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Leghold trap debate held

February 20, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - In the blink of an eye, the jaws of the steel trap slammed shut with a clang and snapped a pencil in two.

The demonstration was meant to show the power and danger of the leghold traps routinely used by trappers in Maryland.

While animal rights advocates railed against the devices at a House Environmental Matters committee hearing Wednesday, trappers testified that their methods of capturing furbearing animals are humane.

Animal rights activists, who favor a statewide ban on leghold traps, showed home video of a fox struggling wildly to remove itself from a trap. They told of a dog named Buffy who had to have her leg amputated after being caught.

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"They make you think it's a huge, destructive death tool," said Tera Roach, a Carroll County Community College student who was raised on a farm.

The devices do not harm the animals, whose bones are stronger than a pencil used in the demonstration, trappers testified.

Wildlife management specialists with the Department of Natural Resources supported the trappers, saying there are no facts to prove the traps are harmful when they're used legally.

In fact, they are essential to controlling the population of nuisance animals such as nutria, which plague wetlands.

"This is a very emotional issue and that's what this body is all about. If you take this tool out of the toolbox you will have far-reaching ecosystem and human-animal conflict issues," said Paul Peditto, director of the state wildlife agency.

The Department of Natural Resources used leghold traps to trap otters on Maryland's Eastern Shore and take them to rivers in Garrett County, where they had become extinct.

Without the aid of trapping, foxes and other animals will invade chicken coops and cause their own form of animal cruelty, Roach testified.

"There's nothing humane about the way an animal treats its prey," she said.

This is the second year Del. Barbara Frush, D-Anne Arundel/Prince George's, has tried to ban leghold traps statewide.

Last year the bill died in committee for lack of a vote, although the Department of Natural Resources did not take a position for or against it.

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