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Council should lower boom on unethical, illegal trappers

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By Ben Carlson

Column as I see ’em …
As someone with a keen personal interest in harvesting animals and owning firearms, I found it rather interesting that both garnered front-page headlines in our paper this week.
The one on firearms simply made me laugh; the one on trapping left me fuming, and here’s why.
As someone who spent a great deal of my youth trapping furbearers in Great Lakes area of New York, I was outraged to read that a family’s pet was injured, but thankfully survived after being caught in an illegally set trap.
Trapping is viewed by most as a barbaric activity designed to inflict unspeakable horrors on animals. Were it put to a popular vote, even the most rural areas of this country would almost certainly end the practice.
As a teenager, I trapped mainly raccoon, muskrat and red fox and tried my level best to do it as humanely as possible (there are ways to mitigate the trauma, particularly in trap selection and how they’re set), as well as to the letter of the law.
I learned early on that people even back then weren’t too keen on trapping, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t among those who provided reasons for those opposed to yell even louder.
Other trappers simply didn’t care, and stories about animals chewing off their trapped legs to escape and other nightmarish outcomes added fuel to the anti-trapping fire of the late 1970s. Before long, activists were tossing buckets of what appeared to be blood on fur-wearing women, sealing trapping’s fate in the minds of millions.
Of course, those who won that battle for hearts and minds celebrated while those of us who continued on but made a fraction of what we previously did on pelts saw a much more cruel outcome.
Within a few years, the furbearers of that region overpopulated, resulting in starving animals much more susceptible to diseases such as rabies and mange.
Would those same animals have suffered for several hours in leg traps before being harvested? Sure, I would be the first to admit it. But what the anti-trappers didn’t see (and probably didn’t want to know) is the frequency with which those same animals suffered as rabies spent days and weeks eating their brains, or how they slowly froze to death when mange caused large sections of their fur to fall out.
For those sad outcomes I continue to blame unscrupulous and unethical trappers whose lazy and callous actions were at the root of what caused such widespread objection to trapping in the first place.
Which leads us back to what happened to the family’s dog. Whoever set that trap and the ones nearby, if caught, should fined to the maximum extent of the law and banned from trapping for life.
Not only did that trapper cause a dog to suffer, it could have resulted in someone being seriously injured, including a child. What’s more, the trapper knew full well what he or she was doing was wrong, otherwise they would have been man or woman enough to put their names on their traps.
County council will address this issue March 25. When it does, here’s hoping ethical, responsible trappers will join the chorus of those there to decry the practice and encourage council members to enact sensible ordinances that not only protect the welfare of people and their pets, but make it clear that trapping in any way that falls outside of the law will not be tolerated.
Speaking of sensible …
I probably should have been angry, but instead laughed out loud while reading the story about the group pressing the school board — yes, the school board — to vote to ban semi-automatic firearms and require a background check before purchasing a gun.
The general reaction of the school board made sense as members questioned why they were being asked to vote on something that would make no difference, anyway.
To be clear, it doesn’t bother me a bit that a group has set out to rewrite the Constitution and ban certain types of firearms. They’re Americans, too, and are free to have their say.
So why, you may ask, are they wasting their time with a school board when the only way they’ll get their way is through the state or federal government?
That’s a good question and can be answered in a single word: incrementalism. Knowing that their cause remains a loser where it actually matters, this group and many like it instead start at lower levels of government where the changes they seek have no teeth but make great fodder for their fundraising and recruiting posters.
“See,” they’ll say. “We have the full backing of this school board and that school board, which means, Mrs. State Representative or Congressman or Senator, that you better fall in line and join them … or else.”
A bit of hyperbole to make a point? Sure, but don’t discount that it’s the method behind what these folks are trying to do.
Let’s just hope the school board doesn’t add its name to this group’s resume.

Ben Carlson is publisher of the Los Alamos Monitor. Reach him at bcarlson@lamonitor.com.