Modern Restraining Animal Traps


During the 1990s, 13 countries, including the United States, developed and agreed upon implementation of two International Organization for Standardization standards regarding humane mammal traps. As a result of this process, best management practices were developed for 17 mammalian species and have been recommended to trappers, state wildlife agencies, and trap manufacturing companies.


The regulations set forth by state wildlife agencies on trapping methods are among the most complex and comprehensive of any laws concerning wildlife harvest today. In 1985, the Canadian government attempted to establish a world standard for humane mammal traps through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Among those responsible for setting the standards was the United States Technical Advisory Group (TAG), comprised of veterinarians, biologists, animal welfare representatives, trappers, and the general public. Since its inception, at least nineteen countries, including the United States, agreed to the standards. During the 1990s, two more ISO standards were developed, providing thresholds for time of death related to killing traps and minor traumas from restraining traps. By standardizing modern animal traps and improving their effectiveness, the negative public perception associated with the trapping industry has been reduced.

Extensive research on restraining traps has been conducted through annual appropriations from Congress to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Such research resulted in the development of Best Management Practices (BMPs) in 1996, incorporating trapping methods for many fur-bearing species. All common trap designs have been field-tested against BMPs for each species. During field trials, the captured animals were examined by veterinarians and some devices passed while others were eliminated. The traps that were eliminated failed to adhere to the approved humane trap standards for that specific species. All structural components of each restraining trap were evaluated based on the trapping system used and the target species.

Points of Interest

  • The restraining trap BMPs developed for each furbearer species evaluated are voluntary recommendations to state fish and wildlife agencies, trappers, and trap manufacturing companies.
  • The trap manufacturing industries have voluntarily embraced the recommendations of the BMP’s and have designed and redesigned new traps that meet the new humane trap standards.
  • Components of the restraining traps for the larger predator furbearers are also being modified and redesigned to meet the BMP injury standards.
  • Modern restraining animal traps, like foot-hold traps, have been critical to conservation efforts by allowing endangered species to be safely trapped and re-located.
  • Modern trapping methods have also been instrumental in the management of species like coyotes that have significantly expanded beyond their historical range.


  • In 2017, Nevada enacted S364, which revises provisions of animal trapping laws and techniques.
  • In 2017, Tennessee enacted H733, which regulates size, placement, and inspection of steel traps.
  • In 2020, HB 1504 was proposed in New Hampshire to “established a committee to study prohibiting recreational trapping.” The bill was reported “Inexpedient to Legislate” out of Committee and subsequently died.
  • In 2021, New Mexico passed SB 32, which banned trapping on all public lands in the state.

Moving Forward

The standardized BMP’s, developed for each furbearer species, are crucial to the ethical practice of our trapping tradition. Thus, legislators must be mindful of these international standards when considering legislation on modern restraining traps and prioritize educating individuals within the outdoor sporting community, as well as the general public, on the ethical use of traps. Changing the public’s negative perception of trapping through education and promoting the use of restraining traps in conservation and invasive species management is of utmost importance.

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