Connecticut General Assembly
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
October 2, 2003 98-R-0052
FROM: Matthew Ranelli, Associate Attorney
RE: Leghold Trap Alternatives
You asked whether any agricultural states or countries have banned leghold traps. You also asked if similarly priced and effective alternatives traps are available.
Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have banned the use of leghold traps in some form. All of these states except Rhode Island have more farm acreage and farm value than Connecticut. According to the Animal Protection Institute, 88 countries have also banned the traps. Two bills before Congress propose bans on the import and export of steel-jawed leghold traps and the fur products derived from animals caught in them (H.R. 1176 and S. 1557).
In Connecticut, steel-jawed leghold traps may be set only in water bodies. On land, trappers must use padded-jawed traps, and set the traps in the animal's burrow. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) licenses approximately 370 trappers. It does not know how many traps or what variety are set, but the numbers are limited by a requirement that trappers check their traps every 24-hours.
Trapping is allowed on public and private lands. Every four years, the DEP auctions off exclusive rights to trap on 122 parcels of state land. In 1994, DEP awarded 44 trappers the rights to trap 108 parcels.
Padded-leghold traps are slightly less expensive than killing (conibear) traps and generally less expensive than live (box) traps, although the prices are very close for smaller animals. The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) contends that steel-jawed leghold traps are inhumane. Some animal nuisance problems may be solved without trapping. For example, excluders (one-way spring-loaded doors) prevent an animal from re-entering an opening and are less expensive than similarly sized live traps.
TRAPPING IN CONNECTICUT
According to the DEP, people trap for three main reasons (1) fur, (2) nuisance, and (3) crop protection. DEP licenses approximately 370 trappers. The law does not limit the number of traps they may set, but they must have their name on each trap and check them all every 24-hours (CGS § 26-72). Over 5,000 fur-bearing animals were taken in the 1996-97 season. Muskrat (3,104), beaver (1,180), and mink (224) were the most common (see Attachment 1 for the totals).
Traps fall into three broad categories (1) live traps, (2) leghold (and snares) traps, and (3) killing traps. The cost and effectiveness of these traps may depend on the type of animal being trapped and the trapper's goal. Other factors that may be important include the ease of transport and setting of the traps and damage to nontarget animals.
Steel-jawed and padded leghold traps are legal (Ct. Regs. § 22-66-5(a)). Steel-jawed traps may be set only in water bodies; while padded traps may be used in water or on land if set in the animal's burrow (Ct. Regs. § 22-66-5(b)). Both must meet specifications set by DEP.
Trapping is allowed on private property (with the landowner's permission) and on some state property. Every four years the DEP auctions off the exclusive right to trap on 122 parcels of state land (Ct. Regs § 22-66-6). In 1994, DEP awarded 44 trappers the right to trap 108 parcels and 14 were not awarded because no one bid or only trappers exceeding the four-parcel limit bid (see Attachment 2 for a list of trappers for each parcel). The auction raised approximately $26,864, which was deposited in the general fund.
LEGHOLD TRAP BANS IN OTHER STATES
Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island ban the use of leghold traps in some form. At least three bans were the result of a state initiative. According to the Animal Protection Institute, 88 countries, have also banned the traps or products derived from animals caught in them (see Attachment 3).
Two bills currently before Congress propose bans on the import and export of steel-jawed leghold traps and the fur products derived from animals caught in such traps (H.R. 1176 and S. 1557).
Arizona banned leghold traps on public lands by a state initiative in 1994. The law prohibits the use of leghold or killing traps or snares to take wildlife on public lands (including state and federal parks and forests and public domains). State, federal, county, and city departments of health are exempt from the prohibition on their respective lands if they are trapping to protect the public health (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 17-301(D), Attachment 4).
Colorado banned the use of leghold and killing traps on both public and private lands by state initiative in 1996. It exempts state, federal, county, and municipal departments of health if they are trapping to protect the public health (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 0-3.4-181.3, Attachment 5). Violation of the prohibition is a petty offense punishable by a fine and points toward suspension of the violator's trapping license (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 33-6-203).
