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North Dakota Game and Fish Department Website Help Center

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Website Help Center

Trapping FAQs

Trapping General Information FAQs

Why is regulated trapping of furbearers important to North Dakota?

Trapping is ingrained in the cultural heritage of North Dakota, as both Native American and European explorers and settlers to this region relied heavily on trapping for survival and income. Today, regulated trapping still is conducted for legitimate purposes and provides many benefits to both people and wildlife. Trapping is a wildlife management tool used by agencies to maintain a balance between people and wildlife. Trapping helps reduce extreme fluctuations in wildlife population cycles and tempers large population die-offs due to disease outbreaks. Trapping provides recreational opportunities and income for people. Fur and meat from trapping furbearers are renewable resources. Trapping removes individual furbearers that cause human-wildlife conflicts, such as livestock depredation, roadway flooding and property damage. Trapping assists in researching and relocation of wildlife. Trapping helps restore threatened and endangered species by controlling predators.

What is the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s policy regarding trapping?

The Department recognizes and supports regulated trapping of furbearers as a versatile, safe, efficient and ecologically sound means of capturing individual animals without impairing the survival of furbearer populations or damaging the environment. The Department also recognizes that trapping does concern some people who oppose trapping, the use of specific trapping devices, or consumptive use of animals.

Does trapping furbearers cause species to become threatened or endangered?

No, trapping is a highly regulated activity primarily intended for populations of furbearers that are common or abundant in their habitats. Trapping regulations are set to sustain populations of furbearers for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

Are trappers and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department concerned about animal welfare?

Yes, both trappers and the Department are concerned about animal welfare. As such, we try to minimize pain or suffering when furbearers are trapped, or used in any other way. Trappers are responsible for ensuring captured animals are restrained and dispatched as quickly and humanely as possible, a responsibility they take seriously. In addition, the Department and its cooperators provide education and suggestions as to how trappers can be as humane as possible during their activities.

How/where can I learn more about trapping?

The North Dakota Cooperative Fur Harvester Education Program offers a 16-hour course covering all aspects of fur harvest in North Dakota, including trapping. The course includes both classroom and hands-on learning activities including trap handling and setting, hound hunting, predator calling, fur handling, furbearer biology, fur harvester regulations and ethics. Students can receive a certification card which will satisfy other states’ requirements for mandatory trapper education. The course is free. See the Fur Harvester Education Program page for a list of course dates. If you’re a trapper who would like to voluntarily share your knowledge and expertise by becoming an instructor, please contact Jeff Long at 701-328-6322.

What do I do if I find an animal in a trap while I am out hunting or hiking?

It is illegal to disturb or tamper with any furbearer captured in another person’s legally set trap during an open season. This includes dispatching live-restrained animals without permission from the trapper. If you determine the traps are set illegally, contact the Department or your local game warden.

Trapping Management FAQs

How are trapping regulations created or changed in North Dakota?

Trapping regulations in North Dakota are created or changed either through the state legislature or governor’s proclamation. Regulations set by the state legislature become state laws and have to be modified through the legislative process. Regulations set by governor’s proclamation can be modified annually without having to go through the legislative process. Trappers can provide input related to furbearer regulations by contacting the Department, their district advisory board representative, or their district legislator. Trapping regulations can change for many reasons, including changes in furbearer populations, trapping technology, trapper participation, or public attitudes.

What are uses for trapped furbearers?

Historically and currently, furbearers have been used for many purposes. Most commonly, pelts are used for clothing (coats, hats, mittens, moccasins, blankets, etc.), banjos, rugs, wall hangings and other folk art. Fur is also used in fine art brushes, water repellent felt for hats, and high quality fishing lures. Some people use the meat of furbearers such as raccoon, beaver, nutria and muskrat as table fare or as a food source for pets. The glands of beaver are used in perfume, and glands and tissues from these and other furbearers are used to make leather preservatives, scent lures, and holistic medicines, salves and moisturizers.

What are trapping BMPs?

Best Management Practices for trapping is a scientifically rigorous evaluation of traps and trapping systems used for capturing furbearers. Traps and trapping systems are evaluated based on animal welfare, efficiency, selectivity, practicality, and safety. Results from BMP evaluations provide a reference guide to wildlife management agencies, conservation organizations, researchers, individual trappers and others as to what traps and trapping systems may be the best choices for their intended uses. If you would like to know more about BMPs for trapping or the results of their research, visit the website

At what age do I need a furbearer license to trap furbearers?

Residents who are 16 or older need a furbearer license to trap during the open season. Exception, residents of any age may trap on their own land during the open seasons without a license. Nonresidents of any age need a nonresident reciprocal trapping license to trap during the open season, regardless of whether they are trapping on their own land.

Is trapping allowed on WMAs, WPAs, PLOTS, etc.?

Trapping furbearers is allowed on state wildlife management areas, federal waterfowl production areas, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lands during the open seasons, unless otherwise posted. Trapping is only allowed on Private Lands Open to Sportsmen tracts with written permission from the landowner. Trapping is only allowed on school trust lands with written permission from the commissioner. Some federal refuges allow trapping with a permit from the refuge manager.

Can I trap in road rights-of-way? For which road rights-of-way do I need written permission?

Most road rights-of-way are the property of the adjacent landowner, and as such trappers are required to obtain written permission from the landowner to trap in road rights-of-way. Exception: road rights-of-way along state highways are largely public land. It is the obligation and responsibility of the trapper to know for sure.

Do I need trap tags on all of my traps? What kind of information needs to be on the trap tags?

Trap tags are only required on cable devices (snares), not cage/box, foothold, body-gripping, or colony traps. Tags on cable devices must display the trappers name, address and telephone number.

What should I do if I trap a nontarget animal like a deer or dog?

Any live, nontarget animals should be released immediately at the original capture site, including nontarget furbearers for which the season is closed. Any dead, nontarget animals, including furbearers for which the season is closed, must be reported within 24 hours and turned over to the Department or a local game warden.

Why are muskrat sets required to be 2 inches below the water or in a covered set in the spring?

Additional placement restrictions for muskrats and other water sets in the spring are required to deter incidental take of nontarget water birds, such as ducks, coots and herons. Spring is a time of increased water bird activity in North Dakota due to migration and breeding behaviors, therefore we want to ensure that trapping activities do not negatively impact these birds.

How do I know if my cable devices meet the breakaway requirement?

Licensed trappers in North Dakota can send a sample (5 or more) of their cable devices into the Department to have the breakaways tested at no charge.