By definition, animal trapping is the use of a device to catch an animal. Step traps close with coil springs and catch animals with their leg or foot. Snares catch animals by the paw or neck with a wire noose. Professional trappers usually use foot traps with staggered jaws or rubber inserts to avoid breaking the animal`s skin. On a cold Saturday morning in February, about 30 members of the Texas Trappers and Fur Hunters Association gathered at a property in Moran, Texas, to give demonstrations, answer questions, and educate other trappers and the public on proper fishing techniques. The state regulates catches under the auspices of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Trappers must have a standard hunting licence and the consent of a landowner to set traps. Catching fur species such as foxes and beavers requires an additional permit. These species have harvest periods and ownership restrictions, but there are no harvesting rules for non-wild species such as mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes. At the heart of the Lone Star State fishing debate is the fact that Texas is one of the most urbanized states in the country. Finding better ways to coexist with wildlife is likely to become an increasing priority as cities invade wilder habitats. In Texas, studies show significant amounts of habitat and prey for predators, said Stewart of the Humane Society. And some animals, such as mountain lions and coyotes, organize themselves into social hierarchies so that if a trapper abducts an adult male, inexperienced young males can come and kill more livestock, defeating the purpose of trapping, she added.
The love of nature and the call of wilderness are the reason why the members of this 39-year-old fishing club have dedicated their lives to the practice. In Texas, trapping is primarily used to combat predators and pesky animals that threaten livestock, which is part of an agricultural industry with an economic impact of more than $100 billion annually, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture. This practice leads to heated debates between trappers, hunters, ranchers at risk of losing livestock, and animal welfare groups. “If you abolish trapping just to make sure a few animals don`t suffer, then you`re “wide open to hundreds of thousands of animals dying of pain, starvation and disease,” Applegate said. For me, this is much crueler than using a trap. “It`s not a way to resolve conflicts with animals,” Wiggil said. “There are problems and suffering that are not necessarily caused by the trap itself, but because they have been caught, which is why catching them is extremely cruel.” Not everyone agrees. The Humane Society of the United States considers recreational hunting and trapping to be “cruel, inhumane and blatant,” said Gabe Wigtil, the company`s wildlife conservation officer.
Hepker said overpopulation can spread scabies and force coyotes to feed on livestock: “Last year I caught so many coyotes with very bad scabies, almost no hair and little mites running on their fur,” he said. “I`m doing him a favor.” “If there`s overcrowding, it`s not good at all,” Jackson said. “The method used by Mother Nature to control this population is much worse for them than what we are doing.” Most trappers work independently and are hired by private landowners to manage pesky animals. State law requires trappers to check traps every 36 hours for furbearing species such as beavers. This rule does not apply to non-wild species. Wigtil argued that animals could die cruelly from starvation, blood loss, dehydration, hypothermia or another predator before trappers sent them in. Traps can also catch dogs, birds or other non-target animals, Wiggil said. “I caught thousands of animals. I believe that when a wild animal gets into a trap, it puts them in a state of shock — and they won`t have the pain you can imagine,” Applegate said. Shock is Mother Nature`s pain medication.
When the shock dissipates, the paw becomes numb,” he added. At the same time, there`s a reason why these non-lethal methods may not work. In West Texas, where Applegate is falling from traps, some ranches span thousands of acres, making it impossible to lock down herds and install sound and light each night. Furry animals can be caught with Koni foot and bear traps. Snares are prohibited. The maximum number of traps per trapper is 24. Marfa-based Bill Applegate is perhaps the most famous mountain lion hunter in Texas. It has caught thousands of acres in West Texas and the Trans-Pecos region over the past 50 years and has a reputation among its peers for catching the most mountain lions each year. He said he could not refute Wiggil`s claim about some pain in animals trying to escape the traps. However, he says this discomfort is for a shorter duration and is experienced by fewer animals than the widespread suffering caused by disease and starvation due to overpopulation. Jackson said he caught beavers with infected, pus-filled holes in their bodies or pieces of their tails because they fought with each other. “I couldn`t lock him in an office somewhere 10 hours a day,” said beaver catcher Keith Jackson.
“I just like being outside.” The question would be whether they recognize it and are willing to allow some kind of regulation,” Stewart said. “It`s a conversation we`d be open to.” Members of the Texas Trappers and Fur Hunters Association watch coyote catcher Dan Hepker set a trap.