Ensuring population and environmental sustainability is key to how wild fur is harvested. The system of checks and balances operates at local, state, regional, and provincial levels of government and also through far-reaching international agreements.
Wild fur in North America is subject to a wide-ranging system of laws, regulations, checks, and controls that emphasise the sustainability and welfare of all fur-bearing species and protect endangered species. Ensuring population and environmental sustainability is key to how wild fur is harvested. The system of checks and balances operates at local, state, regional, and provincial levels of government and also through far-reaching international agreements. It is necessarily complex as it spans different agencies, species, range-states, environments, and national borders.
As a result of the different reasons for trapping, 100 percent of the wild fur harvest from North America is part of government wildlife management programmes. These programmes are controlled by government, whether by species, by seasons, or by quotas, to name a few. Anything that is harvested outside of government wildlife management programmes would be illegal and not be permitted to be sold through the auction process.
The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS), which is a trilateral agreement between Canada, the EU and Russia, along with the parallel agreement between the EU and US, ensures that animal welfare is paramount in the wild fur harvest. Canada and the US both comply with the terms of the aforementioned international agreements and meetings.
The relevant government must also monitor harvests to sustain healthy population levels in balance with habitats. The absence of this trade would trigger dramatic increases in the populations of pelt-bearing species, posing a potential nuisance in some areas.
The IFF is working with a leading international verification and assessment company to develop a protocol for wild fur, to be used to audit and verify the process from trapping to the auction in regards to animal welfare, sustainability and traceability.
This includes the safeguarding of animal welfare, protection of animal population and environmental sustainability and the traceability throughout the entire chain.
Baltic Academy started working on this development task in June 2020 and the protocol is expected to be finalised by the end of 2020. Baltic Academy will identify which elements of the chain that are relevant to verify and how they can be verified in order to ensure that all intended aspects are covered.
Experts (the technical advisory committee) are engaged in the development to ensure that all relevant scientific and best practice knowledge are taken into account. The protocol will be tested during development, to ensure that the audits are feasible and the results transparent and useful for adjustments of practices.
Fur trapping in North America is a key activity for wildlife workers responsible for animal protection and conservation. Their work is both regulated and supported by law. It includes:
Protecting, monitoring and managing endangered species
The reintroduction of species into their original habitats
The prevention of damage to property by wildlife
The protection of crops and domesticated animals from destruction by wildlife
Disease management to protect human and animal health
Controlling invasive species
The harvest of fur to be used in the international fur trade
Many harvesters depend on wild fur for their livelihood and, in many cases, entire rural and indigenous communities rely on this income for their economic viability. Trapping also has a big cultural significance and is essential for many areas to retain their identity and traditions.
More than 23 different species from the wild fur aspect of the international fur trade. Trappers are required by law to adhere to strict rules, which include:
Restricted seasons, these vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction
Agreed quotas to which trappers must adhere
The trapping of specific species designated as ‘abundant’
Adherence to local, state, or provincial rules on trapping
The use of mandatory and regulated trapping devices and systems
Attendance of local, state, or provincial educational programmes
Trapping in designated areas only
Adherence to mandatory trap check laws
Wild Fur programmes vary widely depending on region, species, and local factors. In North America, a wide range of state, provincial, territorial, and federal rules are well established in order to cover these variable factors. Meanwhile, globally recognised standards include:
Two international organizations to control standards (ISO)
The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS)
The USA – EU Agreed Minute
Best Management Practices (BMPs)
All state, provincial, or federal laws and regulations on trapping fur-bearing animals
All programmes detail different rules for each species. Wild fur programmes are science-based and verified by independent experts who continuously improve and test traps and trapping systems. They are outlined below.READ MORE
In the USA, over 70 federal and state fish and wildlife agency professionals are involved in maintaining and improving standards. They include wildlife biologists, wildlife researchers, mechanical engineers, statisticians, foresters, and wildlife technicians with expertise in the capture of wild fur-bearing species.
More than 1,200 expert trappers and wildlife professionals have participated in field projects. Over 300 individual field projects have been conducted across 41 states.
