It’s a trap: Public demands FWC amend rules on capturing furbearers

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'We’re going to work with the public on this issue.'

In the annals of public comment getting things done, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) agreed to back staff’s continued work examining the state’s wildlife trapping regulations — or lack thereof — with an eye to making them more humane.

More than two dozen members of the public sidled up to the lectern at the FWC meeting in Miami to share their beliefs that the current system of regulations is not nearly tight enough and allows for cruel treatment of wildlife and even cats and dogs that get trapped.

“As in every survey, the phrasing of the question is key,“ James Woodard, a South Florida attorney and wildlife advocate, said regarding a survey result presented that showed more than 70% approval for trapping by the general public.

“If the question was, ‘Is it OK to catch a rat in a trap,’ you would get a significantly different result from, ‘Do you approve of allowing the use of devices that indiscriminately kill wildlife … and domestic animals alike in a manner that crushes their body or suspends them for hours by the neck or the limb.’”

Several commenters advised against removing the special permitting requirement for foothold and body-gripping traps. Others suggested a system of education, fees and permitting could help the situation.

“Trapping should be the last resort — your own website says that,” said Katherine McGill, proprietor of 411 Wildlife Solutions, which deals with wildlife conflicts.

She suggested the definition of nuisance wildlife needs a sharper focus, but that’s presently not among the issues being considered by agency staff. 

“We need to address attractants,” McGill said. “Let’s definitely do require licensing and training. I do not understand why there would not be a fee with this permit, just like every hunter and angler and so forth pays. I am willing to pay it, and I don’t even take wildlife, I resolve things more in situ.”

Work began on rule modernization in 2021 with webinars and later in 2022 an online comment tool that led to more than 800 responses. The objective as it stands currently is to allow for all current uses of traps without the need for a permit while minimizing captures of unintended animals and prioritizing animal welfare.

“Staff are working with stakeholders to develop a rule package that will modernize Florida’s trapping rules to align with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ best management practices more closely in support of effective, species-specific, humane wildlife trapping methods,” Melissa Tucker, FWC Habitat and Species Conservation Director, said to Commissioners in a memo.

Tucker and College of the Ozarks Associate Professor Nathan Roberts gave a presentation to Commissioners on regulations as they presently stand and researched best management practices. 

The goal of the standard used in the best management practices is to minimize injury so that if a captured animal is released, its health won’t be compromised by its capture. Of the 725 trap types used for 23 species of furbearers, 41% failed the standard, though research showed around 80% of furbearers captured are in traps that meet the criteria.

Florida created its first trapping rules in 1941, and last significantly changed them in 1972 when the state banned unpermitted use of foothold and other steel traps. Only snares and cage-style live traps are allowed without a permit and have to be checked every 24 hours. Later rules in 2008 and 2010 regulated taking nuisance wildlife and taking wildlife on airport property.

FWC staff are looking into changing policies for the types of traps used, methods and placement, along with registration, training and reporting requirements for trappers. 

“As this was a staff report and kind of a status update to educate the Commission, I hope that staff has listened to all the public input, obviously, which you do, and take all that into account,” Commissioner Steven Hudson said. 

“I heard quite a bit about education, permitting and fees. I do believe that there’s enough interest in this subject to put together a (technical assistance group), and I think that would be beneficial to get all of the input from stakeholders.”

FWC Chair Rodney Barreto wrote down several suggestions made by the public.

“I think as we are modernizing our trapping policies and procedures, I think the public’s correct,” Barreto said. “We’re modernizing it, so there’s got to be new techniques or a new way to deal with this, and we should look — if we need to take time, look across the country. We want to (have) best practices, we want to check all the boxes, we want to be humane.” 

He told staff they have the green light from Commissioners to meet with interested parties and work on developing new policies to propose to the Commission at a later time.

“We’re going to work with the public on this issue,” Barreto said. “We’re very sensitive to it….”

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:


  • Earl Pitts American

    May 11, 2023 at 7:13 am

    Good morning America,
    I, Earl Pitts “America’s Political Advisor” American, am going to advise America’s Govornor to shut this dook 4 brains leftist backed idiot trapping plan down and purge The FWC of their dook 4 brains leftist employees which somehow got hired and their continued employment is a clear and present danger to all the citizens of The Great State of Florida.
    Lets get real and speak freely:
    FWC current management was relied upon to controll leftist eruptions like this “Trapping Is Bad” leftist dogma fiction.
    I, Earl Pitts “State Employee Relations Advisor” American recomend some “quiet hush hush early retirements” of select FWC Management positions. And that will take care of the problem of the FWC heading in the direction of a dangerous, rouge, dook 4 brains managed State Agency.
    Governor Desantis; let me know if you need a strong man of action like me, Earl Pitts American, to go into the FWC, roll some heads, and clean + mop up this disgracefull situation, I am available as early as right now.
    Basically I will stop at Krispy Kream, get a bunch of doughnuts and those big jugs of coffee, invite upper FWC management into the executive meeting room, roll some heads, and have this all wrapped up befor lunch time.
    Thank you America,
    Earl Pitts “State Employee Relations Advisor” American

  • Ewa Stein

    May 14, 2023 at 5:43 pm

    I don’t think that there is any humane method of trapping for animals.
    Trapped animals can be injured badly. Wild animals are shocked, they are trying to escape and injure themselves even more.
    Trapping is also a danger to domestic animals.
    We must treat animals, sensitive being with respect and take care of them humanely!

  • Jeanne Jain

    May 16, 2023 at 9:17 am

    Thank you for this report on the trapping issue discussed at the FWC meeting on 5/10/23. Dr. Nathan Roberts presentation was extremely biased in favor of the trapping industry. One of his slides reads about 71% of the U.S. public supports trapping. I beg to differ. A survey by the same organization he quoted reads 52% in 2019 which seems to be much more accurate. The research his organization has done quotes the trapping was done by “trained, trapping experts” that consistently checked their traps every day before 12 P.M.. The hunters doing the trapping in Florida are not required to do any training and only have to check their traps every 24 hours so the data cannot be applied to Florida. He is comparing apples to oranges here. Trapping is the cruelest form of hunting. Steel jaw leghold traps and body gripping traps are Illegal in Florida and yet the FWC still issues special use permits. Instead of killing nuisance wildlife, remove the attractant! Trapping is torture. Period. Just my two cents.

Comments are closed.


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