Snatch away coyote snares? One trapper says “No”

Animal Service officers try to cut snare that was strangling a coyote in Silver Lake.

By Tony Cella

After a coyote died  after being strangled in a snare trap in Silver Lake,  Councilman Mitch O’Farrell proposed banning the devices to prevent animal cruelty. But at least one animal trapper believes that banning snare traps in the City of Los Angeles is a bad idea.

Jose Becerra of The Critter Trapper, a wild animal abatement company, said he advises homeowners to use other methods, including water spraying scarecrows. But when an animal has to be captured, he doesn’t use cages, which animals notice right away. Snare traps, in contrast, are nearly invisible. “Snares are my preferred method of trapping,” said Becerra.

Banning snares would force trappers to use “more gruesome” methods to capture nuisance wildlife. Becerra gave the conibear device, a spring-loaded “body-gripping” trap similar to a giant mousetrap, as an example. The tool is designed to kill animals quickly by snapping onto their necks or torso.

O’Farrell said the ban would prevent the deaths of wildlife and unintended targets, like pets, that are often caught in traps, sometimes with fatal consequences.

O’Farrell’s motion, which must be approved by the City Council, calls for the city to look into banning “animal traps or snares that maim, kill or cause inhumane suffering.” But the councilman said he was only after snaring devices.  O’Farrell recommended taking preventative measures, such as a removing forageable food and securing backyards, to guard against wildlife and using cage traps as a last resort

“It’ll prevent animal cruelty. Not just to wild animals, but to domestic animals as well,” said O’Farrell of his proposal.

But Becerra claimed all kinds of traps, including cages, will capture domestic animals, in particular cats. Snares come in different sizes and will only tighten to a certain diameter, which diminishes the chances of catching certain household pets. There are also types of snares that hold the animal to their base, to prevent them from strangling.

By law captured wild animals must be released on site or killed immediately. The trapper believes releasing “defeats the purpose” because the feral wildlife will come back. Releasing the animals is more profitable, but Berecca considers it a dishonest business practice. Residents often have to call trappers back because most species of wildlife will return.

O’Farrell said he was not aware of  companies like The Critter Trapper  and wouldn’t speculate on how the ban would affect their businesses. He took a staunch stance against commercial animal trapping businesses. “I’m not interested in helping fur trapping companies in Los Angeles.”

But even if the snares are banned, Becerra said he would find another method to suit his needs. The trapper believed maintaining a balance between wild animals and humans in urban environments will continue to be an issue, especially in communities like Silver Lake and Echo Park with exceptional bio-diversity.

“It’s a debate our grandchildren will be having,” he said.

Tony Cella is a freelance reporter who has covered crime and grime in Los Angeles, New York City and the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Click here to contact Cella with questions, comments or concerns.

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  1. What a bizarre statement. If I can’t snare animals I’m going to have to just kill them? Also, the mentality of making more money off of releasing would be the only benefit of releasing the animal?

    How about we start educating the public who want to be pet owners. That a responsibility comes with taking care of a living creature. Let’s try that first and see how things turn out. Bringing your pet inside after sundown isn’t that hard to do. Keeping them ON a leash isn’t hard to do. Would you leave you child in the backyard overnight? Would you ditch the stroller and let you baby crawl freely down the block alone while you chat on your phone?

    This is the same nonsensical argument I used to hear when I lived on the east coast, specifically from New Jersey. People want to live out in the wilderness, then when they see a bear eating their garbage that they left out and open they call for a state sanctioned bear hunt. Which they get.

    Grant it, LA isn’t that wild but the people who want to live within the more nature centric areas HAVE to live side by side with the coyotes. Deal with it. The coyotes aren’t moving in, you are. Either move, don’t get a pet or just simply stay and be RESPONSIBLE.

  2. i totally agree with you, hbhb. but to clarify, the trapper isn’t saying that if he can’t use snares he’ll just kill them. He already is killing the animals he snares. he’s saying that if snares are banned he’ll start using even less humane methods to catch and kill the animals.

