At hearings and meetings about trapping there is often heard the same arguments against trapping; trapping is inhumane, trapping is dangerous to the public and to pets, and that Nevada is the most lax state regarding trapping regulations, etc.
Most of these arguments are being made by people who know little to nothing about trapping. "Pervasive misinformation" is the term that is often used by professional wildlife managers. Let’s address these arguments one at a time.
1. Trapping is inhumane.
In the world of nature a trapped animal is often treated much more humanely by a trapper than how that same animal would ever be treated by Mother Nature. Getting restrained in a steel foothold trap and held by the foot for a matter of 96 hours or less, usually much less, then being humanely dispatched, is a far better way to die than most "natural" alternatives for these animals. Contrary to what non trappers say about them, modern traps are not the inhumane devices that they are portrayed to be. In the NDOW report published in 2012 titled, “Furbearer Management in Nevada" it says: "leghold (foothold) traps are the safest, most ecologically efficient, and humane trap currently available."
The International Union For Conservation Of Natural Resources Survival Service Commission says: "Steel foothold traps represent a method safe enough to be used in any context, including wildlife refuges ". -Furbearer Management in Nevada
When furbearers die naturally it is usually due to disease, predation, or starvation. Diseases in furbearers take a terrible toll. Rabies, distemper, parvo, sarcoptic mange, bubonic plague, giardia, and tularemia are common diseases found in furbearers. Entire populations are often wiped out. Epidemics often spread to other species and to livestock, to pets, even to human beings sometimes with catastrophic results.
Nevada has a long and terrible history of wildlife diseases that spread from furbearing animals to pets and livestock and then to humans. There was a rabies epidemic in this state that lasted for 30 years. Thousands of coyotes and hundreds of dogs contracted rabies and were killed. Hundreds of people had to be treated with the painful Pasteur treatment. And some people died anyway including small children. Nevada created a rabies commission chaired by the governor. Dogs were shot on sight. County sheriffs posted notices that every dog not muzzled would be shot even if in a back yard and even if in the company of the dog's owner. Rabies transmitted by furbearing animals and pets was THAT bad.
One could say that period was a long time ago. The rabies epidemic ended in the 1950s. But one should ask why did it end? Government trapping programs were actually more extensive in that period than today. Govt. trappers used poison baits in large quantities then and cannot use poison baits to kill predators today. But today we have a small army of PRIVATE trappers who run extensive traplines throughout the state and our paid only by the value of the pelts they collect. In fact they pay NDOW for the privilege. This large group is augmented by the Dept. of Agriculture's wildlife services agents who are also trappers and who remove a limited number of problem animals in specific areas usually in response to livestock predation. In the aforementioned NDOW report: "Furbearer Management in Nevada" it says: "Trappers function as NDOW's unpaid technicians in the implementation of structured management strategies. Without this highly trained community, fiscal and manpower constraints could prohibit NDOW from fulfilling natural resources stewardship mandates".
And diseases are with us today. A young man in Clark County doing an Eagle Scout program in 2008 and 09 found out that 50% of the grey foxes caught in cage traps in his study area were infected with bubonic plague. A rabid bat was found in Primm, NV in 2012 after it was seen acting erratically and bit a person. And a biologist with the National Park Service died from the plague after performing a necropsy on a mountain lion that was found dead in the Grand Canyon in 2006. The awful skin disease, sarcoptic mange, in which an animal's hair falls out, is widespread in foxes in Utah at the present time.
Another common way wild animals die in nature is starvation. When old age, injury or disease inhibits a predators ability to catch prey they starve.
Our wild animals do not need to suffer and die by the thousands due to disease and starvation. Humans do not need to live in fear of contact with these animals. Through regulated and biologically based wildlife management programs we can have large and healthy populations of these furbearers into perpetuity. Like we have today. Like we have had for the last 40 years. "The professional wildlife community (including the Wildlife Society and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies) universally endorses traps and trapping as critical and essential wildlife management tools”. -Furbearer Management in Nevada
2. Humans and pets are caught often in traps and pet dogs are seriously injured.
There is zero evidence that humans are or have been caught or injured in traps. That does not happen except maybe to the trappers themselves who sometimes snap their fingers in a trap.
A small number of pet dogs ARE caught in traps set for wild animals every year in NV. But contrary to some claims of anti trappers, dogs are not injured if released by responsible owners who are supervising their pets. NDOW data indicates that 24 dogs are caught accidently every year in Nevada on average. A number of these reported incidents are of dogs belonging to trappers themselves. The majority of dogs, however, most likely belong to upland bird hunters.
The hunting season for the highly sought after chukar partridge in Nevada coincides with the trapping season for bobcats. And unfortunately, so far as potential for dog conflicts, the habitats are the same. Chukars are very high on the menu preference for bobcats. So bobcat trappers set their traps in many of the same places used by chukar hunters who often use trained dogs to locate and flush out the birds. So hunting dogs are caught. This usually results in a mildly upset hunter who has to release his dog. It very rarely results in any injury to the dog. The type of steel foothold traps used in NV to catch predators are designed to hold dog sized animals and not injure them, and dogs that are caught are not seriously or permanently injured contrary to the claims of the anti trappers.
At several meetings of the Clark County Advisory Board for Wildlife (CCABW) in 2011 and 2012, a few citizens spoke up and claimed that their pet dogs were seriously injured in steel foothold traps. One claimed her dog died as a result of injuries. One of the advisory board members, who is a licensed and practicing veterinarian, was curious since he had never heard of such an injury in all of his years in practice. So he surveyed every veterinarian and animal hospital in Clark County, and his survey indicated that only one vet ever remembered treating a dog caught in a trap. That dog belonged to the trapper.
