By GEORGE WUERTHNER
Years ago I was backpacking in Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness with my friend, Rod, and his Malamute, Jake. Like most dogs, Jake was happily running ahead of us investigating this and that. Suddenly Jake let out a sharp cry and began yipping from someplace up ahead in the brush.
We rushed to him to find with his leg snared in a giant leg-hold bear trap set by a deer carcass. This trap was the size of a car tire.
We desperately tried to free him from the trap, but even with the two of us trying to open the contraption, the springs were just too stiff and we couldn’t get Jake’s leg out. So Rod and I took turns carrying 100 pound Jake on our shoulders, along with the heavy trap plus our backpacks, to our car so we could rush him to a vet.
The vet had to get a special trap opener to compress the springs so we could open the jaws enough to remove Jake’s leg. Jake was lucky. Because the trap’s teeth were so large, Jake’s leg was caught wedged between the teeth instead of having it go through his leg.
He fully recovered from the experience. But most pets and nearly all wildlife are not so lucky. There was no sign indicating the presence of the trap, nor any other effort to warn people of the lurking danger. Had either one of us stepped into the track, we might have suffered serious damage. Unfortunately the trapping of wild animals is a legal activity in all of the United States.
In fact, I am not aware of a single state “wildlife” agency that doesn’t promote trapping, instead of questioning its legitimacy. It’s amazing to me that in this day and age we still allow this barbaric activity to be justified in the name of “sport”. Leg-hold traps and snares are particularly treacherous devices. Animals caught in such traps suffer pain, exposure to weather, dehydration and often a long painful death.
Snares are even more gruesome with animals slowly strangling to death as the wire noose tightens. How is it that cock and dog fights are now illegal and yet we permit state wildlife agencies to sanction an equally cruel activity? The statistics are astounding. More than 4 million animals are trapped for “fun” each year, many enduring immense suffering in the process. Millions more are trapped as “nuisances” or die as “non-target” animals.
For example more than 700 black bear are snagged each year in Oregon as “nuisance” animals by timber companies (because in the spring bears eat the inner cambium layer of trees). Only a few states have banned the use of leg-hold traps for sport trapping and then usually only through citizen initiative process.
Most of these animals are important predators in their own right, and help to promote healthier ecosystems in many, many ways from the way that wolves reduce the negative impact of large herbivores like elk to reduction of rodent populations by coyotes. Thus indiscriminate trapping disrupts natural ecological processes, often in ways we don’t appreciate.
If you want to see how sport trapping harms wildlife, view the video below; Hint it does have a happy ending. If you can, support groups that attempting to end this barbaric “sport.”
Bobcat Rescued from Snare – Part 1 of 2