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Fur-Trapping Rises in ID to Meet Asian Demand

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PHOTO: The Idaho Conservation League is exploring ways to protect pets and non-target species getting caught in traps. Trapping has become more popular in Idaho because of demand for fur from Asia, with bobcat pelts bringing around $400. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
PHOTO: The Idaho Conservation League is exploring ways to protect pets and non-target species getting caught in traps. Trapping has become more popular in Idaho because of demand for fur from Asia, with bobcat pelts bringing around $400. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
 By Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Contact
January 7, 2015

BOISE, Idaho - The fur business is good in Idaho. The number of licenses issued for trapping fur-bearing animals has doubled in five years, according to Idaho Fish and Game. But those traps have also caught dogs and even threatened species.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has required a new mandatory trapping-education program to try to reduce the accidental catches, and rejected other proposals to minimize those incidents.

Brad Smith, North Idaho conservation associate at the Idaho Conservation League, said trapping can be lucrative, with a bobcat pelt worth about $400. Otters and pine martens also are hot commodities.

"And that is in response to increased demand in fur from Asian markets," he said. "So, while we don't see more people in the United States wearing fur, in general, we do see a higher demand in Asia."

Since the commission rejected proposals to protect pets and threatened species, Smith said, his organization is exploring other strategies and may petition public land managers to adopt their own rules.

Smith said rules need to be updated to reflect the popularity of hiking, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and other activities people enjoy with their dogs.

"The current regulations only require the traps be set five feet from the centerline of a road or a trail," he said. "So that's not very far. That basically puts the trap on the shoulder."

Fish and Game commissioners acknowledged that this has been an emotional topic, especially when hearing testimony from dog owners whose animals were injured or killed. Smith said voluntary reporting from trappers shows that threatened lynx, wolverines and fishers also have been caught in traps.

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