Caught in the Trap: LA Bans Snare and Body Gripping TrapsPosted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on September 11, 2014
Every year, millions of animals like coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, and beavers are caught by trappers in the U.S. The most popular trap—the barbaric steel jaw leghold trap—uses metal jaws to grasp an animal by the leg. Most animals caught in these devices die slowly and painfully from shock, blood loss, hypothermia, or starvation. Many try to chew their own legs off to escape. That’s one reason why, earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously banned anyone from using any trap “that maims or causes the inhumane death or suffering of any animal” such as those that grip or snare wild animals or use poisons as bait. One council member wrote that all traps “can be inhumane through negligent care or use, but snares, body-crushing and body-gripping traps are inherently inhumane.” Banning these traps reduces the suffering of wild animals and also protects other animals from getting caught in such traps accidentally.
California Ban on Steel Jaw Traps
California voters banned many of these same devices in 1998 through Proposition 4, a statewide ballot initiative that banned traps and other cruel practices used by the fur trade along with dangerous poisons that hurt animals and the environment. Violation of these laws indeed can result in criminal charges. However those prohibitions did not apply to government employees who still are allowed to use other body-gripping traps, such as conibear traps and snares, and are only prevented from using steel jaw leghold traps. California is one of nine U.S. states and more than 85 countries that ban or severely restrict the use of steel jaw leghold traps, which have been declared inhumane by the World Veterinary Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, and the National Animal Control Association.
A New Way Forward
Many animals are trapped as part of a federal predator control program known as Wildlife Services. The agency spends more than 100 million dollars annually to trap, snare, shoot and poison more than a million wild animals. Targeted animals, like coyotes, bobcats, bears, raccoons, and beavers, and animals killed unintentionally, like moose, deer, great-blue herons, endangered condors, bald eagles, and even family pets are killed mostly on public lands and at taxpayer expense. One Wildlife Services trapper reports his records showing that for every one target animal his traps caught, two additional non-target animals were captured—nearly all of whom had to be killed due to their injuries from traps.
My dog once had the misfortune of being caught in a steel jaw leghold trap set out for wolves in Alaska’s Chugach National Forest. I’ll never forget his cries of pain, fear, and helplessness. Fortunately, I was able to release him with relatively minor injuries. Most non-targeted animals caught in traps are not so lucky.
Research shows that nonlethal methods (like range riders, guard dogs, proper fencing) are more effective than trapping, snaring, and poisoning. That’s why ALDF is working with other animal and conservation organizations to assure that our wild neighbors are afforded the respect and protection they deserve. California has made significant moves to protect its wildlife and the Los Angeles ban demonstrates that there are more humane and effective ways to coexist with our wild neighbors.