Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Trapping Regulations

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.

Trapper Education Course

Required for persons who have never possessed a trapping license. The trapping course is at least 8 hours in length and is free. For information on trapper education courses in your area, check the Sportsman Education Program on-line course listing or contact the nearest DEC regional Hunter Education Coordinator.

Definitions

To help administer the trapping laws and regulations, DEC has defined some important terms:

  • 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.
  • 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

Trap Tag Identification
  • Regulations for body-grip traps set on land
  • Trigger Regulations for body-gripping traps used in the Southern Zone for beaver
  • How to Measure Traps
  • You must put your name and address or DEC identification number (from your trapping license or back tag) on all your traps.
  • Foothold traps larger than 4 inches 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 5 3/4 inches or smaller.
  • During beaver or otter season, foothold traps up to 7 1/4 inches are allowed if set under water.
  • When the beaver or otter season is closed, foothold traps set in water for mink or muskrat may not be larger than 5 3/4 inches.
  • A foothold trap larger than 7 1/4 inches is never legal to use.
  • Body-gripping traps more than 7 1/2 inches may never be used on land.
  • Body-gripping traps more than 7 1/2 inches may only be used in water during an open beaver or otter season.
  • Snares cannot be used for trapping.
  • Box or cage traps are legal for all species.
  • You cannot use a cage trap that is designed to take more than one muskrat at a setting.

Measuring Traps

How to measure a body-gripping trap:

The Environmental Conservation Law (Section 11-1101[6]) defines how body-gripping traps are measured. Measure the inside distance between the outer frames of the trap. The addition of one or more bars to the inside of the frame does not change the way these traps are measured. The measurement is still the MAXIMUM distance, as shown below.

diagram showing how to measure body-gripping traps

How to measure a foothold trap:

Measure the inside distance between the jaws excluding the gripping surface as shown below. If the jaws have inside laminations, the measurement is the inside distance between the laminations. If the trap has double jaws, measure the inside distance between the outer jaws.

diagram showing how to measure foothold traps

Trapping Methods

Educating youth on trapping fox
Photo courtesy of Noble Armstrong

Checking Traps

In the Southern Zone: You must check traps once in each 24 hour period.

In the Northern Zone:

Trap Check Regulations in the Northern Zone
Wildlife Mgmt. Units Trap Type Trap Check Requirements
WMU 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6F, 6J, and 6N all 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 & muskrat
Visited once in each 48 hour period
WMU 5A, 6A, 6C, 6G, 6H, and 6K Body-gripping traps set on land Visited once in each 48 hour period
WMU 5A, 6A, 6C, 6G, 6H, and 6K Restraining traps Visited once in each 24 hour period

Written descriptions of Wildlife Management Units are available using this link.

Use of Carcasses

Any carcass (see definition of "carcass" 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 or Water

  • 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 a.m. 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.

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.
  • You may not set a trap on a public road. Body-gripping traps set on land shall not be within 100 feet of a public trail except on Wildlife Management Areas. You are allowed to set a trap in a culvert or ditch unless the property is posted or the landowner does not allow trapping.
  • Foothold traps larger than 4 inches must be covered when set on land.
  • 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.
  • A body-gripping trap measuring less than 5 ½ inches may be set in any manner with or without the use of bait.
  • Body-gripping traps measuring 5 ½ inches to 6 inches, set without the use of bait, must be set so that no part of the body-gripping surface of the trap is 8 inches or more above the ground (see below).

body gripping trap diagram

  • Body-gripping traps 5 1/2 inches to 7 1/2 inches set with the use of bait, lure, or other attractants may only be used following one of the below methods:
    • Set four or more feet off the ground.

    leaning pole trap

    • OR

      In a container with an opening height of 6 inches or less. The trap must be recessed a minimum of 4 inches, with spring notches of at least 8 inches.

    box cubby trap example

    bucket cubby trap

    • OR

      In a container with an opening height and width 10 inches or less where the trap is recessed at least 18 inches.

    box cubby trap

    • OR

      In a container mounted vertically with just one entrance facing the ground. The container must be set so that the entrance is no more than 6 inches from the ground, and the trap must be recessed at least 4 inches.

vertical cubby trap

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 beaver lodge, beaver dam, or muskrat house or den.
  • You may not set a trap on or within 5 feet of a muskrat house.
  • 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 4.75 inches or less;
      • cage or box trap.

Trigger Regulations for Beaver Trappers

This Regulation Applies if You:

  • trap in the Southern Zone;
  • trap in a WMU in the Southern Zone during a closed otter season; and
  • use a body-gripping trap larger than eight and a half inches (these are "330" size traps).

