Trapping of Fur-Bearing Animals
December 2, 2021
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) holds that trapping of fur-bearing animals is only acceptable when utilizing the most humane methods and devices available. The CVMA supports mandatory trapper education programs that advance humane trapping practices. In addition, the CVMA strongly supports continued development, testing, and improvement of traps and snares, so that they are as humane as possible. The CVMA advocates for the ongoing development and refinement of national and international trapping standards that further animal welfare, and support species sustainability and limit the capture of non-target species.
- Trapping devices used for fur bearing animals must be designed to cause rapid death, or work on the principle of live capture that minimizes pain, injury and suffering.
- The CVMA strongly advocates for continuous improvement in the design and use of traps to produce a rapid onset of unconsciousness, to minimize the capture of non-target species and to prevent the suffering of live trapped animals. New technologies to improve the welfare of trapped animals should be continuously developed and utilized.
- Best trapping practices must include avoiding prolonged confinement likely to cause suffering. Live trapped animals should be promptly and humanely euthanized when indicated. Traps or snares should be checked at least every 24 hours, and preferably on a semi-continuous basis, to reduce suffering.
- Trapper education programs should include humane practices that include prompt and humane euthanasia. Refresher courses should be developed to incorporate emerging technologies and improved methods.
- Furbearer management and conservation programs must be sustainable.
- The CVMA supports the ongoing development and refinement of national and international trapping standards that further animal welfare.
1. In Canada, trapping is performed for several reasons such as research, conservation translocations, population management, disease control, and as an important way of life for some Canadians.
2. The conservation and sustainable use of wildlife implies the need to care for the welfare of animals that are captured with live or lethal traps. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has urged IUCN member countries to adopt regulations setting out specific humane trapping practices to ensure that the most humane and selective techniques available are employed in the capture and/or killing of wild animals (1).
Canada is a signatory to the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS), whose stated aim is ‘to ensure a sufficient level of welfare of trapped animals and to further improve this welfare ‘(2). The Canadian Trap Certification Program ensures certified traps are in compliance with AIHTS standards (3). There are several limitations, however (4,5).
a. The standards exclude several species commonly trapped in Canada such as foxes, mustelids (mink, wolverine, weasel, ermine), skunks, bears and squirrels, therefore there are no certified traps for these species.
b. Snares are excluded from the standards, and thus the Canadian Trap Certification Program, yet they are in common use. Alternatives to manual and power killing neck snares should be considered for large carnivores as animals captured in these ways may suffer as much as those caught in banned steel-jawed leghold traps (6-8).
c. Welfare assessments currently used to assess and certify traps do not fully reflect the welfare state of the animal. For example, behavioural measures are limited to self-mutilation, excessive immobility, and unresponsiveness. Signs of distress are species-specific and may include vocalizing, posture changes, signs of thirst or hunger, changes in alertness and prolonged exertion. Welfare indicators should consider the biology of the species and must be scientifically assessed using physiological and behavioural measures, both during and after trapping (4,6,8-11). Since some of these indicators have not been studied for a number of species, further scientific studies are necessary.
d. The welfare thresholds for both restraining and kill traps are too low. For example, the current target to unconsciousness or death for most species in killing traps is less than 5 minutes, yet new technology and materials would allow for the development of traps to reduce this to 60 seconds for many species, thus significantly improving welfare (5).
3. The CVMA strongly encourages the development of humane, science-based standards for all trapping devices and for all furbearing species. Certification must be established for all trapping devices and reflect state-of-the-art trap technology. Continuous improvement in trap design that improves the welfare of live animals trapped during restraint, results in rapid unconsciousness and subsequent death in killing traps and maximizes efficiency and species selectivity should be the goal.
4. Trapping practices are as important as trapping devices in maximizing welfare.
a. Prolonged confinement can allow animals to suffer greatly, leading to death from injury, exhaustion, environmental exposure or predation. The CVMA holds that the minimum trap inspection frequency for all provinces and territories and trap types should be set at not more than 24 hours. In addition, the CVMA considers that with current surveillance technology, a semi-continuous tele-inspection should be performed whenever possible so as to minimize suffering and quickly release non-target species.
b. Rapid euthanasia of animals trapped in live traps should be performed when indicated, using established humane methods. An alternate euthanasia method for killing traps must be available should the trap fail to cause rapid death.
c. Traps should be set in order to minimize the capture of nontarget species, including domestic animals. Careful consideration of trap location, appropriate signage, providing contact information on traps, and education for pet owners are encouraged.
d. Trapper education courses should include information on the humane treatment, handling and dispatch of trapped animals. The importance of frequent check times, recognition of pain and distress, the safe release of nontarget species, and humane euthanasia are all necessary aspects of a humane education.
e. Trappers should continuously integrate new technology into their trapping methodology to improve the welfare of trapped fur-bearing species (2,4,6,8,10-13). Examples include tranquillizer tabs on the traps, and electronic signaling to ensure prompt removal from traps.
