Bradley: Anti-trapping bill will cause more beaver trapping

by Chris Bradley

I do not consider myself a trapper, but then again, I would not be truthful if I said I have never set any traps.  I have trapped and I will trap again because I live in a house that was built in the 1860s, and I have an annual influx of critters commonly called house mice.

The opponents of trapping beguile us with the term “recreational trapping” by juxtaposing it against the harvesting of an animal, trying to make the point that this harvesting isn’t needed or necessary; it exists just for the perverse pleasure of what are clearly a very few trappers.

Let us be clear however that beavers are from the Order Rodentia, so just like Rats, Mice and Nutria, they are RODENTS.

I believe in wetlands.  I have nothing against beavers.  I, however, fully believe in the proper handling of games species, and one of the methods of controlling their overall health is to cull their population.  This is why we annually harvest deer.

If you read H.191, the latest attempt to BAN trapping, you’ll note something curious.  On the one hand this bill will end the current permitting of trapping – No More “Recreational Trapping”.  However, the bill also creates a new “nuisance trapping permit”.  So:  It’s not really a BAN at all – because regulated trapping will still be in existence and even sanctioned – we will just call it something else.

Now, with the permitted “Recreational Trapping” that occurs today, we have a method that has been proven to help control the overall population of certain game species.  In allowing Trappers to trap, we also reduce – or keep in check – the need for nuisance trapping elsewhere.  Allowing continued trapping also recognizes the rights of the indigenous people of Vermont.

When municipalities or VTRANS or a property owner has a need to remove a nuisance animal – who do  they think gets called?  A Plumber?  No, they will likely call a Trapper, or will call F&W who will then refer a Trapper, because Trappers know what to do, they have the tools and expertise to do it efficiently and effectively, and these good folks will often do it for a minimal, or even without, charge.

Beavers in Vermont are abundant and flourishing, and it is beyond foolish to believe that we could live and let live by allowing beavers to reproduce without culling and allow them to build dams wherever they please.  

So, I ask you, what do you prefer?  Controlling a species with a proven method that is usually done for little or no cost to VTRANS, a municipality, or even yourself; or would you prefer to have to pay commercial rates to pay these same skilled individuals under a “Compensation Permit”?

Look up trapping and Massachusetts.  In MA, what used to be “Recreational Trappers” became “Nuisance Trappers” when trapping was banned; and it is a fact that many of those folks now make 6-figure incomes by using their expertise to trap the now hugely over-abundant problem animals.

Keep in mind that one of the arguments the anti-trappers give is “there is no money in trapping”.  It’s part of their mantra that ties to the theme of “Recreational Trapping”.

A bill like H.191 will take “Recreational Trapping” and make it “Compensated Trapping”; H.191 even states that trappers “…trap for compensation under a nuisance wildlife trapping license”.

H.191 will actually cause MORE trapping in Vermont; it will create an industry for the commercial killing of critters like beavers with expensive rates, and it will absolutely create Wanton Waste.  These are LOGICAL outcomes that some cannot or will not see.

And heaven help all of us if a mouse can be called a “fur-bearing animal” under H.191.

H.191 a Trapping Ban?  No.  It’s hypocrisy, as it will NOT ban trapping.  It will expand it.

The author is a Northfield resident and President of the Vermont Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs (VTFSC).

Categories: Commentary, Outdoors

6 replies »

  1. None of this addresses any of the serious concerns that so many people oppose about trapping – which is first that it is an unquestioningly inhumane manner of “culling populations” under which animals suffer immensely for hours or even days before death, as some trappers are known not to check traps in the mandated timely manner dictated.

    And the second reason is that non-targeted species, such as people’s pets are, with some frequency, gravely injured or themselves killed in these primitive traps set either without permission on private property or on state lands used for a variety of recreational activities, and where domestic animals oft traverse with their human companions. A quick perusal of the internet will heartbreakingly verify the cats and dogs who met their agonizing end in these traps – a number of them right here in Vermont.

