This commentary is by Dan Galdenzi, a resident of Stowe.
There’s been a lot of chatter about trapping lately in Vermont. Many Vermonters don’t know much about it at all, and from what I can ascertain, most people think it’s already illegal. Unfortunately it’s not. At least not yet.
Trapping is a mostly unregulated and wholly unenforceable recreational activity. Trapping often takes place out of sight and out of mind to most Vermonters, which is likely how such an inherently cruel activity has survived for as long as it has. Because to know trapping is to see it for what it is: torturing animals for hobby.
There are no rules on how many animals one can trap or how many traps can be set. A single trapper can legally kill hundreds of animals, sometimes wiping out an entire local ecosystems.
Traps are indiscriminate, too. A baited trap can’t determine what it attracts. Every year in Vermont, dogs, cats, owls, turtles, and a variety of other animals are caught in traps. Most of this “bycatch” is never reported. Trappers even have a saying for it: The Three S’s — “shoot, shovel and shut up.”
Leghold traps crush an animal’s limb between the steel jaws, painfully ensnaring the animal for 24 hours or longer. During this time, the animal is subject to predation, freezing temperatures, snow and other threats. Raccoons, coyotes and other animals will chew off their own limbs to escape.
I’ll never forget a photo I saw from Windsor, Vermont, where a mother raccoon and her cub were trapped side by side. The mother had chewed her limb off to try to help her cub. How can trappers expect people to believe them when they say traps don’t hurt animals? Of course they do!
You’d think it would be easy to get something so arcane and barbaric stopped, right? It’s not, and here’s why.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Board are vocal cheerleaders of trapping. Why? The answer is as simple as it is sad. Their staff members are disproportionately representative of trappers. They are a good ole’ boys network who live in a 1950s echo-chamber of false information and bad science.
Trappers are members of the powerful sportsmen lobbyist group and Fish & Wildlife considers them their “customers.” The over 99% of us who don’t trap animals for recreation and trophies aren’t their customers and they don’t care what we have to say.
A recent trapping survey commissioned by Vermont Fish & Wildlife — likely funded with our tax dollars — has been accused of slanting the survey questions. But regardless of what many call a biased survey, it still showed that two-thirds of Vermonters oppose recreational trapping. Not a result they had expected.
Another survey, this one administered by the impartial and unbiased UVM Center for Rural Studies, showed that 75% of Vermonters oppose trapping.
Now, back to all that chatter in the news lately about trapping. There is a bill being introduced — cosponsored by over 20 representatives — that will curtail trapping practices but still allow trapping to occur in certain situations, such as protecting property. This bill would put an end to recreational trapping that the majority of Vermonter voters oppose.
Easy, right? Not so fast. Vermont Fish & Wildlife and its board of unqualified political appointees are fixing for a fight. They are going to use our tax dollars lobbying the Legislature in favor of a small special-interest group, when they should be working for wildlife and the majority of Vermonters.