By Doug Leier

There are mixed feelings throughout the country regarding trapping

There probably isn't an outdoor activity that has fallen under more scrutiny than trapping.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, because over the past decade, people in the wildlife management field have done a lot of research to evaluate traps and trapping. The intent has been to find ways to improve and refine methods for capturing furbearing animals, as well as maintain support for trapping as part of scientific wildlife management.

Rick Tischaefer is a North Dakota trapper and beyond that he has worked extensively with the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the umbrella organization encompassing the world's fish and wildlife managers, top research biologists and scientists. His work with IAFWA and others has helped develop recommendations and education programs relating to trapping called Best Management Practices, based on the most extensive study of animal traps ever conducted in the United States.

Tischaefer points out, "Roughly 10 percent of our population are either trappers or strongly support trapping; and another 10 percent oppose any kind of trapping in most situations. The 80 percent in the middle are more or less neutral but may lean one way or the other depending on the circumstances."

It's important to understand that trapping is a highly regulated activity. Not only have the tools and techniques improved over the years, but furbearer harvest is closely monitored to ensure that populations remain healthy. Any one who traps must also follow strict rules established and enforced by state fish and wildlife agencies.

For example, in North Dakota, the carcasses of bobcats taken by hunting or trapping must be turned over to the Game and Fish Department for research purposes. In addition, the types of traps that can be used, and when, where and how they can be used, are also spelled out in law.

Getting into trapping isnt as hard as many think, just follow the signs and learnd from them

Many people probably associate trapping with taking animals solely for their fur, but there's a much broader scope. In North Dakota, most of us have heard of someone, or have ourselves had to deal with beavers plugging waterways or destroying trees. Trapping is one of the effective and efficient means for addressing such a situation.

Another example on a large scale is dealing with nutria, a non-native muskrat-like furbearer that escaped into the wild in the southern United States. Nutria have destroyed critical wetland vegetation, and trapping is making a difference in dealing with the problem.

In Florida, raccoons like to feast on eggs deposited on beaches by endangered sea turtles. When the need to protect these eggs became apparent, citizens at first guarded the nests. However, as human interest waned, trapping became a more efficient and effective method to assist these rare species.

Trapping is also a way to capture animals for research purposes. In Chicago, metropolitan coyote are caught and fitted with a radio-collar so their movements can be tracked.

Closer to home, trapping helps deal with conflicts caused by raccoons, coyotes, skunks and other animals. In a way, it's a standard similar to trapping mice, but on a bigger scale.

Animals that are trapped also provide benefits besides their fur. Beaver castor is an ingredient in many high end perfumes. Believe it or not, muskrat is served in some of the finest restaurants on the east coast.

IAFWA and its state and private conservation partners have been developing the Best Management Practices for years, with heavy emphasis on research and testing parameters. These guidelines include technical recommendations from experts, and suggestions for equipment and techniques that ensure the welfare of animals and avoid unintended captures.

The BMPs provide wildlife professionals with information to help them manage and conserve furbearers and improve animal welfare in trapping programs. They can also help people understand that managed trapping doesn't threaten wildlife populations, and can in some situations even help improve wildlife populations.

The Best Management Practices for Trapping can be found at "" or "".