Anti-trapping laws produce mountains out of molehills

Prodded by the Humane Society of the United States, which claims that trapping animals for fur is inhumane, Washington state voters passed an initiative in 2000 that banned the use of body-gripping traps to catch "non-human vertebrates." While the anti-trapping law created exceptions for mice and rats, it did not exempt the common mole.

Consequently, molehills – thousands of them – soon began cropping up in parks and lawns. Deprived of the highly effective traps, homeowners have had to turn to smoke bombs, sonic devices, gasoline, castor oil, road flares, chewing gum – and even human urine. After pouring gasoline down mole tunnels and igniting it, one man even set fire to his lawn.

  • Washington's anti-trapping law carries penalties of as much as $5,000 in fines and a year in jail.

  • Voters in Arizona, Colorado and California have passed similar anti-trapping initiatives in recent years.

  • And an anti-trapping law in Massachusetts produced a proliferation of beavers – whose numbers nearly tripled from an estimated 22,000 in 1996 to 63,000 in 2001 – and whose dams have created flooding problems.

    Complaints about beavers more than quadrupled to 650 in 1999. The legislature amended the law to allow local authorities to issue special permits for body-gripping traps to dispose of problem beavers.

    “Traditionally, we managed beaver [with a three-month trapping season] as a valuable natural resource," says Rob Deblinger, assistant director for wildlife in the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "Now it's a pest. It's treated like a pest, trapped like a pest and thrown away."

    Source: Robert Gavin, Mole Madness: Laws Banning Traps Incense Lawn-and-Order Set, Wall Street Journal, January 22, 2002.

    For text (WSJ subscribers)

    For more on Private Land Management & Conservation

    FMF Policy Bulletin\30 January 2002
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