Are Foothold Traps Indiscriminate?
One of the charges that Animal Rights Protest Industry Activists lay against trappers and wildlife control operators (WCOs) is that footholds are indiscriminate. Typically this charge is coupled with “cruel” but for this post I only want to discuss the indiscriminate charge.
The accusation usually goes like this. This trap (fill in the blank) needs to be banned because it can’t distinguish between target (the desired animal in need of control) and the non-target animal (the animal that is not sought to be controlled). The idea is to make traps appear to be these lurking threats in the landscape that are waiting to harm everything.
Here are the facts about foothold trapping
1. If your definition of indiscriminate requires a standard of 100% accuracy then, the animal rights protest claim is correct. Traps are indiscriminate if the standard is perfection. But notice, this standard also rules out cage and box traps (often mistakenly called “live traps). Furthermore, even hunting is not 100% selective as noted by the fact that humans, livestock, and non-game animals also get shot.
2. For those willing to have a more reasonable standard, then footholds can be decidedly selective. Here’s how.
a. Location. Trappers select sites where the desired animals are likely to go. For instance, placing a trap in water (particularly cold water of November through February) make is very unlikely to catch non-targets.
b. Bait. Certain lures and baits are more likely to attract some animals over others.
c. Trap type. Certain traps are designed to capture certain animals while avoiding others, e.g. Collarum, Lil’ Grizz, etc. While these traps are not typically called, footholds, animal rights protest activists hate them too as demonstrated by their proffering Question 1 in Massachusetts (which ultimately was passed by an ignorant and misinformed voting public) in 1996.
d. Trap size. Small traps are less likely to catch large animals.
e. Pan Tension. The pan is the disk in the middle of the foothold that triggers the trap when depressed. By increasing pan tension, trappers make it harder for lighter animals to fire the trap.
So the bottom line, just as guns don’t kill people, people kill people, traps are only as good or bad as the person who uses them. Unfortunately, in our soundbite society, it is easier for people to demonize a tool rather than to understand the complexities of reality.
About the Author
Stephen M. Vantassel is a certified wildlife control professional who has a great interest in the way the animal rights protest industry distorts the facts about wildlife management and consumptive sports. His dissertation on the animal rights movement was published in a book entitled, Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009). He has written many articles on the animal rights protest industry and actively seeks opportunities to debate them to set the record straight.