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Poll: Americans Strongly Oppose Trapping on National Wildlife Refuges

A national public opinion survey conducted by pollster Decision Research for the Animal Protection Institute (API) reveals that Americans are strongly opposed to the trapping of wild animals on National Wildlife Refuges. The refuge system, currently comprised of 529 units covering more than 93 million acres, was established nearly one hundred years ago as a haven for endangered species and a wide variety of plant and animal life. The API survey demonstrates the public's ongoing commitment to that mission and its opposition to refuge practices, such as trapping and hunting, that kill animals for sport or profit.

A Misled Public

The survey shows that a large majority (78%) of Americans mistakenly assumes that hunting and trapping are illegal on a wildlife refuge. The public is apparently unaware that trapping of wildlife for various purposes takes place on 280 or 54% of refuge units, and some form of hunting occurs on 296 or 56% of all refuges.

According to the survey, nearly four of five (79%) Americans are opposed to allowing trapping on refuges. Fifty-five percent are strongly opposed to the practice. Opposition crosses all demographic lines including among hunting households where 71% indicate disapproval of refuge trapping. The highest level of opposition to trapping is among the following groups: women, 18 to 29-year-olds, nonwhites, Democrats, nonhunters, city dwellers, and those living in the Southwest.

Findings from this survey are consistent with those of several previous polls which found that Americans object to trapping because it causes pain and suffering to the animals caught. In the API survey, 76% of Americans say that an animal's right to live free of suffering should be as important as a person's right.

Preservation Should Be the Priority

When survey respondents are asked which activity should be the priority for National Wildlife Refuges, nearly me out of every ten (88%) identify "Preserving the natural, undeveloped landscape and preserving the habitat and wildlife." Only 9% think "Providing opportunities for commercial and recreational hunters and trappers" should be the priority.

More than three in four (78%) Americans are opposed to spending tax dollars to admimster commercial fur trapping programs on wildlife refuges. And a 59% majority support stopping all recreational killing of wildlife at refuges.

The public's desire to protect animals on refuges extends beyond opposition to killing for recreation and profit. More than three-quarters (78%) of the respondents are opposed to allowing fish and wildlife officials to kill wildlife with any means necessary such as trapping and poisons. Moreover, 71% feel that, "As long as wildlife refuge officials can remove dangerous animals, there is no reason to allow any other killing of animals on wildlife refuge property."

Headed in the Wrong Direction

Trapping in National Wildlife Refuges is so unpopular that, by a margin of 11-to-1, Americans would choose, at the very least, to ban "cruel types of traps, such as leghold or body-gripping traps," and a majority (58%) are willing to go even further and ban all trapping. Only 8% think no limits should be placed on trapping for recreation or profit or on the types of traps used.

Management of the refuge system is clearly out of step with public sentiment. Each year more refuges are opened to new hunting and trapping programs. However, an overwhelming majority (85%) of the poll's sample are opposed to increased activity of this type. A 45% plurality of the sample would ban all hunting and trapping on refuges, while 40% would continue to allow these activities where they currently exist but not open up any additional refuges to hunting and trapping. Only 13% support the current trend of increasing the number of wildlife refuges which allow hunting and trapping. According to the API survey, most Americans (61%) reject the notion that hunters and trappers have insufficient land available to them without access to wildlife refuges.

As with opposition to trapping in general, a majority of all demographic subgroups is opposed to increased trapping. Even among hunting households, only 24% would increase hunting and trapping on refuges. Forty-three percent of respondents in hunter households don't want any new hunting or trapping programs added, and 30% would eliminate these activities entirely.

About the Survey

Telephone interviews for the API survey were conducted throughout the United States with 800 Americans 18 years of age or older. Interviews were conducted April 8-11, 1999. The overall margin of error for the sample is a plus or minus 4.0% at the 95% confidence level, signifying that in 95% of all samples drawn from the same population, the findings would not differ from those reported more than 4%. Sampling error for subgroups is higher.

For additional information about the survey and its findings, contact the Animal Protection Institute at (916) 447-3085.

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