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I thought trapping was illegal?

You are probably thinking of Initiative-713 that was passed in the year 2000. This did not outlaw trapping. It restricted the use of certain types of traps. Cage traps and suitcase-type beaver traps are legal for general use. Through a permitting process, padded jaw foothold traps, conibear type traps set underwater and non-strangling foot snares are still legal for animal damage control.

Is trapping regulated?

Trapping is one of the most regulated wildlife harvesting methods. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforces seasons and rules set by the Washington State Wildlife Commission. Trappers must take a trapper training course and pass a proficiency test to be eligible to be licensed.

Why do you trap?

There are two types of trapping, fur trapping, and nuisance trapping. Fur trappers trap in the winter when the fur is prime and sell it for use in the garment industry. Populations of animals peak in the fall and as the winter progresses their population falls until their numbers reach a low point in the spring. Trappers seek to harvest these surplus animals that are over and above the carrying capacity of the habitat. Wildlife Control Operators (WCOs) remove animals that are causing problems year-round and they charge for their services. Trappers enjoy their work through the connection they have with the land and nature plus the love of fur. Profits are typically small but this connection with the outdoors keeps us coming back.

What animals do you trap?

In the state of Washington, fur trappers harvest beaver, river otter, muskrat, mink, marten, coyote, bobcat, badger, skunk, weasel, raccoon, and nutria. These are the furbearers actively managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. There are other unclassified animals that WCOs trap as part of their removal services

What traps do you use?

Fur trappers in this state are limited to the use of cage traps and suitcase-type beaver traps. Problem wildlife permits can be obtained to use padded foothold traps, conibear/body-gripping type traps set underwater, or non-strangling foot snares.

Are traps dangerous?

Foothold traps, snares, and cage traps are too small for a person, even a small child to be caught in. Some large conibear/body-gripping traps may be dangerous to small children and pets. This is why they are required to be set underwater to avoid conflicts with humans. Suitcase type beaver traps, which we are forced to use because of Initiative-713, are dangerous and care must be used in their placement.

When do you trap?

Fur trappers trap during the late fall and winter when the fur is prime. Different species have different seasons but all fall into the period of October through March. WCOs may remove problem wildlife at any time of the year.

What do you do with the animals you trap?

Fur trappers trap to harvest the fur. The fur is sold into international markets for the manufacture of fur garments. Some other parts of the animals may also be used such as glands, teeth, claws, and meat. Problem wildlife that is removed especially those trapped outside of established fur trapping seasons may be relocated. There are some species that this is not recommended because of the possibility of disease transmission. It is usually very difficult to find suitable unoccupied habitat for relocation. Animals such as raccoons, skunks, opossum, eastern gray squirrels, and nutria are euthanized by the direction of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Eastern grey squirrels, opossum, and nutria are not native to this state and are euthanized so they will not populate here and affect our native wildlife.

I have heard that the relocation of animals is not a good thing, can this possibly be true?

Yes, This is true. Even PAWS is against relocation. Check out their Northwest site on relocating wildlife.

Is it true that it is illegal to trap moles and gophers?

Although it is technically legal to trap moles and gophers there is no effective trap allowed for that use in Washington. All mole and gopher traps are body-gripping traps and were outlawed by the passage of Initiative-713. The use of any of these traps is a gross misdemeanor.

I have an animal I want to be removed. What can I do?

Please refer to our WCOs contact page for a listing of a professional in your area. If there are none listed for your area contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for the nearest WCO. You can also find WCOs in the yellow pages of your phone book in the pest control area. Also, it is legal for you to use a cage trap on your own property without a permit but the animal will have to be euthanized.

Is there a state or federal agency that can help me?

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Wildlife Services (USDA-APHIS-WS) are agencies that deal with problem wildlife. They do not provide free trapping services. USDA-APHIS-WS may provide the service for a fee. WCOS are private businesses licensed by the state. WDFW does not provide this service.

I just need some information on how to control some problem animals on my own. Can you help me?

For a free consultation regarding do-it-yourself work contact the above wildlife-related government agencies.

Image by Vita Leonis
Tranquil forest
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