HSUS Statement: Commercial trapping is not a “wildlife management tool”. There are no bag limits and no limits on the number of traps that can be set. Trapping activity is driven by the price of pelts, not by the need to manage wildlife populations. Some fur-bearers (coyotes for instance) have natural fertility and breeding controls when not disturbed by humans, while others (such as muskrats) experience natural boom-and-bust cycles.
Factual Rebuttal: The professional wildlife conservation community universally endorses traps and trapping as critical and essential wildlife management tools. The Wildlife Society and the International Association Of Fish and Wildlife Agencies are the largest international organizations representing professional wildlife conservation employees and governmental wildlife agencies. Both organizations have issued policy statements that strongly support the role commercial trapping plays in achieving wildlife management objectives.
Harvest season length, bag limits, permissible size and types of traps, and total number of traps permissible per trapper, are all considered during the development of management strategies for individual species. Population growth characteristics of some species require strict harvest regulations that include bag limits and limiting the number of traps per individual. Conversely, harvest and population characteristics of other species require liberal regulations to meet prescribed furbearer management objectives.
All wildlife populations possess inherent bio-feedback mechanisms that eventually limit population densities. Most species can exhibit classic ‘boom and bust cycles’. The reproductive capabilities of coyotes, muskrats and many other furbearers allow non-regulated populations to increase at exponential rates until they approach and/or surpass the carrying capacity of their respective ecosystems (boom). When this occurs, competition for limited resources compromises the health of the entire population. At that time, the weakened condition of these animals allow density-dependent mortality factors such as starvation, disease, and social strife, to decimate entire populations (bust). Oftentimes, the health of the entire ecosystem including all aligned wildlife species and the public are also negatively impacted by these inflated furbearer populations.
Regulated commercial trapping manages populations by moderating the extremes of ‘boom and bust’ cycles. This results in stable populations of healthy animals that are in balance with the biological carrying capacity of their ecosystems and the cultural carrying capacity accepted by the general public.