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Furbearer Trapping

Definition Of Trapping

To trap means to take, kill or capture wildlife with traps, deadfalls and other devices commonly used to take wildlife, including the shooting or killing of lawfully trapped animals. It also includes all related activities such as placing, setting, staking or checking traps or assisting another person with these activities. You do not need a hunting license to shoot a trapped animal.

Other Definitions

  • Public Highway: The traveled portion of a public highway. Culverts, drainage ditches, and the area under bridges are not considered the traveled portion of a public highway.
  • Carcass: The body or parts thereof, meat, organs or viscera of an animal, including fish. Feathers (including feathers with attached skin or entire bird wings), hair (with or without skin or hide), and bones that include no attached meat, organs or viscera, are excluded from this definition.
  • Suspension: This term applies to animals fully suspended in the air by means of the trap anchoring system (typically a chain, cable or wire). It does not apply to traps set in water or to traps that are directly and firmly attached to an elevated structure, such as a tree.
  • Restraining trap: A device used to capture and restrain a mammal. These traps include leg-gripping traps (“foothold traps”), foot encapsulating traps, and cage or box traps.
  • Foot encapsulating trap: A trap with the following mechanical attributes: The triggering and restraining mechanisms are enclosed within a housing; the triggering and restraining mechanisms are only accessible through a single opening when set; the opening does not exceed 2 inches in diameter; and the trap has a swivel mounted anchoring system.
  • Cage or box trap: A type of restraining trap that fully encloses a captured animal within wood, wire, plastic, or metal.

Legal Traps

  • You must put your name and address or your DEC customer identification number (i.e., your back tag number) on all your traps.
  • Foothold traps larger than 4″ set on land must have a pan tension device and be covered when set.
  • Teeth are not allowed on foothold traps.
  • On land, foothold traps must be 5¾” or smaller (inside jaw spread).
  • During beaver or otter season, foothold traps up to 7¼” are allowed if set under water.
  • When the beaver or otter season is closed, foothold traps set in water may not be larger than 5¾”.
  • A foothold trap larger than 7¼” is never legal to use.
  • Body-gripping traps more than 7½” may never be used on land.
  • Body-gripping traps more than 7½” may only be used in water during an open beaver or otter season.
  • Snares may not be used for trapping.
  • Box or cage traps are legal for all species.
  • You may not use a cage trap that is designed to take more than one muskrat at a setting.


Trapping Methods

Checking traps

  • In the Southern Zone: You must check traps once in each 24 hour period.
  • In the Northern Zone, follow these rules:
    • WMU 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6F, 6J and 6N: Visited once in each 48 hour period
    • WMU 5A, 6A, 6C, 6G, 6H and 6K:
      • Traps set in water during the open season for beaver, otter, mink and muskrat: Visited once in each 48 hour period
      • Body-gripping traps set on land: Visited once in each 48 hour period
      • Restraining traps: Visited once in each 24 hour period

Use Of Carcasses

Any carcass, as defined above, used as bait and placed or used in conjunction with a foothold trap shall be completely covered at the time the trap is set or visited. Coverings shall include but not be limited to brush, branches, leaves, soil, snow, water, or enclosures constructed of wood, metal, wire, plastic or natural materials; and must completely cover the carcass so that it is not visible from directly above.

Land Trapping

  • You may not set a trap in such a manner that it causes a captured animal to be fully suspended in the air.
  • After December 10th in the Northern Zone, body-gripping traps set on land may not be set with bait or lure.

Water Trapping

  • You may set a trap in a permanent body of water only when the mink, muskrat, otter, or beaver season is open.
  • You may not disturb a muskrat house or den.
  • You may not set a trap on or within 5 feet of a muskrat house.

Land Or Water Trapping

  • You may use any legal method to kill a trapped animal. You do not need a hunting license to use a firearm to kill a legally trapped animal.
  • You may not set or stake a trap prior to 7:00 AM on opening day.
  • You are not allowed to set a trap within 100 feet of a house, school, playground or church unless you have permission from the owner of the land where the trap is set.
  • You may not set a trap on a public road.You are allowed to set a trap in a culvert or ditch unless the property is posted or the landowner does not allow trapping.

Trapping Near Beaver Dams and Lodges

  • You may not disturb a beaver lodge or beaver dam.
  • Traps may not be set on or within 15 feet of a beaver lodge at any time.
  • You may set a trap on or near (within 15 feet of) a beaver dam ONLY under these conditions:
    • You are trapping during an OPEN otter season.
    • If the otter season is CLOSED, you may use these traps:
      • Body-gripping trap that measures less than 5½ inches.
      • Foot encapsulating trap.
      • Foothold traps that are 4¾ inches or less.
      • Cage or box traps.