5. Furbearer management and conservation programs must be based on the three principles of sustainability (4,13):
a. Conservation status of the species must be considered and should be based on scientific and active monitoring of populations.
b. The trapping and furbearer management collection methods must be humane and socially acceptable.
c. Fur collection in the species must achieve a functional objective.
- Methods for Capturing and/or Killing of Terrestrial or Semi-aquatic Wild Animals, 18th session, General Assembly of the IUCN, Resolution 18.25. 1990. Available from: http://www2.ecolex.org/server2neu.php/libcat/docs/LI/GA_18_REC_025_Methods_for_Capturing_and_or_Killing.pdf
- Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. The European Community, the Government of Canada, and the Government of the Russian Federation. Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 1997. 31 pp. Available from: https://fur.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/AIHTS-Copy-of-Agreement.pdf
- Fur Institute of Canada. Certified Traps – AIHTS Implementation in Canada. Updated February 1, 2021. Available from: https://fur.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/CertifiedTrapsList_FIC_Feb-1-2021_ENG_FINAL.pdf
- Harrop SR. The agreements on international humane trapping standards -background, critique and the texts. Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy 1998;1:387-394. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248946419_The_Agreements_on_International_Humane_Trapping_Standards_background_critique_and_the_texts
- Proulx, G, Cattet, M, Serfass TL, Baker, S. Updating the AIHTS trapping standards to improve animal welfare and capture efficiency and selectivity. Animals 2020;10(8). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343190673_Updating_the_AIHTS_Trapping_Standards_to_Improve_Animal_Welfare_and_Capture_Efficiency_and_Selectivity
- Proulx G, Cattet MRL, Powell RA. Humane and efficient capture and handling methods for carnivores. In L. Boitani & R. A. Powell (Eds.), Carnivore ecology and conservation: A handbook of techniques London, England: Oxford University Press. 2012:70-129. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248706927_Humane_and_efficient_capture_and_handling_methods_for_carnivores
- Proulx G, Rodtka D, Barrett MW, Cattet M, Dekker D, Moffatt E, Powell RA. Humaneness and selectivity of killing neck snares used to capture canids in Canada: A review. Canadian Wildlife Biology & Management 2015;4:55-65. Available from: https://alphawildlife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/127-2015-1-Proulx_FINAL-Kiling-Neck-Snares.pdf.
- Proulx G, Rodtka D. Steel-Jawed Leghold Traps and Killing Neck Snares: Similar Injuries Command Change to Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. J Appl Anim Welf Sci 2017;20:198-203. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28375756.
- Fur Institute of Canada. Best Trapping Practices. Updated July 2018. Available from: https://fur.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/best_trapping_practices-July-2018.pdf
- Powell RA, Proulx G. Trapping and marking terrestrial mammals for research: integrating ethics, performance criteria, techniques, and common sense. ILAR Journal 2003;44:259-76. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13130157.
- Iossa GC, Soulsbury D, Harris S. Mammal trapping: a review of animal welfare standards of killing and restraining traps. Animal Welfare 2007;16:335-352. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0962728600027159
- Hadidian J, Griffin J, Pauli D. Are Humane Traps “Humane”? An Animal Welfare Perspective. Proceedings of the 16th Wildlife Damage Management Conference. L.M. Conner, M.D. Smith, Eds. 2016:19-20. Available from: http://wildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/16th-Proceedings-Wildlife-Damage-Management_FINAL_revised-9_05_16.pdf Last accessed May 24, 2019.
- White HB, Decker T, O’Brien MJ, Organ JF, Roberts NM. Trapping and furbearer management in North American wildlife conservation. International Journal of Environmental Studies. 2015;72:756-69. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/00207233.2015.1019297.
(Revised February 2021)