Massachusetts banned the use of leghold and killing traps and snares on public or private property in a state initiative in 1996. The law prohibits the use of traps designed to hold an animal by gripping its body or part of it, including steel-jaw and padded leghold traps, conibear traps, and snares (Mass. Rev. Stat. 131 § 80A, Attachment 6). State and federal health departments may use the prohibited traps to protect the public health and safety. The director of agriculture may issue special permits for the use of leghold traps under certain circumstances and after alternative methods fail.
New Jersey prohibits the manufacture, sale, possession, or use of steel-jawed leghold traps on public and private lands (NJ Rev. Stat. §§ 23:4-22.1, 2, and 3; Attachment 7). Violations are punishable by a fine. The law directs the Department of Wildlife Management at Cook College to study alternative traps that are more humane to target and nontarget animals. We have requested a copy of this report and will forward it to you.
Rhode Island banned steel-jawed leghold traps and snares except for landowners trapping for nuisance animals (RI Rev. Stat. § 20-16-6 and 8, Attachment 8). Landowners must apply to the director of environmental management for a special permit to use leghold traps. Violators may be fined or imprisoned and may have their trapping license revoked.
Agricultural Output of States with Bans
All of these states, except Rhode Island, have more agricultural acreage and farm value than Connecticut based on census data (see Attachment 9). Arizona, Colorado, and New Jersey have higher total agricultural receipts while Massachusetts and Rhode Island have slightly less (see Attachment 10).
COSTS AND EFFECTIVENESS
The effectiveness of a trap may depend on the goal of the trapper. Nuisance trappers may not want to kill an animal, but rather trap and release it or exclude it from a building. Fur trappers need to kill their targets; they may prefer a leghold trap so they can release nontarget animals or a killing trap so they do not have to kill animals after trapping them.
According to Paul Rego of the DEP, leghold traps are generally most effective, especially for bigger animals such as fox and coyote. According to Skip Hilliker of DEP, live traps can be equally effective as leghold traps for many types of animals after a trapper learns how to use them.
Leghold traps are small, effective and inexpensive. Generally, steel-jawed leghold traps are the least expensive, followed by padded leghold traps, killing traps, and live traps. Depending on the size of the target animal the difference in price can be $5 to $10 dollars (for animals like skunks or muskrats), but for larger, more powerful animals the difference is greater (e.g. a Hancock trap for beavers cost $300). Table 1 lists prices based on a random survey for a raccoon trap.
Table 1: Approximate Price for Raccoon Traps
Steel-jawed leghold (size 3)
Padded leghold (size 3)
Live trap (or box)*
*Live trap prices vary widely depending on the size and power of the target animal
According to the AVMA, steel-jawed leghold traps are inhumane. Target and nontarget animals caught in leghold traps may experience prolonged pain and sometimes debilitating injuries. Animals taken in steel-jawed leghold traps set underwater will drown in a relatively short time. Padded traps set on land must be set in an animal's burrow and checked every 24-hours, which may reduce the risk to nontarget animals and the amount of time they suffer in a trap. According to Rego, DEP does not receive many complaints about nontarget animals.
NONTRAPPING ALTERNATIVES FOR NUISANCE WILDLIFE
In addition to one-way doors that allow an animal to leave a building and not renter the same way, many animal nuisance problems may be addressed using nontrapping methods. The DEP uses funds from a federal Fish and Wildlife grant to solve beaver dam problems without trapping. Staff insert pipes or baffles through beaver dams to let water flow through the dams. The beavers do not feel the water rushing by, but the water level eventually drops and the beavers move on. According to Hilliker, the method is effective except in the winter when lowering the water level in a dam could cause the beavers to freeze to death.
According to Laura Simon of the Fund for Animals, nontrapping alternatives often involve preventative maintenance of buildings and may vary depending on the animal and where it is located. Common problems associated with raccoons in the garbage and animals under decks or in attics can be avoided or solved without trapping. (see Attachment 11).