Accessibility and Access Keys 
Skip to Content 
The traps used in the fur industry have evolved over time to include more sophisticated and usually more humane traps for furbearing animals, and recently to meet international humane trapping standards. Today there are three main categories of traps used in the fur industry: killing traps, restraining traps, and drowning sets.
Killing traps are designed to instantly or quickly kill a furbearing animal. Progress has been made in the developments of killing traps that reduce the time interval between the trapping and death of an animal. However, when an animal is caught in a trap not intended for it, or when it enters the trap at the wrong speed or the wrong way, it is often caught but not killed, and suffers excruciating pain until it loses consciousness or is found – sometimes after days. Although most provinces have regulations for checking restraining traps, most don’t regulate the checking of killing traps so animals that aren’t killed immediately can suffer for days or weeks before they are found.
Restraining traps are designed to hold an animal alive until the trapper returns to kill it. These animals are usually clubbed or strangled because a gunshot would spoil the pelt. Provinces and territories across Canada regulate the time that can lapse before a restraining trap must be checked. The requirements range from anywhere between 24 hours and 5 days, so animals often spend days restrained in these traps. If they are lucky they become unconscious, and many die of dehydration, blood loss, hypothermia or predation by other animals before being found by the hunter. The CFHS advocates that only those traps that restrain an animal without causing it to suffer be used.
Drowning Sets incorporate leghold and conibear traps and are used for semi-aquatic animals such as beaver, otter, and muskrats. They are either set underwater or set so that the animal will be pulled underwater, causing it to drown. These animals undergo excruciating pain and stress as they struggle for several minutes – beavers sometimes struggle up to 20 minutes – before they die.
There are three main types of traps used to kill or restrain furbearing animals. There are different sizes and variations of each of these traps and research is continuing in Canada to make them more humane and to meet the requirements of the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards.
1. Leghold traps
The leghold trap has been used for centuries to trap animals for fur in North America, and is designed to restrain the animal until the trapper comes to kill and collect the animal.
They are used on land for foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and other furbearers, and underwater for minks, muskrats, racoons, and beavers. Leghold traps are placed in areas where target animals will be traveling through, and where they will be caught by the limb, which ensures their pelt will not be spoiled. In the past long spring varieties were used but newer legholds, which are supposed to be more humane because they don’t have steel jaws, use coilsprings that clamp down with more power.
Steel jaw leghold traps, which have steel teeth that dig into and pierce the flesh of the trapped animal, are the most inhumane of this category of traps. They have been banned in many countries around the world, and in Canada since 2001 but are still permitted in drowning sets. Animals will sometimes chew or twist their limb off in order to escape, and suffer excruciating pain.
Padded leghold traps have a synthetic material around the jaws of the trap to lessen the pain the animal experiences. They reduce skin breakage but otherwise are similar to the steel jaw trap.
Offset leghold traps have a space between the jaws so skin breakage is reduced and the likelihood of breaking and fracturing bones is also reduced. The animal is not likely to chew or twist off its limb to escape but still suffers for days, restrained and undergoing pain from the trap despite advances to make it more humane.
2. Body grip (Conibear) traps
This trap consists of two rectangle frames that slam down on the body and are designed to instantly kill the animal by fatally hitting the vertebrae or skull. When walking or swimming through, the animal brushes against the side of the trap where a trigger activates the metal frames and they snap shut.
Despite being advertised as instant-kill, animals are often severely injured and suffer for many hours or days before being found by trappers. Because the size of an animal or the way it enters the trap cannot be controlled, non-target animals, which are either too large or too small, often get caught in these traps. The frames slamming down often seriously injure rather than instantly kill the animal.
Conibear traps are used to catch beavers and muskrats underwater and martens, fishers, raccoons, and other similar furbearing animals on land. Even when the right animal enters the trap, the metal frames often don’t hit vital spots or have enough force to kill, and end up crushing bones, blood vessels and nerves, leaving the animal to suffer a prolonged death.
Conibear traps are permitted across Canada, with some restrictions on the size of trap and type of animal that may be caught in them.
Snares are one of the simplest but most inhumane traps used and are primarily set for coyotes, foxes and wolves. Both neck and leg snares are used in Canada and tighten around an animal as it struggles to free itself. Most provinces require that snares be fitted with a lock so they can not be loosened or opened as the animal struggles. As the snare closes on the animal it is either restrained or strangled to death. However, some animals will only struggle long enough for the snare to close to make breathing difficult. Either way, killing snares cause an agonizing prolonged death and restraining snares cause animals to suffer excruciating pain when caught by their limb.
Snares are sometimes placed in trees, from which animals dangle after they have been caught. Some provinces outlaw this practice but in others it is still acceptable.
Cage traps were introduce in the 1920s and 1930s in North America because of opposition to steel traps from animal welfare groups and the public. These traps contain bait – either a live animal or a piece of meat – to lure the animal inside. When the bait is grabbed the door is triggered shut. While cage traps are generally considered humane, they must be checked regularly as animals can suffer from spending long periods of time in them. They are also expensive and bulky and are not commonly used for fur trapping. However, they are often used for wildlife management when trapping is required for human safety and health concerns.
The Traditional Wooden Deadfall Trap
This is another baited trap and is permitted across Canada. The animal is either contained or crushed by an object that falls when the bait is removed.
Despite improvements in traps that has occurred and will continue to occur to meet the Standards for International Humane Trapping, traps must be set properly in order to be effective. For this reason, all provinces and territories require some kind of training as a prerequisite for obtaining a trapping license.
A truly humane trap would instantly kill an animal. So far such a trap has not been created although steps have been taken in the right direction. CFHS recognizes these steps and continues to support and encourage further research and the development of traps that cause minimal or no stress or pain to animals.Print this page