This commentary is by Katerina Brumer, a junior at the University of Vermont.
Imagine you are on a walk with your dog in a Vermont state forest. The woods are alive with the colors of fall and are seemingly harmless as you explore deeper.
Your dog is ahead of you on the trail and within eyesight when you notice him stop for a few seconds and then let out a horrific scream. You run toward your dog and notice that his paw is crushed between the steel jaws of a leghold trap. Your dog is desperately chewing at the trap to free himself.
He's growling out of fear and pain. You try to help but are afraid of getting bitten. The only thing you can do is call for help and wait alongside your dog, who continues to bite at his paw.
The only thing worse than this would be if your dog was caught in a body-crushing kill trap and you watched helplessly as your dog died in arms. That was the reality for a woman and her rescued sheltie last month in East Corinth. According to Vermont Fish & Wildlife, 13 pets were trapped last year, but the number is likely much higher. A common term used by trappers is "shoot, shovel and shut up" when you trap someone's pet or a protected species.
Legholds and other unethical body-gripping trapping devices should be illegal. Not only do they cause harm for unsuspecting pets, but these baited contraptions cannot target specific species. So, any animal, wild or tame, is fair game. Bobcats, otters, foxes and other wildlife are only going about their normal day, trying to survive, and then find themselves ensnared by the jaws of a trap.
To me, it matters little if the trapped animal is a bobcat or a domestic tabby — no animal deserves this. I was surprised to learn that protected species like ravens, great blue herons and other nontargeted animals are caught every year. Vermont Fish & Wildlife does not advertise this because it's bad public relations for trapping, but the public knows about it through public records requests.
I’m relieved to know that it’s not just me who wants to see trapping banned. A survey released by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department just recently reveals that 68% of Vermonters oppose recreational trapping, which represents the majority of trapping in Vermont.
Fish & Wildlife has stated that trapping is not needed to manage populations or to reduce the spread of disease. It’s allowed to continue because politics rule over ethics and science.
Being a wild animal is hard enough with their whole world changing around them. New roads, more people, less food, a changing climate — the list of threats goes on and on. The use of indiscriminate traps makes their homes even more unsafe. Their own habitat becomes a land mine, all in the name of a tradition that is no longer acceptable in a society that values the ethical treatment of animals.
Wildlife was here first, and humans as the invasive species need to respect that. Killing for recreation or out of hatred toward predator species like bobcats and coyotes is not a justifiable reason.