Trapping is a well regulated, sustainable and progressive activity.
Throughout human history, people have trapped animals for fur, meat and other valuable products, as well as to protect property and human safety.
It is only in recent years that trapping has been used for the added purposes of conservation, environmental protection and for maintaining biodiversity.
Trapping for fur and food remains an important economic and cultural activity, especially in remote communities. However, in most developed countries including Canada, human-wildlife conflict is increasing. This is leading to a growing need for wildlife control in both urban and rural areas. Trapping is an important tool used for this purpose.
Modern trapping respects animal welfare and is often the most practical and economical option for capturing wild animals.
Trapping is a significant economic generator to Canada’s economy. When aboriginals are included there are about 50,000 commercial trappers in Canada.
While figures vary from year-to-year in 2009-2010 (the last year statistics Canada kept records) nearly 750,000 wildlife pelts were harvested with a value of almost $15 million. This accounted for nearly 1/3 of Canada’s fur pelt output.
The most prevalent species trapped for fur is the muskrat followed by beaver.
While fur trapping occurs in every province and territory, Quebec is the leading fur trapping province, followed by Ontario.
Trapping licence fees and royalties generate income for provincial and territorial governments.
Trapping continues to occur in all parts of Canada (and around the world) for many reasons:
- to protect natural habitat, farmland, roads and other property from wildlife damage;
- for disease control (such as rabies or beaver fever);
- to maintain or improve biodiversity of both animals and plants;
- to protect vulnerable species from over-abundant predators or competing species;
- for public safety;
- to safely remove wildlife in urban and suburban areas;
- for reintroducing species to their historical territories;
- for conservation research;
- for environmental and wildlife monitoring;
- for furs and food.
Trapping would continue to occur whether or not the fur and meat is used.
- Animals, such as raccoon, skunk, coyote and other species are typically nocturnal and difficult to locate so traditional hunting methods cannot be used. Trapping is often the only practical way to capture them.
- Furbearers can cause flood damage, harm livestock and pets, spread disease such as rabies and increase risks to human health, all of which lead to significant costs for taxpayers and property owners. Trapping is an important wildlife management option used to prevent or to stop such damage and risks. While a variety of options currently exist for dealing with problem wildlife, such as poisons, altering wildlife environments or introducing predators, in many cases trapping animals can be the most effective and sustainable option for maintaining biodiversity and protecting property.
Regulated seasonal fur trapping is a consistent way to manage populations at no cost to taxpayers. Trapping fees and royalties paid by fur trappers also contribute to government revenues, helping to offset tax dollars needed to fund government conservation efforts. Without fur trapping, municipal and provincial taxes would have to be raised significantly to pay professional licensed trappers for wildlife control services, and to cover damage claims and more costly alternative management methods.
Properly conducted, trapping has immediate results in reducing over-populations and the lingering animal suffering that can result from hunger or disease. While alternatives such as chemical birth control or vaccination baits can be effective in certain circumstances they can also take several seasons to have effect.
For some species, such as raccoons, trapping is preferred over catch-and-release relocation programs. Such programs often lead to starvation for relocated animals unfamiliar with their new surroundings or create nuisance problems in the relocation areas. Catch and release also increases the risk of spreading wildlife diseases. It is for these reasons that in some Canadian jurisdictions it is illegal to relocate wild animals outside their immediate territory, making it impossible to effectively remove problematic animals.
Wildlife management programs that include selective commercial trapping can help to reduce the need for wasteful ‘pest’ trapping.
For example, while several European countries no longer permit trapping animals for their fur, trapping for other purposes still occurs. European countries collectively trap five times more wild fur animals, such as muskrats, for ‘nuisance’ or ‘pest’ control than Canadian trappers do for fur. Unfortunately, these animals are not allowed to be used and are disposed of as waste.
- Fur trapping plays an important role in wildlife monitoring, species protection and conservation research.
Capturing wild animals as well as observing changes in the animals and their habitats are necessary parts of wildlife conservation efforts. Trappers and trapping provide an important source of statistical and scientific information. In many cases, there are insufficient wildlife biologists, researchers and volunteers to go out into the wild to gather this much needed information. By submitting their annual capture numbers, animal samples and other local habitat and animal observations, Canadian trappers provide a vital and free monitoring service.
This information is used for wildlife management and conservation efforts, such as:
- To reduce or eradicate wildlife disease outbreaks.
- To set hunting and trapping quotas and seasons (minimums and maximums) at the local and provincial/territorial levels. This is so wildlife populations can be maintained at the optimal levels for that species and habitat.
- To determine species re-introduction and culling programs.
- Research has found that people who participate in trapping do so for many reasons, the most commonly listed ones are: life style orientation, nature appreciation, wildlife management, affiliation with other people, self-sufficiency, income (sometimes complimentary to their household budget, sometimes a critical component or an important safety net to household income). The Northeast Furbearer Resource Technical Committee reports that most people participate for several of these reasons.
Whether being conducted by aboriginal trappers in Canada and Alaska or people living in suburban or rural areas, a common link in the values of these people is they utilize wild animals and plants to bring sustenance into their households (e.g. the meat for food, pelts for clothing, or money to buy household goods). For many, this is an integral part of their life, and is an enduring element of their relationship to nature and link to the land. With proper management of wildlife resources, people today can still choose to participate in this lifestyle as they have done since the beginning of time.
No endangered species are trapped for use in the fur trade.