Trapping: commonly misunderstood use of
By Miles Benker - Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Remember the cartoon when Wile E. Coyote gently pours bird seed onto the trigger
of a huge trap with teeth on its jaws to catch the Roadrunner?
For many people, this is their first image of trapping. And as society changes
with more and more people growing up in urban settings, fewer are exposed to
trapping. Thus, misconceptions commonly arise. One misconception is that
trapping threatens or endangers animal populations. This might have been the
case 200 years ago, but today's state, federal and international laws protect
the vast majority of species, especially those endangered and threatened.
Laws that keep wildlife from becoming endangered are the tip of the iceberg.
Nearly two dozen laws set standards for animal welfare by limiting when, where
and how animals are captured. Some date to the 1930s, when sizes of traps were
Over a quarter of a century ago, trapping organizations worked with both state
and federal agencies to make some sweeping changes in trapping regulations. They
banned certain types of traps, required trappers to visit their sets more
frequently, and took other steps to improve animal welfare and selectivity of
Laws work best with accountability, so trapping is highly regulated and laws are
strictly enforced. In Idaho, traps must be marked with the owner's name and
address. Trappers are also required to obtain permission from landowners or
tenants before trapping on private property. Such laws help ensure that trapping
is conducted responsibly, in terms of both wildlife populations and individual
animals. Idaho trappers are also required to complete a harvest report each
season. In the case of bobcat and river otter harvest, a mandatory check and
reporting system is required for each animal harvested.
Furbearing animals are an abundant, renewable resource. Legally trapped animals
are numerous and their populations are secure. Wildlife agencies manage
furbearer populations in much the same way they manage other fish and wildlife
populations, through the harvest information provided by sportsmen. This
information is required through trapper reports and the mandatory check and
Furbearer populations are monitored with goals for managing those populations in
the best interest of the public and for the conservation of those particular
species. Fish and Game managers use the data to set harvest regulations and
implement restrictions to protect and enhance the species' long-term survival.
Those furbearers which are rare or federally listed as threatened or endangered
are monitored using trend counts such as snow-track surveys to determine their
presence and relative densities throughout the state. The public is asked to
assist the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in reporting any wolverine or lynx
sightings to the nearest Fish and Game office.
Idaho has eleven species defined as fur-bearing mammals. These species are
marten, fisher, mink, otter, beaver, muskrat, bobcat, lynx, red fox, raccoon,
and badger. There are no seasons for fisher or lynx as their numbers are low and
they are considered rare. Lynx are listed as a threatened species in Idaho.
The Department provides an opportunity to harvest those furbearing animals which
are abundant. Most are harvested with legal trapping techniques only, while
badger, bobcat, raccoon and red fox may also be hunted.
River otter harvest is very limited with low harvest quotas for each of the
seven regions of Idaho. There is a two otter limit for any one trapper for the
season, provided the harvest quota for that region is not exceeded. Also,
closure areas have been established to reduce potential conflicts between
trappers and other user groups. The Clearwater Region quota is 15 otter, while
the overall statewide quota is 107 otter.
Miles Benker is a Regional Wildlife Biologist in the Clearwater Region. He is
also the Regional Furbearer Coordinator.
Contact: Ed Mitchell (208) 334-3700