One particularly complex issue confronting wildlife conservation is the role of regulated trapping as a management tool. Public opinion polls, recent ballot initiatives and referenda, and the continual introduction (and uneven success) of antitrapping legislation in state legislatures illustrate the intensity of public controversy surrounding trapping. Little is known, however, about the perspectives of wildlife and fisheries conservation professionals regarding traps and trapping. We conducted a survey to explore the attitudes and values of conservation professionals regarding a variety of conservation-related issues including whether to outlaw use of leghold traps. We sent a mailback questionnaire to a stratified random sample of 1,000 members each of The Wildlife Society, American Fisheries Society, North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers' Association, and Society for Conservation Biology. We achieved an 81% overall response rate. Respondents were divided on whether to outlaw leghold traps; 46% favored outlawing use of the leghold trap, 39% opposed outlawing its use, and 15% had no opinion. Those who favored outlawing leghold traps believed they cause unnecessary animal pain or stress, may harm nontargets, and are not a necessary management tool. The 3 most frequently mentioned reasons offered in support of not outlawing the leghold traps were efficiency of harvest, they are an important tool for managing furbearers, and that they did not adversely affect furbearer populations. Responses differed by organization membership, employer, gender, and whether or not respondents were a hunter and/or trapper. Our results suggest that conservation professionals may be as conflicted about use of the leghold trap as are public stakeholders. We believe our findings pose important questions that conservation professionals must consider if they are to provide the leadership to more effectively address wildlife management conflicts.
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