Two main types of trapping system are used in North America: quick-killing traps and restraining traps (live-capture).
Quick-killing systems: From a humane perspective it is usually preferable for an animal to be killed at the time of capture, because wild animals do not want to be restrained, no matter how gently. The most common quick-kill devices work like large mousetraps (e.g., conibear traps, named after Canadian trapper Frank Conibear, who developed the first prototypes in the 1950s). Once the animal trips the trigger-pan, the metal striking bar hits a vital spot with great speed and mechanical force, causing unconsciousness and death in a matter of seconds. Restraining traps can also be used in submersion “sets” as a quick-killing system for semi-aquatic species, e.g., muskrats.
Restraining systems: Live-holding traps are needed for larger predators because these animals (e.g., wolf, coyote, lynx, bobcat) are too cautious and strong to be taken in quick-killing sets. Modern foothold traps are designed to hold the animal with little or no injuries until the trapper arrives to dispatch it. In fact, these traps are commonly used by wildlife biologists to capture and release predators unharmed after radio-collaring or relocation.
More than 58 million USD has been invested over the past 20 years (by state and federal governments and by the International Fur Federation) to develop and test innovative humane trapping systems. This research, coordinated primarily by the Fur Institute of Canada and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), has guided the introduction of modern state and provincial trapping regulations and trapper training courses. It also provided the scientific basis for the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS), which was signed in 1997 by the European Union and two of the main wild-fur-producing countries: Russia and Canada. The USA signed a similar agreement.
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