Reducing the impacts of leg hold trapping on critically endangered foxes by modified traps and conditioned trap aversion on San Nicolas Island, California, USA
Jolley W.J., Campbell K.J., Holmes N.D., Garcelon D.K., Hanson C.C., Will D., Keitt B.S., Smith G. & Little A.E. (2012) Reducing the impacts of leg hold trapping on critically endangered foxes by modified traps and conditioned trap aversion on San Nicolas Island, California, USA. Conservation Evidence, 9, 43-49
Padded leg-hold live traps were used as the primary removal technique in the successful eradication of feral cats Felis silvestris catus from San Nicolas Island, California, USA. Risk of injury to endemic San Nicolas Island foxes Urocyon littoralis dickeyi, a similarly sized and more abundant non-target species, was mitigated by using a smaller trap size, modifying the trap and trap set to reduce injuries, and utilising a trap monitoring system to reduce time animals spent in traps. Impacts to foxes during the eradication campaign were further reduced by having a mobile veterinary hospital on island to treat injured foxes. Compared to other reported fox trapping efforts, serious injuries were reduced 2-7 times. Trapping efforts exceeded animal welfare standards, with 95% of fox captures resulting in minor or no injuries. Older foxes were more likely to receive serious injury. Fox captures were also reduced through aversive conditioning, with initial capture events providing a negative stimulus to prevent recaptures. Fox capture rates decreased up to six times during seven months of trapping, increasing trap availability for cats, and improving the efficacy of the cat eradication program. No aspect of the first capture event was significantly linked to the chance of recapture.