Safe Trails
Danger: Trapping Ahead

Is trapping necessary to keep wildlife populations in balance?

Trappers often claim that trapping prevents wild animals from overpopulating and destroying their habitat. Trapping proponents also maintain that trappers play a vital function by removing "surplus" animals from the wild. In nature, however, animal populations are largely regulated by food and habitat availability, which naturally influence reproduction and survival.

Consider for a moment how wildlife species who are not subject to human-induced "control" or exploitation manage to stay in balance with the environment. Indeed, the notion of "surplus animal" is a misnomer: Every animal, alive or dead, is of use to itself or other organisms in the ecosystem. Animals culled in nature — typically the ill, aged, infirm and very young — are not prized by trappers. Instead, trappers work against natural selection by attempting to target the healthiest animals with the best fur, and discarding the unhealthy ones as "bycatch."

The number of animals killed by trapping is not driven or dictated by wildlife populations or management objectives. It is largely driven by demand and corresponding commercial fur prices. If fur prices rise, trapping increases, and the number of furbearing animals (and non-targeted species) removed from the ecosystem also increases. When animals such as bobcats, coyotes and foxes are reduced, populations of their primary prey species — rats, mice, rabbits and squirrels — increase and as a result forage decreases, thereby negatively influencing the populations of other herbivorous animals such as deer and even domestic livestock, who are competitors for forage.

In short, trapping, which is nonselective and market-driven, disrupts natural population cycles and is contrary to the goal of preserving natural systems.

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