In Canada, a state-of-the-art facility has tested 612 types of traps on 17 species in both field and controlled environment tests. Projects have been conducted in six provinces, one territory and in three states. Over 100 trappers and technicians have been involved in the programme since the 1980s.
In the USA, 400 types of traps have been tested, including foothold traps, body grip traps, cage traps, and live restraint snares. These tests have resulted in the development of 23 species-specific Best Management Practices.
The North American wild fur programmes have been independently verified. Universities and veterinary pathologists have provided expertise in the study of dead and captured animals to help evaluate criteria based on the ISO protocol. Meanwhile, radiologists and mechanical engineers have helped to evaluate trap parameters, and computer simulation modeling has been employed in trap design.
The following universities and experts have participated in the development and continuous improvement of the North American programmes:
USA: Cornell University. Ithaca, New York; The University of Georgia (Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study Center and Veterinary Science School); Athens, Georgia; The University of Wyoming (Veterinary School); Laramie, Wyoming; The University of Missouri (Engineering Department and Veterinary School); Columbia, Missouri. Mississippi State University; Starkville, Mississippi; The University of Texas, San Antonio, Texas; and theUniversity of Arizona, Tempe, Arizona.
Canada: Trent University, University of Ottawa, University of Prince Edward Island, University of Victoria, University of Montreal, Guelph University, Universite de Montreal, Universite du Quebec a Rimouski, Canadian Wildlife Health Center (UPEI, University of Calgary), Trent University, University of Ottawa, and University of Victoria.
Trappers in North America are required to acquire a trapping licence and comply with comprehensive harvesting regulations.
Conservation officers monitor and enforce state, provincial, and territorial trapping regulations by visiting trappers, conducting routine field patrols and inspecting trap lines. Government agencies also record, monitor, regulate, and inspect wild fur harvests and shipments.
Canada has more than 1,400 Wildlife Conservation or Enforcement Officers and the USA has 8,500.
It is their job to enforce all of North America’s regulations for the protection of wildlife. They work directly in the field, on a full-time basis, and have the power to lay charges against lawbreakers and to directly enforce all hunting and trapping activities.
In addition to this number, there are federal fisheries officers, guardian programmes, police, stakeholder support workers and justice and wildlife or environmental management staff. They all work to administer programmes and enforce regulations on a daily basis.
The fur trade is subject to thorough licensing, permitting, and regulation by state, provincial, territorial and federal wildlife management agencies and by border trade control authorities. From the trapper harvesting on the land to the buyers, wholesale dealers, auction houses, importers, and exporters, every single step of the trade is strictly controlled.
Regulations include the following:
National, state, provincial legislation (Endangered Species Acts)
State, provincial, territorial wildlife acts and regulations
Regulation of trade through the Customs/Lacey Act, CITES, WAPRITA (Canada Wildlife Trade Legislation)
Regulations on various federal agency properties
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Online links to specific state and provincial trapping and wildlife harvesting requirements can be found on the Department of Natural Resources website of each state, territory, and province. Science-based and peer-reviewed studies and tests on traps, trapping systems, furbearers, and management systems are too numerous to list.
The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) is an agreement between Canada, the European Union (EU) and Russia. It ensures the highest possible animal welfare standards for traps used in those countries, affecting a total of 19 different wild animal species. Under AIHTS rules, traps must be approved by the appropriate authorities and they must conform to AIHTS standards. More than 600 trap designs have been rigorously tested under AIHTS in Canada since it was ratified in 1999. The agreement guarantees trade of specific wild animal species between signatory nations, providing the trap standards outlined in it are adhered to. The United States (US) has a separate, but similar, agreement with the EU.READ MORE
In 1997, the US and the EU signed an ‘Agreed Minute’ on humane standards for the trapping of fur-bearing animals. The Agreed Minute represents an international treaty commitment between the US and the EU. The Agreement on International Humane Trap Standards (AIHTS) continues to identify humane methods for the capturing of fur-bearing animals based upon strict performance evaluations. The Agreed Minute reflects the US and EU commitment to the principles of the AIHTS. To comply with this agreement, the US has developed Best Management Practices to scientifically evaluate traps and trapping systems. Animal welfare is always the priority, along with safety, efficiency, selectivity, and practicality. Results of this research are provided to the general public, trappers, regulatory authorities and to state and federal wildlife agencies.READ MORE
Best Management Practices (BMP) scientifically evaluate traps and trapping systems. These tests are continuously undertaken in over 40 USA states. They are species-specific and adapted for regional differences.
