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New Jersey Repeals 30-Year Ban on Controversial Trapping Devices

The draconian practice of using baited foothold traps to catch animals, banned for 30 years in New Jersey for its cruelty, has just been legalized in the state once more.

“Foothold” or traditional “leg hold” traps snare an animal by the leg once they’ve reached in to grab bait. They have been traditionally used by fur trappers, as the mechanism does not harm the majority of the animal’s fur. Marshmallows and other inexpensive treats have been used to lure and restrain raccoons foxes, coyotes, wolves, bobcats and even lynx.

Once trapped, the animal is unable to eat, drink, return to their nest or babies, find shelter, or defend themselves from predators. According to the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, many resort to chewing off their own limbs, breaking teeth and bones to get free.

A painting of a fox with its leg caught in a steel jawed leg hold trap.

A painting of a fox with its leg caught in a steel jawed leg hold trap.

“The animal endures a painful and panic-filled wait until they either die from exhaustion, blood loss, dehydration, hypothermia, or are clubbed, choked or stomped to death by the trapper (so as not to damage the pelt),” the APFA reports.

With smaller foothold traps — according to Lawrence Hajna, a spokesman for the the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection — raccoons, skunks, and sometimes opossums are at risk. Most cats and dogs, and anything larger, will have a harder time triggering them, he told the Dodo.

New Jersey restricts trap size to 2 inches in diameter, but no matter the rule, trapped animals face the same fate.

“There’s no way you can modify a leghold trap in a way that won’t cause extreme trauma to the animal,” Animal Welfare Institute president Cathy Liss told The Dodo. “You have a device that is slamming onto the animal’s limb, and it’s going to hold them in a vice-like grip, severely restricting or cutting off circulation. They fight to get out. Raccoons sometimes try to chew off their own limbs to get out. That just tells you how bad it is.”

According to Born Free USA, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, and the National Animal Control Association have all declared the steel-jaw leg hold trap inhumane, and the trap has been banned or restricted by more than 80 countries and 8 U.S. states.

Various leg hold traps.

Various leg hold traps.

Currently, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Rhode Island, Massachusetts maintain bans on leg hold traps, while New Jersey, after the state’s fur harvesters association challenged its ban, has become the first state to rescind one.

“I work with trappers in other countries to make their methods more humane,” Liss told The Dodo. “They turn to me and say [about U.S. trapping] ‘You guys are in the dark ages.'”

Foot hold traps represent a cruel relic of the past that many would like to leave behind. The Animal Rescue Site recognizes the plight that many woodland creatures face when these traps are installed, among which is one of our country’s most endangered animals — the wolverine.

Fewer than 300 of these animals are left in the Lower 48, mostly in the Northern Rockies. What is worse, scientists estimate that on average, no more than 35 of these animals are capable of contributing each year to future generations of wolverines being born.

Follow the button below to help protect the few remaining wolverines we have left.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and world traveler with a background in journalism, graphic design, and French pastry. He likes to learn new things whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, folk music and coffee.