap loose and escape with it on their foot. Also, the use of good swivels on the trap chain allows the trap to more freely move with the animal’s foot, reducing injury. In general, trap injuries increase with the amount of time the animal spends in the trap, particularly if circulation to the foot is restricted.

3. Failure to check traps regularly.

There is a tendency for inexperienced trappers to lose interest if a set goes untouched for a number of days, and they may assume that it is never going to catch anything. That is wrong, and no trap should be set if it cannot be tended to as required by law.

4. Too many trappers attempt to compensate for lack of knowledge of furbearer habits through the excessive use of baits.

Baits certainly have a purpose, but when used improperly they can lead to the unnecessary capture of non-target animals. By law, foothold traps cannot be set closer than 20 feet from exposed bait since birds of prey and other animals are attracted by the sight of the bait.

5. Use of inappropriate sets in areas of high human or domestic animal use.

In general, land sets with foothold or killer traps should be avoided in areas such as parks, high-use recreation or hunting areas, and residential developments. Live traps, water sets, and various types of “dog-proof” sets are more acceptable in these areas.

6. Violation of the property right of others.

Illegal trespassing and illegal tampering with the traps or sets of others are two of the worst mistakes a beginning trapper can make.

Code of Responsible Trapping

The following points are keys to trapping in a responsible and ethical manner:


1.    Respect private property. Do not violate trespass laws or tamper with the property of others. Ask permission from the landowner.

2.    Know selective and humane trapping systems and use them appropriately.

3.    Check traps regularly, preferably in the morning.

4.    Be aware of others using the outdoors and do not interfere with their activities.

5.    Assist property owners with wildlife damage problems.

6.    Avoid areas or sets likely to result in the capture of domestic animals.

7.    Be a conservationist. Make an effort to trap only the surplus.

8.    Promptly report wildlife problems such as disease, pollution or habitat destruction.

9.    Identify and record all trap locations accurately. Pick up all traps promptly when you have finished trapping.

10.    Utilize furbearer carcasses for human, domestic animal, or wildlife food whenever possible.

11.    Dispose of unused carcasses properly.

12.    Provide educational assistance to new trappers.

13.    Support strict enforcement of laws relating to wildlife and wildlife habitat.

14.    Respect the rights and feelings of others, even if you disagree with them.

15.    Cooperate with wildlife management agencies.

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