A comment on the use of unattended steel snares as a method of animal control.

Chuck Phillips

The proponents of steel snares claim that the animal caught in the snare dies in a matter of minutes as a result of strangulation. The fact of the matter is that the majority of the trapped animals are snared in a manner that allows them to survive for days and sometimes weeks. They are subjected to a living death of dehydration, starvation, infection and being eaten alive by the insect larvae that hatch in the gaping cuts inflicted by the snare and subsequently spread into the eyes, nostrils and mouth of the captured animal. The dependent young that have no choice except to remain with the mother, suffer the same slow death of dehydration and starvation. I want to make it clear that these barbaric contraptions are not monitored or tended in any way. The trapped animals are invariably left to die by the aforementioned manner. Snares can be used to eliminate pigs, goats and deer but are used primarily to control the pig population at this time.

The Nature Conservancy's (T N C) original long range management plan for Waikamoi Preserve on Maui states on page 8 " Recently, the conservancy has formed a consortium of organizations to accelerate the development of promising feral animal control methods to protect Hawaii's remaining native forests. The animal control research consortium will

  1. Conduct a comprehensive, international survey for feral animal control methods.
  2. Implement Hawaii field tests for those methods that are already available.
  3. Conduct new research to prepare promising but undeveloped methods for field-testing.

Waikamoi staff will support this method whenever possible." The next paragraph goes on to say, " We are also testing the feasibility of radio telemetry snares, which would allow us to quickly dispatch captured pigs. When a pig is captured, a signal would be sent through our existing radio system revealing the location of the captured animal. Staff would then travel to that location and remove the animal. However, many technical problems remain to be solved before this technique becomes practical." This long-range management plan was for fiscal years 1995-2000. The acceptance of this management plan by the state's Natural Area Partnership Program made the TNC's Waikamoi Preserve eligible for public funding. This long-range management plan written by the TNC budgeted approximately eighty-five thousand dollars over that 6 year period exclusively and solely to research the use and feasibility of telemetry snares. The two paragraphs that I quoted implied that the TNC was actively seeking a more humane alternative than snaring as a means of animal control. I received a letter from TNC on Feb. 5, 2000,near the end of this research period. The TNC stated, in this letter, that they along with others, after having conducted major research and collaborating with experts elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad, developed their current program. It appears that this current program is similar to the program that they had before all of the aforementioned, promised research. Both are based on the use of unattended steel snares.

I suspect that research for a more humane alternative was never even given serious consideration and that it was merely self serving rhetoric intended to reduce and deflect opposition from animal rights groups. Animal Rights Hawaii, PETA, the Maui Humane Society and all of the various hunting groups have condemned the use of steel snares as a method of animal control. The proponents of the use of snares glibly defend their hellish method of slaughter by claiming that science and economics are on their side. Thousands of snares are in use in Hawaii at this time by the TNC, state and federal agencies and large corporate landowners. The use of these contraptions should be classified as a felony rather than as a standard operating procedure.

Hunting has been the traditional method of keeping the wild pig population in check. The proponents of snaring claim that hunting is not a practical solution especially at high elevations because:

  • The expense of transporting hunters to inaccessible areas
  • Hunters do not eradicate whole populations but only reduce numbers to more manageable levels.

There are other options. Snaring projects are usually used in conjunction with fences. A designated area is fenced then snares are deployed throughout the fenced area. The most promising method of removing pigs from a fenced area is with the use of one-way gates that allow the animals to leave but not to enter the areas. So far, these gates have not been used in an effective manner because the ultimate objective of the users of snares is the complete eradication of the feral pig in the Hawaiian Islands. Therefore, they believe that it is preferable to kill the animals rather than to allow them to escape into the neighboring hunting areas that sooner or later will also be fenced. The TNC, in a letter to me, states, " The Conservancy and the East Maui Watershed Partnership currently install one way gates on all newly built fences. Far from your assertion that they are ineffective and inferior in design, these one-way gates have been operating as intended. While a variety are in use, they are all based on tried and true pig hunter designs." My question is that if the one-way gates that are presently in use are as effective as stated, then why not dispense with the snares and give the gates time to work. It has long been said by those who oppose the use of snares that these fences do not simply fence animals out of the designated areas but rather fence them in subsequently marking them for extermination. In order to be effective, these gates have to be deployed in sufficient numbers, in the right locations and designed to guide the pigs through the gate as the pig follows the fenceline. These gates would be most effective when used in conjunction with bait stations to lure the animals through. A certain amount of research and trial and error experimentation will be necessary. A sufficient number of gates would add to the cost of fencing. If the builders of these fences take issue with added expense then I suggest that they look in their own back yard. I recently attempted to research the cost of the fence project entitled "The Fence Project To Protect the East Maui Watershed", the first phase of which has been completed. This project was funded by the state but unfortunately the records are expensive and at the same time difficult to obtain. I believe that the information that I have obtained warrants concern as to the possibility of graft or at least favoritism related to certain project expenditures.

The early Polynesians brought pigs to the Hawaiian Islands over 1500 years ago. Hunting pigs to supplement the food supply has been a tradition in rural areas ever since. The cultural impact of eradication is significant in rural areas and has been ignored by the environmental community, which is largely urban based.

These animals also perform a beneficial function in reducing thick underbrush. When these animals are eliminated, the undergrowth that has been limited for so long spreads and becomes thicker as time passes. Then in times of drought, it becomes a fire hazard.
The TNC concedes that fire is a real and present threat that could cancel out the effect of years of expensive, publicly funded management projects without warning in one sudden inferno. Fire hazard and alien weed species which have been and are being introduced in to the wild areas by the proliferation of these fencing and eradication projects are rapidly on their way to becoming the greatest danger facing our wild areas in Hawaii. These management projects have accelerated the spread of alien weed species to the higher elevations by decades.

Birds also aid in the spread of unwanted plant species. Does it logically follow that they too must be removed when the time comes? The environmental movement has become a part of the corporate world that it was founded, at least in part, to reform. Irresponsible environmental policies that show little regard for long term effects espouse a constant cycle of blame and eradication that will inevitably devastate the very ecosystems that these agencies and organizations profess to be snatching from the brink of extinction.

If you agree that the inhuman practice of snaring should be banned throughout the state of Hawaii and if you agree that public funding should be withdrawn from projects using this reprehensible practice, please write or call the following people:

House of Representatives
State Capitol
415 S. Beretania St. Rm. 435
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-586 - 6330

Avery B. Chumbley
State Senate
State Capitol
415 S. Beretania St. Rm. 435
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-586 - 6030

Joseph M. Souki
House of Representatives
State Capitol
415 S. Beretania St. Rm. 435
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-586 - 9444

Michael Buck
Division of Forestry and Wildlife
1151 Punchbowl St.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-587 - 0160

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