‘Capitol Connection’ – Protecting Children from Animal Traps

April 18, 2012

Hunting is a modern tradition that ties humans to our more primitive past. While many of us shop for meat at local grocery stores or butcher shops, this was not always an option. Long ago, our ancestors were forced to go out and gather their own food to survive. Today, it remains a fairly popular activity connecting hunters with nature. However, you may not be familiar with another subset of this tradition called trapping. It also recently became the focus of legislation to protect children from potential injury.

What exactly is trapping? It is defined as the use of a device to catch an animal. Many of us may think back to history class where we learned about fur traders who traveled west in search of beaver pelts. Today, trappers capture animals for food, fur, pest control and wildlife management.

To gain a better perspective of trapping, we can look at the numbers. Sales of deer hunting permits have hovered between 50,000 and 60,000 in recent years. In 2011, there were 815 trapping permits sold. While this is a fraction of the amount sold for other methods of hunting, opponents have argued that the practice is cruel and that there is a risk that children could get caught if they are placed too close to schools or other similar locations.

In response, members of the legislature proposed House Bill 5324, “An Act Concerning Child Safety By Restricting The Placement Of Leghold Traps.” It would restrict the placement of leghold traps within 750 feet of areas where children are likely to encounter such devices. These locations include public or private elementary and secondary schools, licensed child day care centers, state parks, municipal parks and playgrounds, public boat launch areas, roadside rest areas, public picnic areas or campgrounds and state hiking trails. It was voted out of the Select Committee on Children by a vote of 8 to 4 on March 13th and will now face a vote in the Environment Committee before it would ultimately end up on the floor of the House of Representatives.

However, there was also opposition to this legislation. Both government organizations and trappers raised concerns over the original version of the bill that would have restricted the placement of leghold traps by a greater margin of 1,500 feet from these locations.

First, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), which oversees hunting and trapping in our state, has spoken against the bill. A spokesperson recently noted that leghold traps are “the only practical way to control coyote and fox populations.” Because of the close proximity of these prohibited locations, it would effectively “prevent the use of foothold traps in 95 percent of Connecticut.” Luckily, there has never been a reportable instance of a child getting caught in a trap.

Second, the Connecticut Trappers Association (CTA) testified in opposition to the bill as being anti-hunting legislation. The group is a “non-profit organization of Connecticut sportsmen dedicated to the conservation of fur bearing animals and practical wildlife management.” Trappers shared concerns that they would not be able to trap on their own property if they lived within the prohibited zone surrounding a school. To learn more about the CTA, please visit their website at www.cttrappers.com.

Ultimately, we must balance the rights of hunters, trappers and environmental officials who help control the animal population of our state. When it comes to protecting our children, we simply can never be too careful. I believe that this revised bill provides a fair compromise between concerns with the original bill and ensuring the safety of our children. If you would like to learn more about this legislation, please visit the Connecticut General Assembly website at www.cga.ct.gov and search for H.B. 5324.