When I was younger, I knew many boys from junior high-to-college age who earned money by trapping fur-bearing animals – usually muskrat and mink. In those days (the 1960s), they’d rise on a winter’s morning before anyone else in the house, even before the school-bus drivers thought about going outside to warm up their vehicles.
Dressed warmly and for the elements, these young men would grab a gunny sack and.22-caliber short-barreled rifle and head out the back door for a brisk mile or mile-and-a-half trek to check their trap lines.
After taking muskrats and, if they were lucky, minks out of their stream-side snares, they’d put these animals in the sack and head for home. They hang the sack from a nail on a post or tree outside or store them in an unheated work building or garage, go inside to eat breakfast, dress for school, hop on the bus and put in a full day in the classroom. After returning home, they’d skin the animals and put them on metal frames, fur side in, and wait for them to dry. Later, after scraping off excess fat and meat, the skins were allowed to air dry some more, scraped again, then they were ready for sale.
This activity helped many families meet their financial obligations and paid college and trade-school tuition for more than a few young men. Dads also often supplemented family incomes by trapping.
But today, trapping has come under increasing pressure by anti-hunters-animal/welfare groups, including the Human Society of the United States and Defenders of Wildlife. Now the Sierra Club, with a long history of supporting worthwhile causes such as protection of bald eagles and other endangered species, has decided to jump onboard with animal-protectionists.
On May 19, the Sierra Club’s Board of Directors officially went on record as opposing nearly any and all forms of trapping.
The official statement on the group’s web site noted:
“The Sierra Club considers body-gripping, restraining and killing traps and snares to be ecologically indiscriminate and unnecessarily inhumane and therefore opposes their use.”
Many sportsmen’s groups and individuals who viewed Sierra Club to be anti-hunting saw their suspicions confirmed when the group publicly announced it will be a publically-recognized anti-trapping group that supports “humane” methods of solving human and wildlife conflicts.
Sierra Club’s BOD didn’t reveal its guidelines or definition of “humane.”
After a long battle in the 1970s, the federal government recognized “body-hold” traps (Conibear) to be as legal for use as leg-hold traps, under certain conditions of use.
Sierra Club’s official statement said: “Use of body-gripping devices – including leg-hold traps, snares, and Conibear traps – are indiscriminate to age, sex and species and typically result in injury, pain, suffering, and/or death of target and non-target animals. The Sierra Club considers body-gripping, restraining and killing traps and snares to be ecologically indiscriminate and unnecessarily inhumane and therefore opposes their use. The Sierra Club promotes and supports humane, practical and effective methods of mitigating human-wildlife conflicts and actively discourages the use of inhumane and indiscriminate methods.”
Oddly enough, the Sierra Club’s official statement noted it recognizes the rights of “indigenous people” under federal law and treaties to trap wildlife.
However, trapping is a widely-accepted method of reducing raccoons, beavers, muskrats and other species that prey on nesting songbirds, gobble up young waterfowl, destroy countless dollars of timber and crops each year in America, and basically wreak havoc on everything from highways to lakes.
“For a group that’s concerned about the environment, the Sierra Club’s call to end trapping could lead to one of the most damaging conservation disasters in American history,” said Bud Pidgeon, president and CEO of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Trapping is accepted by and a necessary tool of wildlife professionals from coast to coast. But, this policy from the Sierra Club comes as no surprise to the vast majority of sportsmen and women.”
The Human Society of the United States obtained $148,703,820 in donations in 2010 and grew by 17.3 percent while the Sierra Club raked in only $48,887,087 and grew only 4.7 percent in 2010.