Evidence from the neighboring state of Oregon indicates the same thing. When some citizens complained about trapping some years ago, the state enacted a law which requires every veterinarian to report each instance of a dog or pet being treated for injuries sustained by a trap. In over 10 years since enactment, the number of reported cases is less than one per year statewide.
3. Nevada has a lax furbearer management program and less trapping regulation than other states.
Rather than being a state that should be criticized for its furbearer management program and lax regulations, Nevada is considered by many wildlife professionals and experts to be one of the best. No other state has a bobcat management program comparable to here.
Bobcats are the premier fur bearing animal throughout the Western U.S. today. This species attracted much attention from international wildlife regulatory bodies in the 1970's because of record high fur prices. At that time many states took the easy way out and set artificially low harvest quotas or other restrictions based on a guess of their total populations. They simply did not want to expend the time and resources necessary to manage these animals correctly.
Nevada took the difficult course of action to collect the data and to manage this furbearer like other states manage their big game species. This included implementing a tagging program. On every single bobcat taken, its lower jawbone has to be removed by the trapper and an informational tag attached to the jawbone. This tag identifies the trapper, the time and place of the catch, and the gender of the bobcat. Then the state went a step further and biologists began to take a large sampling of the canine teeth every season from these jaws. A small hole is made into the tooth and a pin inserted. This probe determines the age of the animal. A hollow tooth is a sub adult. Solid is an adult. The biologist then has the raw data to do his/her job: the total number and disbursement of the harvest every year, and the important ratios of male to female and sub adult to adult. Nevada trappers are essential and critically important in providing this information.
In addition to the bobcat jaw tag, the trapper must fill out a separate and detailed report summarizing his/her bobcat trapping activity for the entire season. On that report, he/she must report not only about their harvest information but great detail about the effort put into it. Such information such as the number of traps set, locations set, and how many trap nights or duration of traps set are required. In addition to that, trappers must bring their pelts and the jaws and the reports to scheduled sealing programs conducted at NDOW regional offices. There the trappers turn in the tagged jaws, the reports, and pay $5 per pelt, in order to have the pelt sealed with a plastic seal which has a registration number kept by the state. Then and only then is the trapper allowed to sell the pelt or even possess it after the season is closed.
No other state at that time took such a comprehensive approach for a furbearer. No other state today has more or better data about their bobcats. This program has allowed Nevada to manage its bobcats scientifically and has stood up to lawsuits and has more than met federal and international standards for exporting furs.
Four years ago the harvest and ratios data indicated bobcat numbers were declining. The biologists recommended a shortening of the season. The Nevada Trappers Association unanimously endorsed this proposal because trappers in the field were reporting the same thing. The bobcat season was reduced by 32% for two years. The entire month of Nov., which is the only good weather month of the season in many parts of the state, and the last week of Feb. were eliminated.
A year later, the bobcat harvest data indicated a substantial rebound. But it wasn't until another year had passed and more data was collected showing the same rebound that everyone involved felt comfortable returning the season to normal. Trappers universally supported these steps because it was based on science and what was best for the species.
In recent years other western states have made attempts to study and/or duplicate the Nevada program. Nevada trapping association officials have visited wildlife officials in the states of Oregon and Colorado by their request to talk about our program. Just this year the state of Arizona enacted a Nevada type of bobcat lower jaw tagging program so it can begin to collect the type of data that has been assembled in Nevada every year for the last 35 years.
Other regulations follow suit. Nevada has one of the strictest use of bait regulations in the nation. A trap cannot be set within 30 ft of any exposed bait. Bait is defined as even a single piece of fur or feather and exposed means visible from any angle. Very few if any states have stricter laws concerning use of bait. This regulation was put in place to protect birds of prey.
On 96 hour visitation, consider that there is no visitation requirement in Montana or Alaska. It is discretionary. In Idaho visitation is every 72 hours including in the congested areas such as Boise, Sun Valley and Pocatello. The states that require 24 hours for visitation are usually the eastern states with very little public land like we have in Nevada. Trapping in these states is almost entirely on private property and usually for the smaller watercourse type furbearers like muskrats and raccoons which live in very small areas. This is nothing like the vast, empty stretches of public land like is found in Nevada. In fact NV has the most public land in the entire country. The 96 hour visitation requirement in Nevada is much more restrictive than Montana and slightly less so than Idaho. Both Idaho and Montana are large western states with much public land similar to Nevada.
There are many other laws for comparison. Nevada has strict laws mandating traps with offset jaws so jaws don't close all the way. Every trap of a certain size must be modified so as to leave a gap of at least 3/16 of in inch. Other states do not.
In Utah, muskrats are an unprotected species. There is no closed season, no trapping license required, and anyone can hunt and trap and kill unlimited muskrats there all year long. In Nevada, the muskrat is treated as a valuable furbearer. There is a rigid open and closed season and licensing requirements for trapping these animals. The closed season is two thirds of the year.
Nevada treats all three species of foxes found here, red, grey and kit fox, as furbearers with open and closed seasons and licensing requirements. Other states do not.
Many states are much more lax when it comes to trapping near roads and highways. Some midwestern states are called ROW states which is an abbreviation for Right of Way. And trapping is allowed on the shoulders of roads, in the ditches adjacent to roads and under the bridges underneath roads. Even when the property on either side is private, trapping is allowed on the right of ways. Nevada has one of the strictest laws concerning trapping near roads. A road is defined in regulation and includes any main or general county road. Trapping is not allowed within 200 feet statewide much less right on the right of way.
Trapping in Nevada is a highly regulated, monitored and managed activity to provide sustained yield of a renewable furbearer resource.