Foothold traps are effective tools for the live capture and restraint of wildlife for management and research and were used extensively during successful river otter Lontra canadensis restoration programs throughout North America. A variety of methods and models of foothold traps were used during restoration programs, 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 foot hold 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, 78% of the total injuries detected were classified as “mild” (n = 174 injuries) and 17% were classified as “moderate” (n = 37 injuries).  Less than 3% of the injuries observed were classified 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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