Bills are routinely filed that would expand the use of inhumane and indiscriminate body gripping traps, such as legholds and Conibears, as well as snares. These traps can catch any animal, wild or domestic, who walks or swims into them, causing intense suffering and death. The MSPCA opposes legislation that would expand trapping in Massachusetts.
H. 703, An Act Relative to Beavers, would repeal the Wildlife Protection Act (Ch. 131 sec. 80A), passed by a 64% yes vote in 1996 as ballot question #1, and allow the recreational use of body gripping traps for wildlife.
H. 750, An Act Conserving Our Natural Resources, would strike a portion of the Wildlife Protection Act (Ch. 131 sec. 80A) to allow various local, state, and federal agencies to use restricted Conibear traps, and prohibited snares and other traps, for a variety of reasons throughout the year, as well as allow the state's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, or its agents, to use these traps during the recreational trapping season.
H. 1976, An Act to Protect Children and Adults from Wildlife, weakens trapping restrictions. It authorizes the Department of Public Health and municipal boards of health to issue emergency permits for trapping coyote, fox or fisher cats that pose an immediate threat to public health and safety. These situations are covered under current law; allowing the use of dangerous traps will not protect people (or pets) from wildlife.
H. 721, An Act Valuing our Natural Resources, would strike a portion of the Wildlife Protection Act (Ch. 131 sec. 80A) to allow the state's Department of Public Health, municipal boards of health, and other authorized persons to protect from threats to public health and safety posed by fur-bearing mammals, specifically beavers and muskrats. This bill would also allow persons to apply for a special permit to use prohibited traps on their own land for animal problems.
H. 764, An Act Relative to Beaver Dam Emergencies, removes decision making authority in beaver-related flooding situations that involve public health and safety from the Department of Public Health and/or Local Boards of Health and transfers authority to MassWildlife.
On the other hand, MSPCA supports H. 712, An Act to Enhance the Management of Problem Wildlife, which would require that people who are granted permits to remedy wildlife conflicts report the outcome to MassWildlife within 30 days of expiration or extension. The intention is to track the numbers of animals taken by trappers, statewide populations, complaints about species, locations of complaints and the methods chosen to remedy them.
Background of the current trapping law:
In 1996, 64% percent of the voters in Massachusetts declared their opposition to the use of body-gripping traps for capturing fur-bearing mammals by voting in favor of the Wildlife Protection Act. In 2000, the legislature made revisions to the law, with negotiations centering around allowing reasonable exceptions to the prohibitions on trapping in order to facilitate solutions to damage caused by beavers and muskrats, while still retaining the intent of the ballot initiative. Specifically, these changes moved some control from the state to the local level in order to make the permitting process in cases of threats to health and safety more expedient.
Key reasons that changes to the current law are unnecessary:
Lethal traps, while restricted, are still allowed. The use of lethal traps is reserved for situations involving genuine public safety and health issues because the devices put pets and other animals at risk. Further trapping is not necessary.
Trapping does not work to reduce human-beaver conflicts. When resident beavers are removed from good habitat, other beavers promptly move in.
Flow devices to resolve beaver-related flooding are highly effective and save money because they work for as long as a decade.
Beaver populations stabilize without trapping, which may actually stimulate the growth of the beaver population. The findings from multiple scientific studies done at the Quabbin reservoir illustrate that beaver populations slowly increase, reach a peak, and then decline and ultimately stabilize in keeping with available habitat and food supply. Trapping has never controlled the beaver population in Massachusetts, which was increasing before the passage of the Wildlife Protection Act in 1996.
Body-gripping traps cause unnecessary suffering. Non-target animals, of the target species or other species, can easily be unintentionally caught in these devices. All animals caught in these devices – whether set under water or on land - can suffer for long periods before dying. Leghold traps and snares are even more hazardous than conibears, as so many animals can be caught in them, especially when set on land Leghold traps can cause bone fractures, maiming, hemorrhaging, lacerations, self-mutilation or animals may die from exertion, predation or environmental factors.
The MSPCA opposes any change to the current law that would reduce the use of non-lethal solutions as a means to resolve conflicts with animals; we feel it is contrary to the intent of the ballot question. Allowing the use of body-gripping traps without restrictions will not result in less beaver-related flooding or a reduced population.
Read more about leghold traps
Read more about conibear traps
Read more about Beavers and the Law
Download a factsheet of non-target animals caught in body-gripping traps