Excerpted from Jaws of Steel
BY THOMAS EVELAND, PH.D.
[DR. EVELAND IS A FORMER TRAPPER WHO
WRITES IN HIS FOREWORD: IF I HAD CONTINUED DOWN THAT PATH, I HAVE NO DOUBT
THAT TODAY I WOULD BE HAPPILY EMPLOYED BY SOME STATE WILDLIFE AGENCY.
I WOULD BE WANDERING THROUGH THE HALLWAYS AND OFFICES OF SOME STATE
BUILDLING PERFORMING MY DUTIES OF PROMOTING ANNUAL FURBEARER HARVESTING
AND UNQUESTIONABLY ACCEPTING THE PRINCIPLES OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT.
...TIMES CHANGE, HOWEVER, AND SO DO SOME PEOPLE...]
Only three steps away from his supper, Haskles
entire world was shattered. The leg-hold trap snapped shut on his
right front leg at about mid-calf. The young raccoon threw his furry
frame backwards out of pure instinct and squealed from both pain
But it was too late. His fate was sealed.
Haskle flailed wildly for countless minutes, stretching
the chain to its four-foot length, then biting at the steel jaws
that held him. At one point he bit down so hard on the steel that
three of his teeth broke, one of them a large front canine. The right
front leg was not really injured from the trap, but it did pinch
sharply. Piercing waves of pain, though, shot through his jaw from
his broken teeth....As the sun climbed into the heavens a distant
but distinct crunch of leaves indicated the approach of something
from downstream. Haskle tried to press his muddy frame into the root
crotch so he could defend himself against whatever it was. The noise
grew louder and louder until the two could see each other. A huge
creature towered over him.
Haskle sat motionless watching as the man ... took
a forty-inch ax handle, walked over to the raccoon and surveyed the
situation. Haskle wanted only to escape, to leave this place of danger
and pain. Unable to break the chain from one last attempt, he did
the only other thing he could, he lunged at the leg of the trapper.
Being experienced, the trapper was alert to such attempts. He jumped
back in time to avoid being bitten. He laughed at the raccoons
feeble thrust and said out loud, My! My! You are a vicious
little devil, arent you?
Haskle had thrown his frame at the trapper with every
last ounce of effort he had left. The awkward weight of the leg-hold
trap caused him to be off balance and he fell to one side. Before
he could stand again, the first rock hard thud of the ax handle hit
him in the neck. The moving raccoon had caused the trapper to miss
his skull by only inches. Haskle quickly turned and bit the club,
driving his one unbroken canine deep into the wood. With a snap of
the wrist, the trapper had the handle above his head again, only
this time he struck his mark. The first strike to the side of the
young raccoons head would have been enough, but two more were
for good measure... The actual pain and suffering that an individual
animal goes through when caught in a trap defies description. State
wildlife departments rarely consider the single animal; they only
deal with populations of animals and overall harvest data. Thus,
the humane and ethical treatment of the individual animal once caught
in a trap is left entirely to the discretion of the club-wielding
trapper. A rather disturbing thought, to say the least.
Trappers claim that the use of leg-hold traps is necessary
to control disease outbreaks in nature. And if disease is controlled,
wildlife populations will be healthier. If we control rabies
in the wild, they say, then fewer people will be bitten
by rabid animals. This is an outrageous claim that is not supported
by the scientific literature So what does the scientific literature
say? Have research programs been conducted to determine the trappers ability
to control rabies, and if so, what have they concluded? From the
mid-1950s through the 1960s, the State of Virginia reported one of
the highest incidences of fox rabies in the entire U.S. As a result,
the state initiated a large-scale trapping campaign designed to reduce
Red and Gray fox populations.
By the late 1960s, after several years of intensive
fox killing, no evidence existed to indicate the trapping program
had successfully reduced the incidence of rabies...and some researchers
felt trapping had caused a definite increase in the number of rabies
cases. It was concluded that the trapping program had interrupted
the natural cycles and the foxes social system. Hence, as some
foxes were removed and overall density reduced, the remaining foxes
increased their movements. This led to more territorial squabbles
and increased ranging in search of mates. The outcome led to the
disease being spread faster and farther.
Another problem relative to rabies control through
trapping is the non-selective nature of the leg-hold trap. Neither
leg-hold traps nor trappers have the ability to take only infected
individuals. Healthy individuals are also caught and killed.
Some evidence suggests that trapping could actually
make matters worse. When an animal is infected with rabies, it does
not eat during the latter stages of the disease. As such, it wont
respond to baited traps. This could cause trappers, through the disproportionate
removal of healthy animals, to increase the overall percentage of
rabid animals in the total population.
