U.S. Fur Trapping Stats, 2015
Hunting and trapping animals for their fur remains a surprisingly common activity. In the U.S., hunting and trapping are regulated by Fish and Wildlife Agencies and much of the research on these activities is conducted by the pro-hunting and pro-trapping research firm, Responsive Management. Despite its perspective, the company’s research provides an in-depth look at the facts and trends related to hunting and trapping activities in the country. This annual survey collected responses from 6,668 trappers across the U.S. on behalf of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA).
The sample surveyed for the most recent study is meant to represent the approximately “176,573 trappers in the United States in the 2014-2015 seasons.” This overall number of trappers in the U.S has increased by nearly 20% since 2004. However, in 2015 more than a third of these trappers (38%) were involved in trapping for less than 30 days (but at least 1 day), while about a fourth (24%) engaged in trapping for 60 or more days. One in ten respondents (10%) did not trap during the 2014-2015 season at all. Most trappers (64%) primarily use private land, 11% used public land, and 25% used both types of land about equally. The respondents most commonly noted trapping raccoons (62%), coyotes (55%), muskrats (37%), and beavers (33%).
The study also looked at the income that trappers receive from the activity. About 21% of trappers said that trapping had been “a very or somewhat important source of income over the past 3 years,” but the vast majority of them (78%) said that it had “not been at all important.” Looking further into the numbers, the researchers noted that trappers in Alaska and western regions were the most reliant on income from trapping. The study noted that 39% of respondents had taken a trapper education course, and 42% were aware of “best management practices” (BMPs) for trapping. While only 3% of trappers oppose BMPs, that number translates to more than 5,000 trappers across the country. Of those trappers that have heard of BMPs, two-thirds (66%) actually use them when trapping.
What do these numbers mean for advocates and for animals? The finding that the vast majority of trappers do not rely on trapping “at all” for their income is encouraging. The fact that trapping is more of a “hobby” or “sport” for these trappers suggests that the behavior may be more easily changed. Likewise, the researchers found that many of the respondents who engaged in trapping did so because they were “called to deal with a nuisance animal.” While trapping persists, especially in the Western U.S. and Alaska, it remains a marginal practice in most areas. More education about humane methods of dealing with “nuisance” animals may help further marginalize trapping as a non-essential activity.