In 2016, Governor Branstad signed into law a requirement that the Department of Natural Resources set a season and daily catch limit for commercial turtle trapping.
Zachary Boyden-Holmes/The Register

Iowa doesn’t do enough to ensure bobcats, coyotes, beavers and other wildlife are humanely trapped each year, a national animal rights group says.

The lack of stricter trapping rules can result in animals slowly dying by drowning, exposure, shock, blood loss or being attacked by predators, according to Born Free USA.

“Many of these traps don’t result in the death of the animal. They stay in these traps, sometimes” for days, said Prashant Khetan, CEO of the Washington, D.C., based group. 

“We’ve seen evidence of animals who try to gnaw off their limbs to get free,” he said.

Born Free gave Iowa and 13 other states an “F” after looking at the traps each state allows, trapper education and reporting requirements, and the number of species that are hunted.

But Craig Sweet, president of the Iowa Trappers Association, says the state’s rules do ensure animals are humanely trapped, pointing to a requirement that traps be checked every 24 hours.

“The report says that animals are starving, dehydrated, bleeding to death. That’s just untrue,” he said. “With the trap laws that we have, the animals are in there less than six to eight hours.”

Fur profits drive trappers

Iowa allows hunters to trap a dozen fur-bearing animals, including coyote, mink, muskrat, badger, red and gray fox, beaver, bobcats and otters.

Most trapping seasons run from November to January.

Khetan said profits drive most trapping, adding that Iowa should limit how many traps a hunter can use each season.

Iowa’s only trapping limits are on bobcats and otters.

Last winter, trappers and hunters harvested 142,794 fur-bearing animals that were valued at close to $730,000, based on Iowa DNR data.

It was 4 percent fewer animals than 2015-16, when fur values were 21 percent higher.

The furs, often used to trim coats, are primarily sold in Russia and China.

Vince Evelsizer, a furbearer biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said the value of fur does drive much of Iowa’s trapping, but so, too, does tradition and conservation.

Sweet and Evelsizer said trapping helps manage wildlife populations — an important tool in preventing disease.

For example, raccoons that contract distemper die slow, painful deaths. “It’s a nasty disease,” Evelsizer said. “Raccoons wander listlessly around for … seven to 10 days, spreading it to others,” potentially pets if they’re not vaccinated.


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