Animals commonly trapped in the wild include coyotes, bobcats, lynxes, foxes, beavers, raccoons, muskrats, and martens. Traps injure and kill countless numbers of “non-targeted” animals too, which trappers refer to as “trash.” These victims are dogs and cats, mountain lions, deer, birds, and other animals—including threatened and endangered animals.
North America (namely the U.S. and Canada) take the lead, followed by Russia, for the largest number of wild animals killed for the fur trade, with around half of all fur pelts “produced” in North America taken from wild animals. Trapping also occurs on a smaller scale in Europe, South America, and other regions. In the U.S. trapping takes place on private and public lands, including protected lands and recreational areas.
Although animals trapped in the wild account for less than 20% of furs used in the global fur trade, the methods used to catch and kill them are horrific and brutal. Wire noose snares can crush organs or slowly strangle an animal to death. Body gripping traps can trap animals underwater until they slowly drown. Animals caught in leghold traps try to chew or twist off their trapped limb in a desperate attempt to free themselves. More than 80 countries have banned the use of leghold traps due to the extreme suffering and pain they cause to animals. In the U.S., however, leghold traps are still commonly used trap by commercial and recreational fur trappers.
Trapped animals can die of exhaustion, exposure, predation, starvation, drowning, shock, injury or blood loss. Animals that manage to stay alive until found are often brutally killed through drowning, suffocation, beatings or have their chests crushed by the people who set the traps.
In the U.S., the number of wild animals trapped for their fur is poorly regulated and increasing without regard to animal welfare or population numbers.
Like fur farms, which fall under the jurisdiction of individual state agricultural departments, trapping is largely governed by the states. This results in vast discrepancies in laws and regulations among the different states. While some like California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington have humane regulations in place regarding trapping, a majority of states don’t and their weak regulations allow trappers to simply regulate themselves.
Poor regulations and lack of required reporting is especially a cause of concern for sensitive species that are already threatened or at risk due to low population numbers. Depending on their economic value, population numbers of sensitive species in certain states are often inflated to allow for more trapping, putting animals like bobcats, river otters, wolverines, lynxes, fishers, martens, kit foxes, and even bears at greater risk of extinction.