  3. Anyone who is waffling on this issue or somehow thinks it’s ok to use snare traps needs to sit down and watch the entire video posted in the earlier story. It’s a cruel and inhumane method of trapping period. Then if that’s not enough for you, then imagine a 40-lb dog caught in the same trap.

  4. ONE trapper supports snares? I bet there are plenty more where he came from who support them. Snares are the easiest traps for them to utilize — quick to set up, relatively safe to any humans and quicker than cages to make the catch.

    It’s a bit like telling a professional fisherman we want to outlaw his fishing pole and have him start catching his limit with boxes.

    Becerra’s speaking strictly from what benefits HIM (and his customers, via the lower costs involved with snare versus cage). Cages simply won’t produce the desired dead animal as quickly and with as little effort.

    As to threatening to go straight to grab traps if the city won’t let him play with his snares anymore, well, that’s pretty bold. First off, grab traps by state law (Fish and Game Code Section 4005) can ONLY be used in the prevention of property damage (such as livestock attacks and kills). Other than pet attacks (which are preventable most of the time), not a whole lot of that goes on in the big city.

    Plus there’s HUGE issues in setting snap traps (such as catching and injuring/killing an unintended animal… or human!). So you go ahead Mr. Becerra, find a way to bypass the law and set your jaws of death all over the place. That’ll pay off. Big time.

  5. Here are the pertinent animal laws we currently have in California from the Animal Legal and Historical Center. It seems like trapping coyotes should already be illegal. What law makes it legal to kill coyotes- anyone know?

    CA – Crimes – § 597. Cruelty to animals CA PENAL § 597
    This statutes states that anyone who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal, or maliciously and intentionally kills an animal, is guilty of an offense punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($ 20,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment, or, alternatively, by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($ 20,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment. The statute also defines specific forms of torture and mistreatment that qualifies as a crime under this section.

    CA – Damages – Injuries to animals; exemplary damages CA CIVIL § 3340 Exemplary damages may be given for injuries to animals committed in disregard of humanity either willfully or through gross negligence.
    CA – Hunting – Article 1. Methods of Taking (including trapping methods) CA FISH & G § 3000 – 3012 These sections pertain to hunting in California. A hunting license is required, and certain hunting methods are prohibited, such as night hunting, hunting while intoxicated, shooting at an animal from a vehicle, Internet hunting, the use of body-gripping or metal-jawed traps, the use of certain poisons and lead bullets, and the use of bird or mammal calls.
    CA – Trapping – Anti-body-gripping Trap Initiative Proposition 4 (1998) This state initiative measure passed in 1998 and prohibits trapping mammals classified as fur bearing (or non-game) with body gripping traps for recreation or commerce in fur. This includes, but is not limited to, steel-jawed leghold traps, padded-jaw leghold traps, conibear traps, and snares. Cage and box traps, nets, suitcase-type live beaver traps and common rat and mouse traps are not considered body-gripping traps.
    CA – Trapping – Chapter 2. Fur-Bearing Mammals Article 1. Trapping Provisions CA FISH & G § 4000 – 4012 These provisions regulate the fur trade. Fur-bearing mammals may be taken only with a trap, a firearm, bow and arrow, poison (with permit), or with the use of dogs. It is illegal to trap without a license and certain types of traps are not allowed. Fur dealers must have a license, with exceptions. Fur dealers are required to maintain complete records and are prohibited from purchasing raw furs from any person who does not hold a valid trapping license, fur dealer license, or fur agent license.

  6. “He advises homeowners to use other methods, including water spraying scarecrows. But when an animal has to be captured, he doesn’t use cages,” he just out and out kills them.