By limiting the trap sizes that are usable on beaver dams, this regulation provides greater opportunities for trappers while minimizing the accidental capture of otter.

Pelt Sealing

Otter, bobcat, fisher and marten must have a plastic seal attached to the pelt or unskinned animal before:

  • It is sold or ownership is transferred to another person, or
  • It is mounted or tanned, or
  • It leaves New York State, or
  • 10 days have passed since the close of the season where the fur was taken.

The plastic pelt seals can be removed when the pelt is processed for taxidermy, tanning or manufacturing.

How To Get Your Pelts Sealed: a 2-Step Process

  • Step 1: Fill out your furbearer possession tag.
    • A possession tag must be filled out for each animal you take.
    • Possession tags must be filled out immediately after you reach your motor vehicle, camp or home, whichever comes first.
    • Possession tags must stay with the animal or pelt at all times, but they do not need to be attached to the pelt.
    • Furbearer possession tags can be obtained from your regional wildlife office (see Important Numbers) or at
  • Step 2: Get your pelt sealed (see below).
    • A completed furbearer possession tag must be submitted to obtain a plastic pelt seal.
    • You can give your pelts to another person (other than a taxidermist) so he or she can get the pelts sealed or get them skinned. You must give that person your trapping license or a copy of your license and your completed possession tags while he or she has your pelts.
    • Only authorized Department representatives can attach the plastic pelt seals to otter, bobcat, fisher or marten.
    • Call a regional wildlife office (see Important Numbers) to make arrangements to get your otter, bobcat, fisher, or marten sealed. Seals for these species cannot be sent through the mail.
    • Prior to having a marten sealed, you must submit the entire carcass.
    • Bobcats taken in the Harvest Expansion Area must have skull or lower jaw submitted at the time of pelt sealing.

Buying And Selling Fur

  • Species requiring a pelt seal cannot be bought or sold or given to another person unless they have the plastic pelt seal attached. All other species may be bought, sold, and transported without restriction.
  • Furbearers may be bought or sold either skinned or unskinned.
  • People who buy fur do not need a fur buyer’s license in New York.

Rights Of Trappers

  • No one may disturb a trap lawfully set by another person.
  • No one may remove a lawfully trapped animal from another person’s trap.
  • No one may harass a trapper while he or she is trapping.

License Responsibilities

  • A license is not transferable and can be used only by the person to whom issued.
  • A license to trap does not give the holder any right to go on private property without permission of the landowner.
  • It is illegal to refuse to show your license on demand to a law enforcement officer or the owner, lessee or person in control of the lands (or their designees) while on their property.

Trapping License Exceptions

All residents must have a valid trapping license in their possession except:

  • Resident owners primarily engaged in farming, lessees, and members of their immediate families do not need a trapping license, when trapping on farm lands they are occupying and cultivating, for bobcat, coyote, fox, mink, muskrat, raccoon, opossum, weasel, skunk and unprotected wildlife that may be lawfully taken by trapping. (Note: beaver, fisher and marten are not included.)
  • Native Americans living on a reservation do not need a trapping license while trapping on reservation lands.

Incidental And Accidental Captures Of Trapped Animals

There are no provisions in the Environmental Conservation Law allowing trappers to possess animals that are taken outside of the open trapping season.

You must attempt to release any animals that are accidentally captured when the season is closed or if the area is not open for trapping that species.

If the animal is injured to the extent you believe it will not survive, humanely dispatch it. If you are not sure, contact a DEC Regional Wildlife Office for assistance.

When you find an unintentionally captured animal dead in the trap, or when you must dispatch an unintentionally captured animal due to a serious injury, you may remove it and lay it in the vicinity of the trap. There are no legal provisions for you to keep it, and you may not possess it even to take it back to your vehicle without permission from DEC.

DEC seeks information on all accidentally taken bobcat, otter, fisher, marten and other species of unusual nature. If the animals are dead, a DEC wildlife biologist may want to collect the carcass. The location and carcass data are the most valuable information DEC can obtain regarding the status of these species.

Contact a Regional Wildlife Office or an Environmental Conservation Officer as soon as possible to report the catch. You will receive instructions on what to do and information to provide.

Possession of Road-Killed Furbearers

If the trapping or hunting season is open for the species in a WMU, you may keep a dead furbearer found on roads within that WMU. The requirements for possessing road-killed furbearers are the same as for trapping and hunting. For example, if you find a road-killed bobcat in an area with an open bobcat season, you can possess it if you have a small game or trapping license, but you must have the pelt sealed.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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