America’s Trapping Boom Relies on Cruel and Grisly Tools
Day after day, the mountain lion struggled to free itself. But the steel-jaw trap held its grip.
Desperate, the big cat bit the trap so hard that it broke a tooth. It tugged and wrenched and twisted. Finally, exhausted and dehydrated, the 7-foot-long male died in the mountains of Nevada in 2013, its left leg still pinned in the trap.
Across the United States, the resurgence of a frontier tradition – commercial fur trapping – is taking a hidden, often grisly toll on wildlife. The activity is legal. It is regulated by state agencies. And for the most part, it doesn’t pose a threat to species’ survival.
But it is carried out in ways that often inflict prolonged suffering and capture many species – including mountain lions – by mistake. And much of it is happening on public land, including national forests, even wildlife refuges.
Fur trapping might seem like a page from the past, a reminder of the days of Daniel Boone and coonskin caps. And in most of the world, it is. Among the few nations where it occurs, none is more important than the United States. Every year, 150,000 trappers here capture and kill up to 7 million wild animals, more than any nation on earth.
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