    Perhaps if the species human never in the past felt it necessary to so greatly interfere with nature to begin with, and annihilated predators such as cougars (catamounts) and wolves from this area of the Northeast, a more natural balance might have been properly maintained – though we would almost certainly now be in the process of “culling” them as well since hominids, particularly human beings, often don’t like to share this earth with other like predators or omnivores such as themselves. I guess it’s those opposable thumbs that appear to confer this instantaneous impression of unrestrained mastery over all other creatures, and it is that same haughty arrogance that led to an entire Continent, if not an entire world, in collectively and eternally grieving the loss of a one beautiful, gentle Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger of Aussieland.

    • Kathleen Gaffney –

      I take it then that you do NOT support H.191 – because it perpetuates the use of traps that kill?

      How do you feel about rat and mouse traps, or is it just the size of the rodent that matters?

      How do you propose beavers be dispatched in the wild, recognizing of course that they have to be culled somehow, because we cannot just let them build dams wherever they please?

      Would you prefer if they were only shot instead? Or do you advocate for never taking a beaver’s life, for whatever reason?

      If there are trappers “known not to check traps”, then they should be reported to F&W by good folks like you. Speaking of which, and as you seem knowledgeable on this topic: What is the total number of trappers that are not checking their traps, or what are their names – or is your statement purely anecdotal and conjecture?

      Yes, it is known that in some cases pets have been caught in traps. I truly empathize with those relatively few losses, but I then consider what those pets are doing outside, not on a leash or otherwise not restrained in some form. Most cats are lost because they allowed loose outside where they become prey for other predators or are hit by vehicles, and house cats are a true killer of many types of birds when allowed unfettered access to the outdoors.

  2. One point I’d like to make in the aftermath of the flooding. How many of the washouts, and other flood related issues were exacerbated by beaver dams that were topped over, partially, or completely blown out ? I know of at least one in the village where I live, and I’d bet that If I take a walk up on the Woodbury Mountain, I’ll find where the dams on that mountain went like dominoes contributing to washouts from Calais, to Route 14 in Woodbury Gulf, to West Woodbury, . That happened all over the region. Yup beavers are cute little dam engineers, until their dams blow. Beaver dams are some of the most fleeting structures on earth. They don’t last forever. They always have, and always will blow out. The only hedge against then doing damage to our infrastructure, is preventative management through trapping. Period.

  3. Mr Bradley, you don’t address any of the points I specifically broached in my reply to your article. Therefore, I’ll commence now instead by asking you a question or two and addressing some of the statements you made which again have little or nothing to do with my initial reply.

    Number One: As far as mouse & rat traps go, those are generally used within private residences & buildings, not out in the wilds of VT forests where families & their pets may spend the day hiking. Further, I have yet to learn of any estimation of fatalities associated with domestic dogs (or felines) being killed or suffering life-threatening injuries as a result of an encounter with a common mouse trap – as opposed to the estimated numbers of canines/felines killed by the inhumane method of trapping.

    Number Two: As president of the VT Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, I would think that you might have relatively easy access to the statistics available with regard to the number of domestic animals/pets fatally injured by these barbaric traps annually, as your characterization that there are “relatively few losses” is highly inaccurate. According to National Geographic, many thousands of cases of non-targeted species are killed by traps annually and in fact, Wildlife Services which is affiliated with the US Department of Agriculture alone killed over 3,000 unintended animals in one given year – many of which were federally protected species – in their quest to take out other “nuisance” animals that potentially “threaten” crops, livestock, or humans in one way or another. Some states across the nation estimate deaths of companion animals killed in traps in each state to be anywhere from approximately fifty individuals annually to upwards of a couple of hundred – NOT taking into account other unintentional targets such as the aforementioned protected species animals inadvertently killed by traps.

