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.
- 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.
- You must put your name and address or your DEC customer identification number (see your hunting or trapping license) 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). For information on how to correctly measure traps.
- 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.
- 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: Visit 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: Visit once in each 48-hour period
- Body-gripping traps set on land: Visit once in each 48-hour period
- Restraining traps: Visit once in each 24-hour period
Use of carcasses as bait
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.
- You may not set a trap in such a manner that it causes a captured animal to be fully suspended in the air.
- In the Northern Zone, body-gripping traps set on land may not be set with bait or lure when the fisher and /or marten seasons are closed.
- 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.
- You may not set a trap on or within 15 feet of a beaver dam, den or house, measured at ice or water level, except under the following conditions:
- during an open otter season, traps of any legal size may be set on or within 15 feet of a beaver dam, but not on or within 15 feet of a beaver den or house;
- during an open or closed otter season, any of the following traps may be set on or within 15 feet of a beaver dam, den, or house:
- body-gripping trap that measures less than 5.5 inches;
- foot-encapsulating trap
- foothold trap that measures 4¾ inches or less;
- cage or box trap.
By limiting the trap sizes that are usable on beaver dams, this regulation provides opportunities for trappers while minimizing the accidental capture of otter.
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
- Ten 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 two-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 www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/
- 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 DEC 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.
- Special arrangements for no-contact sealing of pelts related to COVID-19 concerns can be made by contacting a regional wildlife office.
- If the plastic pelt seal is broken or damaged, contact your Regional Wildlife Office for a replacement seal.
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 to the animal. 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.
- A license is not transferable and can be used only by the person to whom it was 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, otter, 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 or ECO 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 and marten, as well as other species of unusual nature. If the animal is dead, a DEC biologist will want to collect the carcass. Using the location and carcass data, biologists will be able to track the status of these species and study the age and reproductive data from the individual. The pelts from these carcasses will also be utilized in our trapper education classes.
Remember, you must contact the Regional Wildlife Office or an ECO as soon as possible to report the catch. You will receive instructions on what to do and information to provide.
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 hunting or trapping license, but you must fill out a furbearer possession tag and have the pelt sealed.
Reminders on Pelt Sealing
All bobcat, fisher, otter, and marten need to be sealed within 10 days after the close of the season in the WMU where the fur was taken. Some things to keep in mind to make the pelt sealing process go smoothly:
- Contact your local wildlife office to make pelt sealing arrangements prior to showing up.
- When freezing an unsealed pelt, make sure that the face is on the outside and easily accessible.
- If having an unsealed animal mounted, thaw the carcass enough so that a seal can be inserted through the eye or foot. Inserting a stick or similar object through a pre-made hole makes the sealing process much easier. If this is not done, it may be impossible to seal the animal at that time.