  7. So few trappers, yet so much power. Good article which hopefully will enlighten the general public. Thanks to Serge for quoting the CA laws (above) which points out that body gripping traps are illegal. What can possibly be more inhumane than a snare??!! A nice slow, gradual strangle causing immeasurable pain and fear to wildlife or any other. Snares are indiscriminate AND inhumane and MUST BE BANNED! Educate the public on how to avoid animal conflicts humanely for best results.

  8. unfortunately, these methods are used throughout LA County especially in the foothill communities, where animals are left to die slow deaths on public lands.
    Can anyone find the law that makes the trapping of coyotes legal? The laws I found earlier seem to make killing wildlife illegal. Do trappers have some special dispensation?

  9. AHA! Thanks to the Critter Trapper’s own website, where he quotes the CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME TRAPPING LICENSE EXAMINATION REFERENCE GUIDE:
    “A trapper must either euthanize a trapped animal or release it immediately
    on site (T 14 CCR Sect. 465.5)”
    But the Critter Trapper fails to quote any more of the guide which states an animal can only be trapped if it is damaging property. Furthermore, predation on the property must be proven before a coyote can be trapped. (see page 108 “Damage and Damage Identification”)
    “Accurately determining whether or not predation occurred and, if so, by what species, requires a considerable
    amount of knowledge and experience. Evidence must be gathered, pieced together, and then evaluated”- pg 109
    “Regardless of the means used to stop damage, the focus should be on damage prevention and control rather than elimination of coyotes. It is neither wise nor practical to kill all coyotes.” -pg 109
    So, maybe Joe Becerra needs to be evaluated by the agency that provided him with his license. In the meantime, LA needs to make it clear to trappers that we won’t tolerate inhumane and unnecessary methods.

  10. If people were really concerned about the welfare of coyotes, then they would demand and approve a campaign of non-lethal hazing that would establish humans as unbearable nuisances for coyotes. Co-existing is simply an illusion. Coyotes will never cease to seek food sources. It’s their natural and survival instinct to do so. Humans can’t domesticate them even partially by putting food out for them. After all, a hungry coyote isn’t going to distinguish between a bowl of kibble and your cat or dog, which also happen to be nearby and accessible. Arm yourself and your kid with wrist rockets and BB guns, train your biggest dog to get territorial on them, and make a pastime of rousting coyotes in your neighborhoods (we ALL know where they’re “hiding”). They will quickly move to an environment where they aren’t regularly harassed and we’ve got to make sure that alternative exists. Even if it’s only Elysian or Griffith parks. It’s common sense people. We don’t have to kill or trap the coyotes, only make them feel extremely apprehensive if not terrified of humans. I anticipate that within a year, only the most adaptable and inconspicuous coyote will continue to dare live among us but we wouldn’t even know it, which should the natural state of things.

  11. Echo Park Devil's Advocate

    I understand the concerns over inhumane trapping, though, I’m not too concerned with the pain and suffering of coyotes over my own, my family’s or my pet’s safety. What I don’t get is why anyone wouldn’t want these wild and vicious animals living among us KILLED. I’ve seen a 50lb coyote in my yard, and I’d much rather it be a dead 50lb coyote.

    • A readiness to demonize coyotes is as perplexing to me as my willingness to coexist with the creatures is to the above commenter. Extermination is impossible. Interaction is inevitable. With those to facts in mind, fo the sake of family and pet safety, the most effective way to keep that 50-pound coyote from coming back into a yard isn’t to destroy it after its there, but to take proactive measures that will effectively prevent it from returning.

  12. Becerra is not a reliable source on this topic because he is making a living off of trapping these animals. What does the ASPCA say about trapping wild animals within the city of Los Angeles?

    How does trapping a wild animal solve the problem anyway? As soon as that particular animal has died a painfully slow and agonizing death, another one will come along…attracted by the garbage or water source some dumb human has provided.

