This commentary is by Brenna Galdenzi of Stowe, president of Protect Our Wildlife.
Trappers use a lot of excuses to justify their recreational hobby, but the reality is that trapping not only presents serious animal welfare concerns, but it is also a threat to ecosystem health and biodiversity.
The science is clear: Predator species like bobcats, fisher and coyote provide immeasurable benefits to ecosystem health, yet trappers are allowed to trap unlimited numbers of animals during the season. One year, just one trapper killed 10 fisher, likely decimating the local population. Just last year, one trapper killed five bobcats and another trapper killed 44 coyotes (that we know of).
Unlike other states, including New Hampshire, that don’t allow the killing of bobcats at all, Vermont has no bag limits on the number of animals a trapper may kill. This presents a threat to local populations, as well as ecosystem health.
And it’s not just wild animals that are in danger. Last year alone, 12 domestic dogs were reported trapped. Unlike recent pro-trapping commentaries, this is not merely anecdotal information.
A seasoned furbearer biologist at the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has admitted, in department mails obtained through a public records request, that trapping is not needed in Vermont to manage populations or to reduce spread of disease.
Trapping is a recreational hobby enjoyed by about 800 licensed trappers. Back in the day, trappers pilfered the pelts of our cherished bobcats, otters, and other iconic species and sold them to Russia and China. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation — that Vermont Fish & Wildlife purportedly adheres to — clearly states that there should be no market in commerce in wildlife, yet its policies allow for it. It’s one of the many contradictions held by Fish & Wildlife.
Another excuse used by trappers is that trapping is needed to manage so-called “nuisance” animals, but we often forget why wildlife becomes a problem in the first place. Whether it’s unsecured garbage or pet food, chickens allowed to free-range, or other factors, it is important that humans take a look inward to see how we are contributing to the problem.
That said, current trapping legislation, bills H.191 and S.111, would still allow for the trapping of animals causing damage to property, as well as dangers to public health and safety. This commonsense piece of legislation would combat the senseless killing of otters, bobcats, beavers, and other wildlife merely for recreation and allow trapping under certain conditions.
Massachusetts and Colorado have similar laws that have been a huge success for wildlife, the public, and our pets. No more leghold and body-crushing kill traps set on public lands haphazardly injuring, maiming and killing both targeted and nontargeted species like dogs, red-tailed hawks, owls and endangered species. This legislation would be targeted trapping to address only those animals that are causing problems for humans.
Vermont needs beavers, foxes and other animals labeled “furbearer” species for the ecosystem services they provide. We are in the throes of climate change and science tells us that beavers help reduce flooding. Tick-borne illnesses are on the rise and, according to the Cary Institute, red foxes are the main predator of mice that transmit Lyme to ticks.
The tradition of domination over wildlife, who are merely viewed as lifeless “resources” for the “harvesting,” is no longer viable or acceptable to many. No animal should have to chew through their mangled paw to free themselves from a leghold trap to satisfy someone’s recreational hobby. When we know better, we do better.