Unless a severe blow to the head or some psychopathic
disorder has rendered them incapable of feeling empathy for others,
anyone who witnesses the harrowing ordeal suffered by an animal
caught in a leg-hold trap should be appalled and outraged that
trapping is still legal in a society that considers itself civilized.
The continuation of this horrid, outdated practice in a country
governed by the people suggests that either most folks have brain
damage, or they are simply unaware of the terrible anguish and
desperation a trapped animal goes through.
They must never have heard the cries of shock and
pain when an animal first feels the steel jaws of a trap lock down
onto his leg. They must never have looked into the weary eyes of
a helpless victim who has been caught in a trap for days and nights
on end. They must never have come across a leg that an animal had
chewed off in order to escape a deadly fate, nor stopped to think
how tormented and hopeless one must be to decide to take that desperate
action. And they must never have seen an animal struggling through
her life on three legs.
I have had several heart-wrenching experiences with
the gruesome evils of trapping. On a walk near our home in Eastern
Washington, my dog, Tucker, stepped into a steel-jawed, leg-hold
trap that clamped down onto his front paw, prying his toes apart.
He cried out in terror and frantically tried to shake it off, biting
at the trap, at his paw, and at me as I fought to open the jaws
of the trap. It continued to cut deeper into his tender flesh and
my efforts caused him even more pain. After many excruciatingly
painful minutes, I was finally able to loosen the cruel device
enough for him to pull free.
Another dog I freed was caught in two leg-hold traps.
One was latched onto her front leg, while the second gripped her
hind leg, forcing her to remain standing for countless, interminably
long hours. Judging by how fatigued and dehydrated she was, she
had been trapped there for several days. The sinister traps caused
so much damage that a vet had to amputate one of her injured legs.
With no other hope of escape, and feeling vulnerable
to anyone that comes along, many trapped animals resort to amputating
their own leg. Trappers callously try to downplay this grim act
of despair by giving it the innocuous knick-name, “wring off.” But
if they do not bleed to death or die from infection, these animals
spend the rest of their lives crippled and possibly unable to keep
up with a demanding life in the wild. Unlike the fictional character “Little
Big Man,” who was distraught to the brink of suicide when he found
that an animal had chewed off it’s leg to escape one of his traps,
most trappers who find a “wring-off” are indifferent to the suffering
they caused as they discard the chewed-off limb and mindlessly
reset their trap. In fact, some trappers boast when they trap an
animal that with “wring off” that had previously escaped another’s
While we were camped near Bowron Lakes Provincial
Park in B.C., Canada early last April, my dog found just such
a discarded limb--the front leg of a lynx. In the ultimate betrayal
of trust, animals protected in parks are fair game for trapping
on the lands immediately outside park boundaries. Trappers consider
those lands adjoining parks to be the most “productive,” and
will pay tens of thousands of dollars for trap-lines in these
I have seen three-legged coyotes near the North Cascades National
Park, and within the Grand Tetons National Park. Though it is
considered a crime to trap inside those parks, it is perfectly
legal to set
traps right outside the boundaries of these meagerly protected
Sidestepping the indisputable cruelty issue, pro-trapping
factions try to perpetuate the myth that trapping is “sustainable.” But
time and again entire populations of “furbearers” are completely
trapped out of an area. The winter after I found wolf tracks
in Katmai National Monument on the Alaska Peninsula, all seven
of the pack of wolves who had found a niche in and around that
park were killed by trappers. Though they are extinct or endangered
in most of the U.S., 1,500 wolves are legally trapped in Alaska
Leg-hold traps are now banned in 88 countries, and
some enlightened states have passed voter-approved initiatives
to outlaw trapping. But in many U.S. states, as in Canada, the
twisted tradition is not only legal, it’s practically enshrined.
Compassionate people everywhere must add their voice to the rising
call to end this barbarity once and for all.
Jim Robertson lives in Washington State. Jim is an
ethical wildlife photographer. Many animal photos are taken by
people who may not have the animal's interests in mind. Not only
do unscrupulous photographers often carelessly disrupt the lives
of wildlife to get a "shot," they also visit game farms
and zoos to get close-ups of captive animals. Jim reports seeing
quite a few AR publications that have (unwittingly, he hopes)
used photos of captive animals.
Jim may be contacted at [email protected]