Ever feel trapped? Humans often do. Trapped in a dead end job, or trapped in a cycle of depression, trapped in an unhappy relationship, inundated in a whirl of unpaid bills, even confined in a cell. These are feelings we all want to avoid and with good reason. However, at least we are not trapped in ways that we legalize for animals. Pulled underwater and drowned; held fast in pain and suffering for hours by a limb or paw, waiting to be killed at point-blank range by a human. You’d have to wonder why any civilized society condones such treatment when we ourselves know the stress and fear of far lesser forms of trapping.
Traps also capture animals that inadvertently trigger them in what wildlife officials describe as ‘incidental takes.’ In a profession that routinely describes what it does or allows by resorting to euphemisms, this particular one sounds suspiciously like ‘collateral damage’- the term used by the military to sanitize the killing and wounding of civilians in war. Of course, you’re just as dead or injured whether the ‘damage’ is incidental or not, just as a coyote or your pet dog or any wild or domestic animal might be, including the beautiful and endangered cats called Canada lynx.
Usually, when something or someone is at risk, you do everything you can to reduce the danger. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW) has proposed new protections for lynx, but they don’t go far enough, probably because of their cozy relationship with the state’s trappers. For instance, while the agency has severely restricted the use of killer type traps unless used in conjunction with a so-called lynx exclusion device, an exception remains for so-called “blind sets.” – traps placed in areas where lynx are likely to travel. Such devices should simply not be allowed in habitats known to be occupied by these rare felines.
In the same locations, foothold traps and cable restraints should be banned for the simple reason that the risk of serious injury from these devices is too great. Past experience in Maine has shown that lynx can suffer bone fractures when caught in foothold traps and can also suffer from frozen toes, which often results in permanent injury. The best way to protect these animals is to eliminate the possibility of injury by eliminating these traps in areas where they are likely to cause harm. After all, if a creature is considered ‘endangered’ it’s irresponsible to expose it to unnecessary risks by allowing conditions that add to its peril.
Existing regulations provide that traps must be tended once a day, even though that requirement is virtually unenforceable, considering the wide range of trapping and the shortage of game wardens. Nonetheless, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife should mandate shorter trap check times in occupied lynx areas when the temperatures are well below freezing to prevent damage to paws or toes. Better yet, why even take a chance at exposing these creatures to such cruelties? Doesn’t it jeopardize those who are already endangered or does the pressure from the small trapping minority take precedence over protection?
DIFW should also require that any trapped lynx are promptly reported and given any necessary medical treatment; failure to report trapped lynx within 24 hours should be punishable by a financial penalty and loss of license.
The moral issue goes much deeper than these proposed restrictions. Do we really want to support a practice that exposes any animal- not just endangered ones – to the callous indifference to life that trapping represents? If animals must be killed for food, let it be done quickly and humanely, not pulled beneath the waters while fighting for breath, nor struggling for survival in below freezing temperatures, nor held fast in the jaws of a trip while racked with fear and apprehension for its very life which is as precious to it as ours is to us. No one –animal or human – should suffer like that.