    Trapping does not solve the problem. The folks at The Critter Trapper would like you to believe trapping is the solution because they make money off trapping. Prevention is the key, people. Like it or not, we must coexist. The coyotes were here before us…

    • Viva, ASPCA is not the best organization to ask about issues on a civic because they’re a national entity with no direct connection to Los Angeles, and absolutely no affiliation with spcaLA, which is an independent, nonprofit animal welfare organization that has served Southern California since 1877 and is dedicated to the prevention of cruelty to animals through education, law enforcement, intervention and advocacy.

      It’s an important distinction to make because every time that heart-rending ASPCA commercial comes on with Sarah McLachlan singing “Angel,” tears flow and wallets open all over Los Angeles, not a dime of which is seen by the organization deeply anchored to our communities and working every day to protect animals for the last 136 years.

      Here’s what spcaLA has to say about Living With Urban Wildlife.

  13. Urban yuppies trying to capture coyotes, what a sick picture. Buncha lowlifes. Step outside your city hipster bubble for a few moments and stop thinking only of restaurants, property values and bad pant-cuff fashions.

  14. I owned a wildlife removal business for many years. I removed any type of wildlife that was doing property damage (which is VERY common). I was a 100% no kill trapping critter control. I never harmed any animal, but trust me, coyotes are so extremely over populated near rural areas, they NEED to be killed to control the population. This is why hunting season is open all year round on coyotes, even at night. The government knows that there is no way humans are going to decimate the population of coyotes. Besides that, coyotes are trash animals. If you’ve ever seen how they rip apart peoples pets without ever going for a kill bite (meaning they eat your pets while they are still alive, without bothering to kill them first), maybe some would change their minds about these over-populated nuisance animals. They show nothing but inhumane treatment to every animal they kill, they don’t deserve to be “babied”.

  15. O’Farrell’s ignorance has shown through: nuisance animal trapping is not part of the fur trade; it’s actually illegal in California to use a body-gripping trap for the intent of taking an animal for its fur for commerce (14 CCR 465.5, FGC 3003.1b, FGC 4004b). But we’re talking about nuisance animal control (not population control, not recreational trapping, and not fur trapping). Nuisance animal control attempts to target individual problematic animals, like coyotes that routinely kill pets/livestock, damage property, or have acted aggressively towards people. Where is all the uproar in the press when someone traps a raccoon, skunk, opossum, or gopher? Seems strangely silent.

    The trappers guide is just that, a guide, and lacks the force of law. That’s up to the Code of Regulations (CCR) and Fish & Game Code (FGC). So no, a nuisance animal trapper does not have to determine if a coyote chewed on Fido, or if it was the weird kid from down the street, although having evidence of the culprit species (tracks, scat, witness accounts) is better than not having evidence. Furthermore, coyotes are classified as non-game animals (CCR 472), and nongame animals, “…may be taken at any time of the year and in any number except as prohibited in Chapter 6” (Chapt. 6 – see Methods of Take for Nongame Birds and Nongame mammals CCR 475d, which refers to CCR 465.5 for trapping methods). FGC 3003.1(a) and CCR 465.5(c) only refer to recreation and fur commerce in regards to the prohibited use of snares, but not nuisance wildlife. 3003.1(c) and CCR 465.5(e) only refer to steel-jawed traps being prohibited for non-game animals.

    Guess what is more indiscriminate: a snare or a cage trap? The cage trap. Snare size and placement partly determine what can be caught, and there are designs that are available that hold an animal without choking it until the trapper returns; a trap is legally supposed to be checked at least once daily (FGC 4004d). So no, the coyote is not languishing for days on end in the snare, unless you’ve hired an unethical trapper (in which case, call the game warden).

    Don’t like trapping? Fine, but it is LEGAL to trap coyotes provided the above-mentioned laws and regulations are followed. You don’t have to participate, you don’t have to hire the trapper if you’re against it, but don’t take away that option for those who need it. Feel bad for that snared coyote? Do an image search for pets or livestock killed or injured by coyotes. Then do one for children injured by coyotes. Guess who gets my sympathy – not the nuisance coyote.

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