Abstract

Foothold traps are effective tools for the live capture and restraint of wildlife for management and research. Successful river otter Lontra canadensis restoration programs throughout North America used them extensively. Restoration programs used a variety of methods and models of foothold traps, but comprehensive efforts to describe and quantify injuries associated with river otter captures have been limited. We evaluated injuries of river otters caught in three commercially available models of foothold traps including the number 11 double long-spring with standard jaws, the number 11 double long-spring with double jaws, and the number 2 coil-spring trap. Based on examinations of 70 captured river otters, we classified 78% of the total inj uries detected as “mild” (n = 174 injuries) and 17% were classified as “moderate” (n = 37 injuries). We classified less than 3% of the injuries observed as “moderately severe” or “severe.” We focused only on the animal welfare performance of traps; the three trap types we tested met the animal welfare criteria required for inclusion in the best management practices for trapping river otter. The criteria based on International Standards Organization guidelines used in this assessment of trap performance provides a scientific basis for future evaluations of river otter welfare when foothold traps are used for restoration, research, and population management.

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