For the purpose of developing these BMPs, trap performance criteria, or thresholds, have been established by the Furbearer Conservation Technical Work Group of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA). These thresholds were based on the 1997 understanding reached between the EU and the US (EU/US Agreed Minute), with input from wildlife biologists and wildlife veterinarians. They provide a common framework for evaluating progress towards the use of more humane traps and trapping methods.
The Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species (CITES) is another international agreement that regulates elements of the fur trade. Under CITES, species in trade that might be harmed by overexploitation are carefully monitored and regulated to ensure international guidelines are followed. Most of the CITES-regulated North American fur-bearing species in trade are secure and not endangered, but they are listed under Appendix II of CITES. This is simply because they are considered ‘lookalike’ species, meaning that they are similar in appearance to species which are endangered in other parts of the world. Under CITES, the importing country can request a certificate of origin that demonstrates compliance.READ MORE
The International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) has developed two international, science-based trap standards to test restraining and killing devices. The ISO is comprised of 162 members, each being the sole representative of their country. These standards outline how traps should be tested, regardless of the reason for trapping.
Key parts of the standards include:
• Providing testing methods for the performance evaluation of traps in the key areas of: capture efficiency, animal welfare, selectivity and user safety
• Sampling sizes for devices tested
• Definitions of wordsTrauma scales and classification of injuries
• Length of time to death for devices that kill
• Mechanical testing of trapping devices
• Compound and field testing protocols
• Pathology protocols
Definition of the ISO standards 10990-4 and 10990-5. ISO 10990-4 addresses the methods for testing killing-trap systems used on land or underwater. ISO 10990-5 covers methods for testing restraining traps. These ISO standards are integral to all the work done in North America to meet the commitments under the AIHTS and the Agreed Minute.
Safety-Animal Welfare-Responsibility-Furbearer Conservation (2005). Published by The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and available online at:
Protection, management and fur harvesting varies across US states, Canadian provinces and territories across North America. Professional wildlife managers adopt and implement regulations based on the scientific understanding of regional wildlife populations. Recognising these differences, wild fur harvesters normally require a mandatory trapping licence that relates to their specific area and species.
Through the course of a trapping season, this licence allows a trapper to harvest various species within the regulations. Law enforcement officers can inspect their trap lines or catch at any time. Within this same legal framework, pelt dealers must also purchase a licence and register with their state, provincial or territorial authority.
During, or at the end of, the trapping season, trappers have a multitude of options through which to sell their pelts. These options include (but are not limited to):
State, provincial and territorial trapper auctions
Private use, sale
The transfer of custody of wild fur starts once the trappers choose where to sell their fur. Trappers are required by law to provide the seller with their contact information, trapping license number, as well as a log of the number of species being sold. Once the sale takes place, this documentation will be associated with each pelt throughout the supply chain until reaching the auction house or pelt dealer.
Wild fur trappers who choose to send their furs to the auction houses do so on a consignment basis. Before sorting and grading, each wild fur pelt is identified with a bar-coded ticket that can be traced back to the individual trapper or source from which the pelts came and, once sold, forwarded to the fur purchaser.
These records and databases are maintained and updated regularly and allow the auction houses to:
Keep track of the origin of the fur and its status in the auction process and ensure the sale of fur is properly invoiced.
This ensures that each trapper is fully compensated for the furs that he or she has provided, once they have been sold.
By law and regulation, collected raw fur pelts must be documented regardless of their position in the supply chain. Meanwhile, special permits are required for CITES Appendix II species.