The activity of animal trapping has two separate but related meanings. It describes the hunting of animals to obtain their furs, which are then used for clothes and other articles, or sold / bartered (see fur trade). more...
Trapping also relates to the use of traps to catch animals for a variety of other purposes, most usually for food or pest control.
Trapping other animals for food is also practiced by some animals and a few plants. For example, the funnel-web spiders and the Venus flytrap trap their prey.
Animal trapping is perhaps one of the first methods of hunting. A passage from the self-titled book by Taoist philosopher Zhuangzi describes Chinese methods used for trapping animals during the 4th century BC. The Zhuangzi reads, "The sleek-furred fox and the elegantly spotted leopard...can’t seem to escape the disaster of nets and traps.” "Modern" Steel jaw-traps were first described in western sources as early as the late 16th century. The first mention comes from Leonard Mascall's book on animal trapping. It reads, " a griping trappe made all of yrne, the lowest barre, and the ring or hoope with two clickets. " The mouse trap, with a strong spring mounted on a wooden base, was patented in 1910 by James Henry Atkinson, a trap maker from Leeds, England.
Trapping was widely used in the early days of North American settlements (such as the Canadian Fur Brigade). Native Americans trapped fur bearing animals with pits, dead falls, and rudimentary snares. A dead fall is a heavy rock or log that is tilted on an angle and held up with branches, one of them that serves as a trigger. When the animal moves the trigger which may have bait on, or near it, the rock or log falls, crushing the animal. The figure-four dead fall is a popular and simple trap constructed from materials from the bush.
European trappers were the first whites to travel across the plains and into the Rocky Mountains in search of fur. While some trappers roamed out of personal curiosity, the monarchs and trading companies of Europe invested heavily into voyages of exploration. The race was on to establish trading posts with the natives of North America, as trading posts could also function as forts and legitimize territorial claims.
The white trappers used steel leg hold traps as well as snares and dead falls. Beaver was one of the main animals of interest to the trappers as the fur wore well in coats and hats. Beaver hats became popular in the early 1800s but towards the end of the century beaver became scarce in many areas and extirpated in others. The decline in key species of fur-bearers, due to over-harvesting, and the later emergence of the first regulatory laws marked the end of the heyday of unregulated trapping. Many trappers turned to buffalo hunting, serving as scouts for the army or leading wagon trains to California and other parts of the west.
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