Lawsuit Challenges California’s Mismanagement of Commercial Trapping Program

Thousands of fur-bearing animals are trapped each year in CA so their pelts can be sold overseas

SACRAMENTO, Calif. Sept. 13, 2017— The Center for Biological Diversity and Project Coyote sued the California Fish and Game Commission and Department of Fish and Wildlife today for improperly managing and illegally subsidizing the state’s commercial trapping program.

Thousands of coyotes, foxes, badgers and other fur-bearing animals are trapped each year in California so their pelts can be sold overseas. Today’s lawsuit notes that the two state agencies have illegally diverted as much as half a million dollars since 2013 to subsidize commercial fur trapping in California.

“Commercial trapping is a cruel, destructive practice that shouldn’t be subsidized by California taxpayers,” said attorney Jean Su, the Center’s associate conservation director. “It’s wrong that a handful of trappers slaughter our wildlife for private profit while the state foots the bill. These animals are far more valuable as essential species in California’s web of life than as skinned pelts shipped to Russia and China.”

In 2015, conservationists celebrated the Fish and Game Commission’s decision to ban the commercial trapping of bobcats, whose pelts are some of the most lucrative on the international fur market. But more than a dozen other furbearing animals still experience cruel trapping under the state’s mismanaged trapping program.

California law requires that the states’s costs of managing a commercial trapping program must be fully recovered through trapping license fees. The state spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on wardens, biologists and administrators to oversee and enforce trapping regulations, yet license fees cover only a tiny fraction of the program’s total costs. Taxpayers foot the bill for the shortfall.

Since the fee-recovery mandate became effective in2013, the commission and the fish and wildlife department have illegally diverted upwards of half a million dollars to subsidize commercial fur trapping in California.

“The illegal subsidization of the state’s commercial trapping program violates not just the letter of the law, but the will of the California people,” said Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote. “An overwhelming majority of Californians do not support commercial trapping.”

In the 2015-2016 license year, approximately 200 trappers purchased commercial licenses. Of those, 50 reported killing the nearly 2,000 animals trapped for fur that year, according to a department report. To ensure undamaged pelts, trappers often kill animals through strangulation, gassing and anal electrocution.

If the illegal subsidy of trapping licenses is eliminated, trapping license fees would have to be set at a level that few if any trappers would likely be willing to pay, resulting in a de facto end to commercial fur trapping in California.

“It’s shocking that California still permits the inhumane slaughter of our wildlife for fur,” Su said. “It’s time the state is held accountable for its poor management of a program that benefits only a few.”

Today’s lawsuit targets the California Fish and Game Commission and Department of Fish and Wildlife for failing to raise license fees to the levels adequate to recoup the entire commercial trapping program’s costs, as mandated under law. If the illegal subsidy of trapping licenses is eliminated, trapping license fees would have to be set at a level that few, if any, trappers would likely be willing to pay, resulting in a de facto end to commercial fur trapping in California.

Recognizing the ecological importance of carnivores, the Center and Project Coyote use science-based advocacy to defend these magnificent animals from persecution, exploitation and extinction. Find out more about the Center’s Carnivore Conservation campaign here and about Project Coyote’s Predator Protection Programs here.