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Safeguarding our environment is a critical task facing our country -- and our world -- today. Each of us has a responsibility to do his or her part to protect and preserve the environment. The fur industry understands that it has a responsibility to do its part, too. The fur trade plays an important role in wildlife management and conservation -- two very critical components of our mission to preserve the environment.
One aspect of wildlife management is protecting endangered or threatened species. When populations of certain species decline to unacceptably low numbers, government officials designate them as "endangered" or "threatened" in order to protect them from extinction.
The fur industry never uses endangered species. In fact, no furbearing species is endangered or threatened by the legitimate fur trade today. This was not achieved by accident. The fur industry worked with the government and wildlife experts to develop strict guidelines and laws to ensure abundant wildlife.
As a result of education and careful controls in the United States and around the world, endangered and threatened animal species across the globe are legally protected and monitored. The Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Wild Flora and Fauna are two laws that seek to protect the world's wildlife resources.
The fur trade condemns poaching and supports enforcement of all wildlife conservation laws.
Today, loss of habitat is the biggest threat to our wildlife resources. Adequate nesting, feeding and shelter sites are vital to the survival of all species. While human activities such as land development cause habitat loss, they are not the only causes.
Sometimes, the animals themselves contribute to habitat loss. While some species can decline in numbers, becoming endangered or threatened, other species can reproduce in such extremely large numbers that just the opposite occurs -- overpopulation. Overpopulation can cause a variety of serious problems for animals and humans.
When a species overpopulates, its habitat can change drastically. As the population grows, the demand for food grows, too. If the population continues to expand unchecked, it can become so large that food supplies are depleted, and the habitat is no longer able to sustain all of the animals. When this happens, the habitat is damaged. Habitat damage can affect other important plant and wildlife species and present problems for humans, as well.
Wildlife management programs help to ensure that species do not overpopulate. These programs protect the animals and safeguard the habitat for all wildlife.
As wildlife biologists have pointed out, trapping is an important component of wildlife management programs. Trapping is the most selective, humane approach to regulating furbearing wildlife populations. Trapping produces no known or lasting negative impact on our environment.
There are many misperceptions about trapping. Many people do not realize that the alternative to population control is destruction of habitat that could lead to starvation and disease for a number of species. It cannot be considered humane to ignore the incredible suffering caused by disease, starvation and destruction of habitat when uncontrolled wildlife popultions experience uncontrolled growth.
A little known fact about trapping is the role it plays in protecting our endangered species. Leghold traps are used by wildlife professionals to protect and relocate endangered or threatened species. These holding devices are not meant to kill the animal but simply to restrain it so that it can successfully relocated. This type of trap is padded with rubber so as to minimize injury.
One notable example of the successful way the leghold trap has been used is with the Red Wolf, which was listed as endangered in March 1967. In the 1960's interbreeding with coyotes and loss of habitat had reduced the number of genetically pure Red Wolves drastically and the species was declared extinct in the wild in 1980. The surviving members of the species existed only in captivity.
In 1973, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched a daring project: to capture every remaining Red Wolf. The goal: to restore the species to the wild. Between 1973 and 1980, more than 400 animals were trapped using leghold traps. Of these wolves, only 40 were determined to be possibly genetically pure and after testing at the Point Defiance Zoological Park in Tacoma, Washington, 17 were declared pure Red Wolves. Fourteen of these became the breeding stock from which every Red Wolf now in existence is descended. From this breeding stock, enough pure wolves have been produced to allow some to return to the wild. By the early 1990's, 109 Red Wolves existed in the wild and captivity -- all descendants of the animals rescued along the Texas-Louisiana coast in the 70's by use of legal leghold traps.
So successful was this program, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources/Survival Service Commission (IUCN/SSC) Wolf Recovery Group passed a resolution endorsing the use of the leghold trap for conservation research as being the best method available for catching wolves while minimizing possible injuries.
The use of leghold traps has been instrumental in protecting other endangered species such as the Piping Plover and Least Tern from predators such as the Red Fox and Raccoon. Predications against the Californian Least Tern by Coyotes and Opossums have been lessened by use of leghold traps. Trapping has been used to protect the Ocelot from Coyote predation in Texas, the Brown Pelican on barrier island as well as the Alabama Beach Mouse. In Utah, leghold traps have protected the endangered Desert Tortoise from Coyotes and in Georgia, endangered Sea Turtles from Feral Hogs and Raccoons.
Furbearing species can now be taken quickly in ways which cause little stress. This does not mean that further improvements cannot be made. The fur industry is actively involved in ongoing research to accomplish this goal.
Currently, the U.S. and Canada are working together with the International Standards Organization and trapping, animal welfare and wildlife management experts from around the world to develop global humane trapping standards. The fur industry supports fully the development and implementation of international humane trap standards.
Trapping is strictly controlled and regulated by government officials. Every state has numerous wildlife laws and regulations that deal directly with trapping. This includes licensing of trappers, trapper education, harvest levels, trapping season dates, strict guidelines about the types of traps allowed, and more.
The federal government also supervises trapping on certain federal lands under the jurisdiction of the United States Departments of Interior and Agriculture. It is against state, federal, and international law to harvest or trade in endangered species. The fur industry strongly supports these trapping laws and regulations and vigorously supports wildlife officials in the prosecution of violators.
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