Do Animals Caught in Traps Suffer? Do We Really Have to Ask?

I recently served along with representatives of Humane Society of the United State and Center for Biological Diversity and a variety of trapping interests on an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stakeholder group established to reform Oregon’s cruel and inhumane trap check requirements. For far too long, Oregon has lagged woefully behind neighboring western states in our trap check requirements. Oregon’s current trapping policies currently allow animals to suffer in traps anywhere from 48 hours to 30 days, depending on how they are arbitrarily categorized by statute or rule.

A photo of a coyote with its foot caught in a steel trap.
Photo courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States

Unfortunately, as has been the case with this issue for decades, this effort was another exercise in futility. Trapping interests bogged the process down debating whether animals caught in traps, left without food, water, shelter and exposed to predators and the elements, suffer and suggested that the state should conduct studies to determine whether suffering occurs. Do they really have to ask? The bottom line is that traps are inhumane and indiscriminate. They can capture non target wild and domestic animals. Kill traps do not always kill quickly, and the longer an animal is left the more potential there is for increased suffering. If  Oregon is going to continue to allow trapping, it must adopt regulations that minimize the time that animals are left in traps to the maximum extent practicable.

Two weeks ago, our Wildlife Care Center took in a coyote that was caught in a leg hold trap and broke free with the trap still attached to its front leg. It was eventually captured by Multnomah County Animal Services and brought to our center. Judge for yourself whether this animal suffered (Link). (Warning, the photo is gruesome)

It is long past time for ODFW to step up and lead on this issue. Unfortunately, the agency is using the stakeholder committee for cover and once again, has failed to recommend necessary and meaningful changes to Oregon’s trapping regulations. At the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in June, ODFW will be proposing only negligible changes to Oregon’s archaic trap check times, continuing to maintain the status quo, with only one minor and meaningless change: moving from a 30 day to 14 day trap check time for predatory animals trapped in so called “quick kill” traps.

Take Action

Please email the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission and politely ask them to reject the negligible recommendations to Oregon’s trap check and instead adopt meaningful reform to Oregon’s archaic and antiquated trap check times once and for all.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission:

Additional Background and Talking Points

  • Oregon has four different trap check times – from 48 hours to 30 days, all of which are too lax and permissive. It’s long past time that Oregon’s trap check times were updated to 24 hours for all wildlife, in all traps, on both public and private lands. This is consistent with what the majority of other states already have, as well as recommendations made by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
  • There is no acceptable reason to leave any animal suffering in a trap for days on end. Please reject the inadequate recommendations to Oregon’s trap check times and instead adopt meaningful reform to Oregon’s archaic and antiquated trap check times once and for all. A 24-hour trap check time for all wildlife, in all traps, on both public and private land should be the minimum standard for any wildlife caught in a trap.
  • This proposed trap check recommendation fails to meet the most basic of humane standards and won’t reduce animal suffering. Coyotes, beavers, and other wildlife will continue to suffer in traps for up to 14 days, resulting in slow, lingering deaths, from either injuries, starvation, predation or the elements.
  • The American Veterinary Association says the following about trapping: 

The AVMA opposes the use of conventional (non-padded, non-offset) steel jawed foothold traps (also called leghold traps). When the capture of wildlife must occur (e.g. for management or research purposes), humane traps and techniques should be employed that minimize injury, stress, pain, and suffering to wildlife while also seeking to avoid capture of non-target animals. The AVMA recommends that trappers should be trained to use traps and techniques correctly and traps should be checked at least once every 24 hours.

  • It is long past time for the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to step up and adopt consistent and modernized trap check times that reduce wildlife suffering and in step with the majority of states that have adopted a 24-hour or daily trap check requirement.

Please let the ODFW Commission know that it’s important that they lead on this issue and no default to an unacceptable status quo.

Thank you for helping protect wildlife.