Bobcats are frequent victims of this cruel practice. Photo by Valerie license CC NC ND 2.0 via Flickr

Good News — California Becomes the First State to Ban Fur Trapping

It’s now illegal to trap animals or sell their fur in California, thanks to a bill that was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom last week. This makes California the first state to impose a fur trapping ban, HuffPost reports.

Coyotes like this one above are now safer thanks to this ban. Photo by Jeremy Miles license CC SA 2.0 via Flickr

Trapping in this state is relegated to the dustbin of history

Called the Wildlife Protection Act of 2019, the legislation ends the traditional but now archaic practice that is linked to California’s frontier past. As conservation efforts burgeon in the state the number of people using this cruel practice has steadily declined.

The American marten is another frequent victim of steel-jawed traps. Photo by Tim Gage license CC SA 2.0 via Flickr

“Historically, fur trapping played a significant role in the extirpation of wolves and wolverines and the severe declines in sea otters, fishers, marten, beaver, and other fur-bearing species in California,” according to the bill. “Because individual trappers concentrate their operations in limited geographical areas, they can locally deplete populations of the species they target, impairing the ecological functioning of the area and diminishing opportunities for wildlife watching in these areas.”

California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-Calif.) introduced the legislation. She says that it was time to end fur trapping, The Los Angeles Times reports.

“It seems especially cruel, obviously, and it’s just unnecessary and costly,” she added.

The rise and fall of California’s fur-trapping industry

Trapping has had a devastating effect on wolverine populations in North America and parts of Europe. Photo by Barney Moss license CC 2.0 via Flickr

Just over a century ago there were 5,000 trappers in the state, and trapping drove the economy. Trapping opened up the San Francisco Bay Area to international commerce before the famous California Gold Rush. Luckily, in the ensuing decades, the practice has waned.

Now there are only about six dozen trappers still operating in the state. So, a large part of the problem is that those trappers cannot afford to pay the full cost for regulating and implementing their industry.

And The Associated Press notes the number of licenses for recreational and commercial fur trapping has declined in lockstep with this. Last year, the state only issued 133 licenses. That year, 1,568 animals were trapped and 1,243 pelts were sold.

And lawmakers are considering stricter measures to protect wildlife

Beaver pelts were also heavily trafficked. Photo by Steve McDonald license CC 2.0 via Flickr

Lawmakers are considering measures to ban the sale of fur coats and all other fur products too. They are also looking at banning circuses from using animals other than domestic dogs, cats, and horses.

“There’s been a real change in attitudes about how we treat animals,” Gonzalez noted.

This is truly good news for California’s wildlife, especially since it’s not just the traps themselves that are cruel. In practice, trappers either shoot, beat or strangle animals to death. And there’s nothing kind or merciful about this.

And the law, backed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the non-profit organization Social Compassion in Legislation, specifically bans the use of the “steel-jawed leg-hold trap.” In fact, lawmakers banned all traps that use spike or saw-toothed jaws.

Fur trapping is also dangerous to our pets

Poor Drei was a lucky survivor. Many pets don’t survive these traps. Photo by Lupe Sears/The Dodo

Poor Drei was a stray kitty in Vermont in 2017 when he was caught in a nasty Conibear trap or “kill trap” that’s meant to do just that — kill any animal unlucky enough to become trapped in it, The Dodo reports. Drei’s leg was so badly mangled it had to be amputated, with the surgery costing nearly $3,000. But this sweet cat is lucky. He’s thriving at home, with plenty of love and support.

The Wildlife Protection Act of 2019 isn’t perfect. You see, it still allows for the trapping of rats, mice, voles, gophers, and moles. But it’s a start.

Time for a new normal

Each year six million animals (including our pets) are trapped by steel-jawed leghold traps on public or private land. It’s good news that California has banned this cruelty but these traps should be banned nationwide. The traps cause excruciating pain and are absolutely cruel. It’s time for them to go.

Featured image by Valerie license CC NC ND 2.0 via Flickr

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