Trappers have exploited the publics fear of the
dreaded disease, rabies, for decades. Yet, little supportive evidence
exists that indicates, like Virginias fox rabies case, that
trapping has ever controlled an outbreak of rabies. Consequently,
if you do any investigative review of this subject on your own, you
will begin to wonder how the trapping community could continue to
hang on to this weak argument.
For instance, in 1973 the National Academy of Science
published a report entitled Control of Rabies. It was
researched and written by the Subcommittee on Rabies, Committee on
Animal Health, Agricultural Board and National Research Council.
The report consisted of many things, including a list of recommendations.
Recommendation Number 10 reads: Persistent trapping or poisoning
campaigns as a means to rabies control should be abolished., There
is no evidence that these costly and politically attractive programs
reduce either wildlife reservoirs or rabies incidence. The money
can be better spent on research, vaccination, compensation to stockmen
for losses, education or warning systems. Then years later,
in 1983, another report entitled Report on Rabies was
issued by Fromm Laboratories. The report reads: Trapping to
control rabies is considered to be an exercise in futility in the
face of a rabies outbreak, because the disease itself will limit
the population, and clinically rabid animals are rarely caught in
traps. In 1976, Dr. Lee Talbot, chief of the Presidents
Council on Environmental Quality gave Congressional testimony that
said: The incidence of rabies does not appear to increase or
decrease with changes in trapping methods. The contention that rabies
increases dramatically when steel leghold traps are banned seems
entirely without merit.
The evidence not only suggests, but flatly states that
trapping not only fails to control rabies in certain circumstances,
but it may increase the number of cases. It also suggests that trapping
spreads rabies faster and farther than no trapping at all. Yet if
you ask the average trapper on the street about trappings role
in rabies control, hell swear it severely reduces or actually
eliminates the disease. If you talk disease control with a trapper
hell tell you, as most of the pro-trapping literature does,
that trapping controls all wildlife related disease. Yet, when I
reviewed the scientific literature, I failed to locate a single study
that concluded trapping controlled disease. Again, not only did I
fail to find supportive evidence, but virtually everything I did
find indicated trapping may actually make matters worse.
DR. EVELAND HAS A PH.D. IN ECOLOGY AND A M.S. IN BIOLOGY.
HE IS A HUMAN-ANIMAL CONFLICT SPECIALIST. DR. EVELAND HAS HELPED
THE COALITION TO PREVENT THE DESTRUCTION OF CANADA GEESE ON NUMEROUS
OCCASIONS, AND HIS EXPERTISE HAS HELPED TO WIN STAYS AND
CONVERTS. HE IS CURRENTLY A CONSULTANT TO A ROCKLAND COUNTY TOWN
FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A PRECEDENT SETTING STRATEGIC FEEDING PROGRAM
FOR CANADA GEESE WHICH WILL BE IMPLEMENTED IN THE TOWNS PARKS.
JAWS OF STEEL MAY BE ORDERED FROM THE FUND FOR ANIMALS, SUITE LL2,
850 SLIGO AVE., SILVER SPRING, MD 20910. DR. EVELAND CAN BE CONTACTED
AT: P.O. BOX 34, MINISINK HILLS, PA 18341.
[Editors Note: There has never been a case of
a human contracting rabies from a raccoon. There are only one to
two cases of human rabies a year according to the Center for Disease
Control in Atlandta, Georgia.]
Few men could endure to watch for five minutes an animal
struggling in a trap with a crushed and torn limb...I know of no
sight more sorrowful than that of these unoffending creatures ...
as they are seen in the torture grip of these traps. They sit drawn
up into a little heap, as if collecting all their force of endurance
to support the agony; some sit in a half torpid state induced by
intense suffering. Most young ones are found dead after some hours
of it, but others as you start up, struggle violently to escape,
and shriek pitiably, from terror and the pangs occasioned by their
struggles ... It is scarecely possible to exaggerate the suffering
thus endured from fear, from acute pain, maddened by thirst, and
by vain attempts to escape...Some who reflect on this subject for
the first time will wonder how such cruelty can have been permitted
in this age of civilization; and no doubt if men of education saw
with their own eyes what takes place under their sanction, the system
would have been put an end to long ago.
CHARLES DARWIN, GARDENERS CHRONICLE AND AGRICULTURAL
GAZETTE, 1863. (SIXTY-FIVE NATIONS HAVE NOW BANNED THE LEGHOLD TRAP;
THE U.S. AND CANADA STILL ALLOW ITS USE.)
SENT TO C.A.S.H. BY JOHN EBERHART OF THE GEORGIA EARTH
ALLIANCE, P.O. BOX 1231, FAYETTEVILLE, GA 30214-6231. 404-416-4500