If you trap beaver in a southern zone WMU during a closed otter season and use a body-gripping trap larger than eight and a half inches, you must use a trigger with the following specifications:

  • must be a two-way trigger - tension-adjustable trigger is optional
  • trigger wires must be parallel with the side of the trap
  • trigger length must be 6 ½ inches or less
  • trigger wires must be joined together
  • trigger must be moved to the side to create a minimum 8-inch space between the trigger wires and the opposite side of the trap
Specific requirements of the regulations are shown in the diagrams below

Body-gripping trap with tension adjustable/parallel trigger and trigger stop

body gripping trap

Examples of acceptable tension adjustable/parallel triggers

diagram of various triggers for traps

Example of non-legal vs. legal trigger brackets

diagram of various trigger brackets for traps

Examples of acceptable trigger stops

diagram of various trigger stops for traps

NOTE:

  1. You can bait these traps in any manner. However, the trap must have all the features noted above.
  2. There is no exception for traps set under ice: traps set under ice, whether baited or not, must have all the design features noted above.
  3. There is no tension requirement. However, DEC research showed that 8 to 12 oz. of tension works best for protecting otter and catching beaver.

For additional background and information on these trigger regulations see:
Instructions for modifying triggers (PDF)
Trap testing presentation (PDF)
To avoid catching otter: Modifying 330s (PDF)

Special Permit Requirements for American Marten

A free special permit is required to trap marten in New York. To receive a permit, contact the DEC Region 5 Wildlife Office in Warrensburg at 518-623-1240. You must provide the following information:

  • Name
  • Mailing address
  • DEC ID # (from your trapping license or backtag)
  • Phone number and/or e-mail address.

You can also apply by e-mail to: wildlife@dec.ny.gov, type "Marten Permit" in the subject line. Please be sure to include the information listed above.

Furbearer Possession Tags & Pelt Seals

A furbearer possession tag and subsequent pelt sealing is required for fisher, marten, otter, and bobcat.

possession tag and pelt sealed fisher
Furbearer Possession Tag

The furbearer possession tag allows you (the taker) to legally possess the pelt, or unskinned animal, until the pelt is sealed.

Where to Get Tags
  • For fisher, marten, otter, and bobcat, you may download and print the Furbearer Possession Tag (PDF).
  • Note: You may record up to 12 harvested animals of the same species (fisher, marten, otter, or bobcat) on one tag.

A supply of tags may also be obtained from DEC's Bureau of Wildlife by:

  • e-mail
  • calling (518) 402-8883
  • or by writing to:

Furbearer Possession Tags
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4754

Completing the Tag
  • Tag must be completed immediately upon arrival at your mode of travel, camp, or home (whichever occurs first).
  • Record your identification number from your trapping or hunting license.
  • For fisher, marten, otter, and bobcat, you may record up to 12 harvested animals of the same species on one tag.
  • The furbearer possession tag associated with your fisher, marten, otter, or bobcat does not need to be directly attached to the animal. However, it must accompany each pelt or unskinned animal at all times, until it is sealed by DEC staff.

Pelt Sealing

There are a few purposes for pelt sealing fisher, marten, otter, and bobcat species:

  • To allow the pelt to be exported from New York State, sold, or transferred.
  • To record population and biological information that helps in management decisions. For more information, visit the Harvest Data webpage.
  • To comply with CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). CITES aims to protect against over-exploitation of species similar in appearance to some of New York's furbearers.
When to Get the Pelt Sealed

The pelt or unskinned animal must have a plastic seal attached before:

  • It may be exported from New York State;
  • It is sold or transferred to another's possession;
  • It is mounted or tanned; or
  • 10 days have passed since the close of the season where the animal was harvested.
How to Get the Pelt Sealed
  • You must have a DEC representative attach plastic seal(s) to the pelt(s) or unskinned carcass of fisher, marten, otter, or bobcat. Contact your local regional wildlife office to make arrangements to get your fisher, marten, otter, or bobcat sealed. Please make arrangements prior to showing up.
  • The DEC representative will need to attach the tag through the webbing of the front or hind foot, nostril, eye holes, leg holes or mouth. If these are not accessible, the pelt cannot be sealed.
    • 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.
    • When freezing an unsealed pelt, make sure that the face is on the outside and is easily accessible.
    • For dried pelts, please place a pencil, dowel, popsicle stick or similar object through the eye holes before drying. When using wire stretchers, make sure to remove the stretch before sealing occurs.
  • The department seal must remain attached to the pelt, or unskinned carcass, until it is processed or prepared for use as an article of clothing or as an item for display.

Temporary Transfer of Pelts

You can give your pelts to another person (other than a taxidermist), so he or she can get the pelts sealed or have them skinned. You must give that person your trapping or hunting license, or a copy of your license and your completed possession tags, while they are in possession of your pelts.

Possession of Road-Killed Furbearers

If the trapping or hunting season is open for the species in a Wildlife Management Unit (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 fisher in an area with an open fisher season and you possess a trapping license, you have to contact DEC for a pelt seal. If you find a bobcat, you can possess it if you have a small game or trapping license, but you also must have it pelt sealed.

Buying and Selling Fur

  • Species requiring a pelt seal (bobcat, otter, fisher and marten) cannot be bought or sold or given to another person unless it has the plastic pelt seal on it. 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.

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.