    Number Three: Requesting good folks like me (a characterization you use to which I DO agree with….most of the time anyway) to report hunters who don’t check their traps as required is much like asking me to report Catholic priests to the Archdiocese who proceed to break their Lenten fasts without then going immediately to Confession. Not. my. job. and. virtually. impossible. for. me. to. ascertain. Do you suggest I spend my days & nights surveying random areas of the VT wilderness in camouflage, waiting in the brush for violators & then confronting them & demanding their identification? I’m thinking that as peaceable as most Vermonters generally are, I’ll take a pass on that. However, it indeed IS the duty of F & W to find these individuals and prosecute these crimes, and I trust F & W has protocols in place that enable them to do just that.

    Insofar as your account of domestic cats being killed primarily through encounters with moving vehicles and their possessing natural instincts to hunt small prey such as birds, I’m unclear as to how these realities correlate to encouraging the continued clearly fallible and undeniably cruel practice of trapping. Should you be suggesting that the State of VT enact laws that disallow domestic cats to roam freely without either restraint of some kind or without owner supervision, I would recommend broaching such a topic in front of the legislature and attempting to garner support. However, before embarking, I would personally suggest omitting any comparison between a feline’s biological instinct to hunt small prey and a human being setting out foothold traps or snares that cannot differentiate between species or that often cause torturous suffering. Yes, cats can be cunning, but humans can be downright repugnant.

    • I am not a trapper, but I do know how to do a quick search. According to Fish and Wildlife stats, 13 pets were reported caught in traps in 2022. The vast majority sustained no or minor injuries, with one cat suffering serious injuries, and one dog killed, ironically in one of the “humane” body hold type traps that from my brief reading appear to being pushed in place of foot hold type traps which all the others were caught in. It’s also worth noting that 2022 was worse than average, with only 35 reports over the previous five years.

      I would not expect you to stake out traps, but I would expect verifiable facts instead of vague accusations, “some trappers are known not to check traps in the mandated timely manner dictated.” But then if they are known, then you would not need to stake out the traps would you? While we are on that subject though, it is worth noting that Fish and Wildlife does actually ask you to report suspected illegal hunting or fishing activities to them. In fact, they offer rewards in partnership with the he Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs look up Operation Game Thief (OGT). As usual, it’s the hunters and fishers who are actively practicing and encouraging better wildlife management and conservation efforts.

  4. In reality & in contradiction to your claim about poor Anne McKinsey’s beautiful dog killed in a “humane” trap, the reality is that the beloved pet was actually killed in an ILLEGAL trap set on private property.

    Further, my statistics are taken, as I cited, from National Geographic and thereby are to be considered accurate. Should you personally refute them, I recommend that you take this issue up directly with Nat Geo, but until you do, and Nat Geo publishes a public retraction, the data & stats I cited stand as factual. Thousands upon thousands of non-targeted species are killed annually across this country including animals listed under the banner of “protected species.”

    As far as your own data re: 2022 in which you mistakenly claim Ms. McKinsey’s dog was killed by a “humane” trap as opposed to the illegal trap as was the case, I presume that with your additional claims, you are referring only to the State of Vermont which holds a population of merely just over 600,000 residents. Subsequently, of course, fewer residents equal fewer trappers equal fewer mistakes & fewer cases of abuse resulting in very obviously fewer non-targeted species, pets or otherwise, ensnared in these barbaric devices of torture & death. Such calculations however provide no solace to Ms. McKinsey or her now-deceased dog.

    Just as in Hamlet wherein the lady doth protest too much, so too do trappers and proponents of trapping. Despite the fact that trapping remains legal in much of this country with restrictions regulating its use, trappers appear to insist upon attempting to convert opponents into seeing the grand virtue or at least the great virtuosity of this “sport”, or act of “necessity” in reordering nature so that our natural environs conform to what we humans deem suitable or more convenient.

    One needs only to peruse the photographs easily accessible online of both pets and wild animals ensnared in these weapons to envision the pain, suffering, fear, and torture each endured whilst they awaited their ultimate demise from either a trapper’s knife, gun or simply just from the shock & loss of blood directly due to the grave injuries sustained. While we can safely assume that none of us here on VDC has ever attempted to chew off one of our own appendages from our body in order to escape from these steely jaws of death – living, breathing animals have and it is for that very reason that trapping is a revulsion to so many and always will be.