California on Wednesday became the first state to ban commercial fur trapping. The move ends the practice nearly 200 years after animals like beavers and otters introduced the American West to international trade.
About a year and a half ago, San Francisco became the largest U.S. city to ban the sale of fur. (See “San Fran Fur Ban.”) That made it a bit more difficult for the fur industry to promote its finished wares. But this California law goes directly to the source.
Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday he had signed a bill into law making it illegal to trap animals for the purposes of recreation or to sell their fur. It is still legal to trap animals for other purposes, including pest control and public health.
Before the gold rush put California on the map, it was fur traders who first flocked to the far-flung territory. They came in search of the area’s plentiful beavers, minks, and badgers. The so-called “fur rush” made fur trappers a symbol of the Old West.
But in recent years, California licenses for fur trappers have declined. In 2018, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said it sold 133 licenses. Trappers reported a harvest of 1,568 animals and the sale of 1,241 pelts. A study noted that most furs are sold outside of California. The data suggests there have been no fur sales in the state for the past three years.
But California has issued about 500 trapping licenses a year for pest control and other uses. People who trap animals for those purposes are not required to report how many animals they capture.
Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego is the legislator who wrote the bill. She calls fur trapping “a cruel practice that has no place in 21st-century California.”
Governor Newsom’s office appealed to public sentiment by including a photo of an otter puppet in the online announcement. The puppet appears to be saying, “My friends & I should not have to live in fear of being trapped & our fur being sold!”
Environmental groups oppose fur trapping because they claim it contributes to declining animal populations. But other groups, including the California Farm Bureau Federation, opposed the bill. They argue ranchers and farmers hire commercial trappers to control wildlife and protect crops. They fear banning trapping and the sale of fur will end that practice.
(Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez speaks in favor of her bill that now makes it illegal to trap animals in California for recreation or to sell their fur. AP Photo)