Department of Natural Resources
The Frequently Asked Questions outlined below were adapted from information provided to the DNR from the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA). Learn more about AFWA. AFWA trapping information.
What is trapping?
Trapping is a method of capturing and harvesting animals. The DNR has established specific trapping seasons when furbearers may be taken. Wildlife biologists recognize trapping as an important wildlife management tool. Trapping is highly regulated and scientifically monitored by professional wildlife biologists within each state's department of wildlife to ensure that the most humane methods are used and that the population is never endangered.
What do you mean by "wildlife management tool?"
Wildlife management is a complex, scientific discipline concerned with habitat loss, animal damage control, public health and safety, and the responsible treatment of animals. The DNR's goal is to apply this science to protect, maintain and restore wildlife populations. Maintaining a balance between people and animals is often a big part of the DNR's job. Trapping is a proven method for conserving and managing wildlife resources.
What are the benefits of trapping?
Trapping benefits both people and wildlife. Trapping can help keep urban and suburban residents safe from problems caused by people and wildlife living in close proximity. It may come as a surprise, but trapping is often used in urban and suburban areas to keep overabundant wildlife away from our homes and yards. In many American cities, coyotes, foxes, and raccoons have entered residential and urban areas as their populations soar and their fear of people decreases. Recently, coyotes were even spotted in New York City's Central Park. In Michigan, coyotes have been observed in all of our counties, including the densely populated Wayne County.
Trapping also can assist experts in researching and relocating species to areas where animals can better thrive. For example, river otters once absent from most of the Midwest, are now making a comeback. This turn of events contrasts with conditions in the early 1900s when river otters nearly disappeared due to a substantial loss of habitat and 200 years of unregulated trapping and hunting. Thanks to a partnership between trappers and wildlife biologists, nearly 4,000 otters have been released back into the wild in 18 states, after being trapped in places where they are abundant, like Louisiana and Maryland.
Trapping can help restore threatened and endangered species by controlling predators and other animals that would otherwise have killed these sensitive animals or destroyed their habitats. Sea turtles, black-footed ferrets, whooping cranes, and other rare species are protected from predation and habitat damage caused by foxes, coyotes, and nutria.
How is trapping regulated?
Anyone who traps must purchase a Fur Harvester License and follow very strict rules established and enforced by the DNR. Some of the ways in which trapping is regulated include restrictions on species taken, seasons, bag limits, types of traps, methods used, and areas in which trapping is permitted.
Is trapping cruel?
Many people unfamiliar with modern trapping think of traps as big, powerful devices with teeth that were used to capture bears in the early 1900s. Today these traps are best used as a display on a cabin wall because trap, sizes, types, and usage are strictly regulated by the state to ensure for the most humane method of capture. Ongoing scientific research is aimed at the development of improved trap designs.
How is trap research being conducted?
Experts from all 50 state fish and wildlife agencies and other conservationists who care about the environment, natural resources, and animal welfare are working together to improve and modernize the technology of trapping through scientific research.
The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has begun one of the most ambitious research projects in the history of the conservation movement: a program to develop Best Management Practices (BMPs) for trapping as a way to identify efficient and humane traps and improve those tools and techniques.
Initial findings are promising and show that even with minor adjustments, some existing traps can be improved. Also, new technology has proved very efficient, selective, and mindful of animal welfare.
The ongoing scientific research is being conducted to ensure improvements in animal welfare and wildlife management. Professional wildlife biologists, highly qualified wildlife veterinarians and experts in the field of trapping are involved in all phases of this project.
How will the Best Management Practices (BMPs) be implemented?
Once the program is complete, the BMPs for trapping furbearers will be provided to state agencies and trappers for incorporation into trapper education and wildlife management programs. In addition to improving wildlife management in the United States, the research and resulting BMPs may be used by other countries to improve their programs. BMPs will also be used by the United States to address international commitments to identify and promote the use of humane traps and trapping methods for capturing wildlife.
Who has set the standards for determining whether a trap can be considered humane?
Wildlife professionals, in cooperation with wildlife veterinarians, will use the information gathered through the trapping BMP research to determine which are the best devices for restraining animals. This information is collected following standards for evaluation outlined by The International Organization for Standardization, an organization that determines standards for products around the world. Those standards for evaluation are intended for use in the United States and worldwide.
Why is so much effort and funding put into this project when trapping simply can be banned?
It does not make sense to ban trapping. In fact, trapping is an indispensable wildlife management tool that many wildlife professionals rely on to help them care for wildlife populations. Because the DNR cares about wildlife, the DNR is seeking to identify the best tools available.
According to a Utah State University's Jack H. Berryman Institute, wildlife professionals report that certain animal populations would increase over 200% across the United States over the next 10 years if hunting and trapping were banned tomorrow. In just the northeast region alone, raccoon populations could increase up to 100% over the next 10 years if trapping were prohibited. Millions of tax dollars are spent annually to reduce, alleviate, repair, or compensate for damage done by wildlife.
Does the Michigan DNR offer Trapper Education?
The DNR is currently working in cooperation with the Michigan Trappers Association to develop a trapper education course for Michigan. This will help ensure that trappers know the best methods and are aware of the latest advancements in trap design.