In “Feeling the Squeeze” (Jan. 27, 2011), trapper David Cronenwett bemoans the lack of “an ethical trapping movement.” Well, that’s because there’s no ethical virtue to recreational and commercial trapping. Torturing, clubbing and stomping innocent animals to death is indefensible. Causing panicked animals to chew off their feet (the norm), or spin until their entire limbs break off and then chew through skin, bone, veins, tissue and muscle to escape to certain death (so common trappers call it a wring-off) is not defensible. Snaring animals and leaving them for days until their heads fill with liquid is not defensible. This last example trappers call a “jellyhead,” like the mountain lion found in the Bitterroot still alive and strangling in agony after five days in a snare, head big as a balloon, with her dead kits at her feet.
Trappers today say anything to obscure the real horror. They “explain” that they are “recycling” when they trap small animals to use as bait for larger ones. And the carcasses they discard like pop bottles are now offerings for “the animal kingdom.” Huh?
Animals aren’t trash to be recycled or thrown away. They are living, sentient creatures who suffer a terrifying, slow death for the pleasure of trappers. For every target animal trapped an average of two are discarded. That means 150,000 animals suffer and die this way every year in Montana. This also means that six species are losing their battle for survival: the fisher, pine marten, otter, lynx, wolverine and swift fox. Currently the tiny, six-pound swift fox is being reintroduced—at great taxpayer expense—for the second time while trapping continues. This is not recycling. It’s the wholesale, silent slaughter of our wildlife in the most inhumane way conceivable.
Trappers claim they work harder than hunters, and hunters occasionally take bad shots that cause suffering. So what’s the difference? The difference is that with trapping suffering is the rule, not the exception. Hunters track game over long hours and rugged terrain and have our target squarely in our sights when we shoot. We don’t rig a trip-wire rifle over bait and go home. We don’t come back when convenient to see what kind of creature we caught. Trapping is like Christmas, say trappers. They never know what they’ll find.
Then there’s the old chestnut that some trapped animals just “kind of lay around until you come up” to stomp on their chests and club them to death. The reality is these animals are in a severe state of shock.
Trappers could come to the rescue. Yes, trappers could use their talent and skill to live-trap beaver families where people don’t want them and release them by high mountain streams where they’ll build up water retention and restore wetland ecology and wildlife habitat. Beaver dams are nurseries for all kinds of wildlife from birds to big game. Trappers can make a grand contribution to restoring the rich diversity of the Northern Rockies of the early 19th century, before the wholesale trapping of beaver drained aquifers, turned the land semi-arid and trapped beavers to extinction. By 1841 the land was silent, many species trapped out of existence. Beavers were gone. In the 1850s they had to be reintroduced in Montana.
I have great respect for the survival skills, including trapping, honed by people in earlier times. Today, trappers admit they are lucky to break even. There is no longer a need to trap on public lands. It’s just animal cruelty.
Let’s consign this torture to history.