Trapping has no place in a stressed ecosystem

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This opinion column was submitted by Tessa Archibald, a graduate in animal policy who analyzed Nevada’s fur-bearing animal populations as an intern for WildEarth Guardians.

Over 40% of Nevada faces an “exceptional drought”, the definition of which says “the viability of the ecosystem is threatened”. While Nevada has 40 endangered species in the United States, wildlife managers continue to allow unlimited trapping of vulnerable and critical species such as beavers, otters and bobcats, not to mention any trapped non-target animals.

Wildlife has faced an unprecedented drought for years, and I expect the Nevada Department of Wildlife to do whatever it can to keep populations under such stress. Instead, motivated by a small trapper population and outdated values, NDOW ignores evidence of population decline and continues to promote reckless slaughter on more than 59 million acres of public land.

Over 100,000 animals have been trapped in Nevada over the past 10 years. This killing is not sustainable. “Harvest” data – the number of animals of each species taken from the wild each year – is the only way NDOW can track populations. At least seven species have shown substantial declines from 10 years of “harvest” and no effort has been made to investigate the cause of these declines. While NDOW claims to “prevent wildlife from becoming threatened or endangered,” its policies do not support this claim.

Each species in an ecosystem maintains a specific niche that offers distinct benefits and interactions with the environment. Many “furry animals,” including foxes, bobcats and badgers, consume small rodents, acting as pest control products to control mouse and rat populations. Beavers can be especially essential in times of drought, as they have the unique ability to raise water tables. By building dams, beavers keep water where it is, ultimately saturating the soil and promoting plant growth. In some states, the economic cost of drought on farming systems has exceeded billions of dollars. A beaver pelt can be sold in Nevada for an average of $ 11.59.

Nevada Department of Wildlife maintains no bag limit, which means you can trap and kill as many animals as you want during the trapping season. This includes the kit fox, which has been designated as vulnerable by the Nevada Division of Natural Heritage. This population of big-eared foxes is in decline and is listed as critically imperiled in at least three states, including neighboring Oregon. If this free-for-all trapping continues under uninhabitable conditions, we cannot be surprised that more and more species face imminent threats of extinction.

In a context of historic drought and climate change, maintaining resilient ecosystems has never been more important. Trapping has wiped out species in the past; beavers were almost extinct in the 1900s due to the fur trade. It is essential that Nevada wildlife managers carefully monitor population trends and recognize the damage caused by trapping. With public lands accounting for 84% of Nevada, a ban on trapping on public lands could make a huge difference.

NDOW must recognize the dire situation facing wildlife. It’s time to protect Nevada’s wildlife and rethink our relationship with the natural world.

Tessa Archibald graduated in Animal Policy and analyzed Nevada fur-bearing animal populations as an intern for WildEarth Guardians.

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