This commentary is by Bruce Baroffio, a resident of Northfield, a third-generation trapper, and president of the Vermont Trappers Association.
I am writing this out of concern that there is a lack of understanding about the best management practice process that was conducted in Vermont to evaluate the various restraining devices for capturing furbearers.
I participated in every best management practice process that was done in Vermont, and successfully captured target animals with every device tested. While the program provided the devices for evaluation, the participants conducted the testing in the course of their normal fur harvesting or damage/predation control activities.
Each trapper was accompanied by a wildlife technician who had a randomization table so that the trapper never knew what device was going to be used at any given location. This was to prevent any prejudice either for or against any particular device.
There was also a set of guidelines as to how many devices were set at a location, the minimum and maximum distances between them, and the minimum distances between locations. This was to try to ensure that each state collected the data in the same way.
When an animal was captured, the trapper was responsible for dispatching it by the prescribed method, which was in accordance with the Veterinary Medical Association-accepted practices. Upon dispatch, the technician would remove the animal from the device and immediately affix a coded ear tag. The technician then recorded the sex of the animal as well as the weight and length. Then a notation was made as to whether the animal was caught by a front or rear foot so that when the necropsy was conducted, the researcher would know which two feet would need to be compared. This was necessary because many devices left no discernible sign of capture.
Then the animal was bagged in a special bag and labeled as to the species to keep it separate from other animals. At noon, all the day’s animals were taken to the state freezer to be kept until they were picked up by a refrigerated truck and, depending on the species, sent to one of two veterinary colleges where necropsies were performed and data collected.
These necropsies were conducted to assess the harvested animals for any damage caused, directly or indirectly, by the trap. For more reading on the topic, this link provides an overview of best management practices for trapping.
While I can speak only to my own experiences, I found the entire process to be well thought out and very closely regulated. This testing gave the trapping community some great insight and vastly improved the quality of the tools we use, especially by improving the welfare of the animals that we capture, and the Vermont Trappers Association is and has been working in good faith with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to implement them.