This is a response to the recently posted classic column from 5 Feb, 1993, “How much do the animals used for fur coats suffer?”
A few years ago, when I lived in rural New Mexico, I had a friend who trapped to supplement his income. I never went with him to tend his trap lines, but his descriptions of the animals certainly lends credence to the theory that some, if not most, suffer.
He used leg traps, and they are what you’d think: powerful and painful. He often found animals alive, and carried a pistol to kill them if they were. The traps are strong enough to break bones, and commonly do. His traps were set during the winter, not the summer, and he checked his traps weekly, not daily, since it took a day to showshoe through the forest and check the entire line. Many of the animals were dead when he found them. In most cases, he didn’t know the exact cause of death (Yeah, yeah, I know: they died because they had a clamp chopping their leg in two. But they probably didn’t die from that - they probably died from bleeding, freezing, starvation, thirst, or something else). It seems safe to say that death in a trap is particularly unpleasant. He didn’t poison his bait, so they didn’t die from poison.
I suspect that he wasn’t too different from most trappers. He needed the income, and trapping was a way to make some money.
I learned about all this one day during the fall when I mentioned that I had seen a family of foxes in a canyon near my house. He asked where, and during the ensuing conversation I realized that he would probably visit that canyon the following winter.