I am not an ‘animal rights activist’, but I find the business of trapping for fur/money disgusting. Hunting or trapping for food and survival is one thing. Hunting for trophy and trapping for the almighty dollar disregards not the ‘rights’ of an animal, but the fact that animals are conscious beings, not just some commodity.
Yesterday I ran into two trappers going out to check their American Marten traps. I asked if I could accompany them. They were nice guys and frankly they were trapping in a most humane way. The type of trap they used, called a conibear, instantly kills the animal when it attempts to get the bait (a piece of beaver meat is what they used). They set their trap far away from the road or where people might venture. They used a trap that sits on a pole inclined against a tree; that way the Marten has to climb the pole. In addition, their trap was inside a box too small for a lynx, a cat on the endangered species list. We hiked up through deep snow into the trees. I was glad nothing was in the trap, although they’d caught seven during the season,which ends tomorrow.
I asked these guys how much they were getting for a pelt. $50 was their answer. “Bobcats are going for $500” they volunteered. “What drives the prices?” I asked. “The markets mainly in China and Russia, depending upon whether their economy is up or down.” $50 or $500, it just amazes me people are still willing to trade a life for money.
Although these trappers trapped humanely, many trappers use a leg hold type trap, which does not kill the animal but restrains it. Animals have been known, like the movie ‘127 hours‘, to chew their leg off to get out of the trap. Trappers are supposed to check them every three days (my God! that means an animal might be suffering in there for days!) but many just check them weekly or so. I have to watch my dog as we hike. The bait they use for bobcats, rabbit plus lots of scent, is a mighty strong attractant for a dog. Those traps are covered over by brush or snow, not even visible to me. If he were to step in one, or even if I were, I’d never be able to open them up as they require a lot of force. Most probably, they’d break his leg.
Trapping laws in Wyoming are still essentially the same as they’ve been for over 100 years. If you touch a trappers set-up, you can go to jail or be fined. If you even kill an animal suffering in a trapper’s trap, you are breaking the law. Trapping itself is an antiquated, outdated ‘sport’.
Trappers will tell you that their job is essential to the ‘balance of nature’. If they didn’t trap, then these animals would overpopulate and become a nuisance–animal control basically. This, of course, is a ridiculous argument. Nuisance animals are only a nuisance because we humans declare it so. Nature is able to balance things out through natural cycles. Except, of course, for us humans. There are 8 billion people on this planet, a totally out of control species.
I do have to admire these trappers in many ways: they know their animal and understand how to trap them. Trapping is essentially a lot harder than hunting. You have to outsmart the animals, and animals are very smart. I have been trying all winter to get my trail camera to photograph a bobcat and although I’ve gotten the bobcat to take the bait, no photo yet.
In todays’ world of diminishing wildlife, here are the gross receipts they’ve been reduced to for their pelts:
Marten – $35.85
Beaver – $14.41
Coyotes – $44.83
Bobcats – $572.21
Raccoon – $18.92.
Badger – $25.50
Red Fox – $31.22
Mink – $11.90
Otter – $46.63
Skunk – $7.80
Ermine – $2.31
Porcupine guard hair – $22.82
Beaver castor – $44.23
Isn’t it time we start thinking differently. So many species have been on the brink of extinction due to fashion. There are plenty of people but not many animals left.