The foothold trap is legal in 44 states and all of Canada. After banning most traps in 1997, Massachusetts wildlife officials cited the beaver population had increased from 20,000 to 70,000, and the number of complaints of beaver damage has grown from about 400 to about 1,000. In 2018, the city of Framingham, Massachusetts, hired trappers in an attempt to control flooding across local roads and onto neighboring yards. In 2018, there were coyote attacks in the city of Montreal, Quebec.

In April 2019, two coyotes attacked people in separate incidents in Addison County. These folks had to be treated for rabies. In March of 2019, a bobcat bit a man and attacked two women in White River Junction. This animal tested positive for rabies. Every major airport in America has a wildlife control specialist assisting in the removal of problem animals in an attempt to minimize aircraft/animal conflicts. Towns and villages throughout Vermont remove beavers annually to reduce flooding of roadways, basements and septic systems. Trapping in Vermont is regulated by the state of Vermont, including mandatory training requirements, restrictions on traps and regulated seasons; and trappers are a valuable community resource.

The foothold and conibear trap are the tools of choice for wildlife control professionals. These traps are effective and efficient tools. With over $41M spent over the last three decades on science-based trap assessment, and the resultant development and enhancement of ever more humane traps, the foothold trap is designed to avoid injury to the captured animal. These traps apply pressure on two sides of the foot with the intent of holding, not harming, the animal. Scientific data collected during these extensive field trials has confirmed animals are only slightly distressed by a trapping experience. (I have witnessed a captured animal asleep.) The foothold trap offers advantages in efficiency, safety to humans and domestic animals, and allows for the release of animals the trapper doesn’t wish to harvest.

Trapping regulations consider best management practices (BMPs) which have been developed to improve traps and trapping methods. Veterinarians, who participated in the development of these BMPs, examined thousands of trapped animals for signs of injury. Only those traps that caused the fewest injuries, minimal distress, and passed rigorous tests for welfare, selectivity, efficiency, safety and practicability, were included in the BMP recommendations.

When I moved to Vermont nearly 50 years ago, Vermonters were proud of their heritage of individual freedom, love of the land and respect for their neighbors’ way of life. In the past four years, there has been an increasing number of anti-trapping advocates’ letters and advertisements. Many of these “well meaning” folks seem to believe trapping is cruel. Nature is cruel. Raccoons, coyotes, bobcats and foxes carry rabies. Overpopulation of any species leads to starvation and disease. Trappers work with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife to reduce overpopulation of certain species. Trappers help their neighbors by capturing cat-killing coyotes, chicken-killing skunks and raccoons, as well as by removing nuisance beavers that are building dams that flood fields and woods.

Jerry D’Amico lives in Roxbury.

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