trapping, most broadly, the use of mechanical or deceptive devices to capture, kill, or injure animals. It may be applied to the practice of using birdlime to capture birds, lobster pots to trap lobsters, and seines to catch fish. Usually, however, trapping means the capture of land animals larger than rodents by means of deadfall, pitfall, and, especially in modern times, spring-snapped, steel-jawed steel traps. In societies where hunting and fishing are the staple occupations, trapping is used to supply food and, in colder climates, furs for clothing. Since antiquity trapping has been the basis of the fur trade (see fur). It still occupies a great many people over large sections of the globe, especially in the colder regions, such as N Siberia and N Canada. Trapping has also been used to rid an area of animals thought to endanger the lives of human beings or domestic animals. Spurred by bounty laws, the practice of trapping in the United States in the 19th cent. helped lead to the extinction or near-extinction of many mammals, such as various species of bears, mountain lions, wolves, and coyotes. Modern game management frowns upon trapping and recognizes the importance of predators in the ecosystem. Such trapping as is permitted today in the United States is strictly regulated by law. See wildlife refuge; endangered species.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.