IHEA-USA WCO Education Standards
WCO Education Core Curriculum
This course content is designed for instruction and assessment of technicians according to performance-based learning objectives related to safe, legal, respectful, and responsible trapping, animal containment and damage prevention and long-term animal damage control.
The course content is designed to train people about wildlife control options and
- to foster a desire for advanced training in trapping and animal damage control,
- emphasize the importance of continuing education,
- and illustrate value of mentorship and social support to help others manage human-wildlife conflicts.
Understand the Reasons for WCO Education and provide a Justification for Trapping
Explain how/why WCO education is important
Understand the purpose, reason, and values that make WCO education important.
The goal of WCO education is to train safe, competent, responsible, respectful, and law-abiding WCOs. WCO education is important because it:
- Decreases negative animal control incidents.
- Promotes responsible trapping behavior, including compliance with laws and regulations, a strong focus on the responsible treatment of animals, and ethical WCO behavior.
- Focuses on best management practices for trapping which specify the most effective outdoor trapping techniques and give practical tips on being selective and efficient.
- WCO education promotes safe, legal and responsible behavior.
WCO’s play a role in wildlife conservation
Identify why WCOs and regulated wildlife control are important to wildlife conservation.
- WCOs are a source of financial support that benefits all wildlife species and help people solve human-wildlife conflicts.
- WCOs advocate and support legislation that protects wildlife resources.
- WCOs can assist wildlife agencies with essential data collection and management of some wildlife populations.
- Professional WCOs provide a valuable service to the community.
Know the WCO’s Role in Wildlife Conservation according to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (NAM)
Recognize the central principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
- Wildlife is a public resource
- Markets for game are eliminated
- Allocation of wildlife by law
- Wildlife can only be killed for legitimate purposes
- Wildlife species are considered an international resource
- Science is the proper tool for discharge of wildlife policy
- The democracy of hunting
A WCO’s Role in Wildlife Conservation can include:
- Conservation funding for wildlife management,
- habitat management
- and WCO education
Describe how license fees and excise taxes support wildlife conservation.
- Wildlife management is funded largely by users
who directly benefit from the resource. Two primary funding sources for
wildlife management are:
- Revenue generated for state natural resource agencies, including trapping, hunting, and fishing license fees.
- Excise taxes on hunting equipment and ammunition from 1937 Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act.
- Working with state agencies promotes professional behavior by legally paying the fees for licensing and depredation permits.
Wildlife Ecology and Management Principles
Basic factors of wildlife conservation
Describe how wildlife and habitat interact.
Factors that affect wildlife production and survival are :
- reproductive potential of the species,
- and quality and quantity of habitat.
Habitat is the most important factor affecting wildlife survival. It can change over time through natural succession or management and provides benefits to different species at different stages of growth. Habitat loss can have permanent or lasting effects on wildlife populations. Many wildlife are comfortable in urban/suburban environments. Understanding wildlife ecology promotes professional behavior.
Know that the key components of wildlife habitat consists of food, water, shelter/cover, space, and how these components are arranged.
Describe how carrying capacity, biological surplus, and limiting factors affect the size of a population.
Biological carrying capacity is the number of animals of a given species that an area can support without damage to the habitat.
Cultural carrying capacity is the number of animals the public will tolerate. Biological surplus is the number of animals in a population above the carrying capacity.
Biological basis of wildlife control
Limiting factors are factors that can alter population growth. Examples include disease, predation, weather, and a lack of habitat.
Principles Biological and economic basis of wildlife control
List positive and negative values of wildlife.
- Wildlife act as predators and prey in functioning ecosystems.
- Many people enjoy observing and photographing wildlife.
- Wildlife can be a local, sustainable, and organic source for both food and clothing.
- Trapping is valued by many people as part of their cultural heritage.
- Potential economic gain from the use of furs and other furbearer products.
- Excessive numbers of wildlife can harm habitats or prey upon rare/endangered animals.
- Economic loss from property damage or livestock depredation caused by wildlife.
- Wildlife can pose risks to humans and pets through exposure to diseases and parasites. Professional Behavior
WCOs need Wildlife identification skills
Identify wildlife species and state the importance of learning wildlife natural history. State resource agencies typically classify wildlife species into several categories including big game, small game, upland game, migratory game birds, furbearers, non-game and endangered/threatened/special concern species.
Furbearers can be legally trapped in many areas. WCOs must be able to properly identify their target species. Additionally, understanding the habits and habitats of each species helps WCOs build better exclusionary controls, locate good trapping locations and make successful sets.
Characteristics to consider when identifying wildlife include:
- General description (shape, size , color, and distinguishing features)
- Range and preferred habitats
- Feeding habits, behaviors, and daily activity patterns
- Tracks, scat, calls, and other sign
- Damage identification
- Safety or disease issues
Safe Trap Handling, Trap types, characteristics, uses, and terminology
Describe the main characteristics of foothold traps.
- Designed to catch and hold target animals by the foot, alive, and without injury as a land set.
- Come in various sizes and strengths, each of which is appropriate for one or more speciﬁc species of wildlife. Specially modified forms include enclosed trigger traps, specifically designed to catch raccoons and avoid non-target species.
- Advantages include versatility, small size, and the ability to release animals unharmed.
- May also be used in submersion set to dispatch trapped animals.
- Basic components include: a) jaws, b) pan, c) dog, d) baseplate, e) springs (and levers), f) chain and anchoring system. Safe, Legal, Professional Behavior
Describe the main characteristics of body gripping traps.
- Designed to kill an animal quickly when one or two rotating jaws close on either side of the animal’s neck or chest.
- May be set in both land and water locations, depending on regulations.
- Must be carefully set to avoid non-target catches.
- Basic components include: a) jaws, b) springs (and spring locks), c) trigger, d) dog, e) chain and anchoring system. Safe, Legal, Professional Behavior
Describe the main characteristics of cage/box traps.
- Designed so that the animal enters a box or cage through a door that closes, preventing the animal from exiting.
- May be used for multiple species, limited by the trap and door size
- May be used on land or in submersion sets
- Some styles (e.g., colony traps) may catch multiple animals in one setting.
- Basic components include: a) cage, b) door(s) and door lock, c) treadle or trigger, d) trigger rod, e) handle and handle guard. Safe, Legal, Professional Behavior
Describe the main characteristics of cable devices.
- Typically made of stranded steel cable with a one-way lock that is set in a manner so that a loop of cable encircles the animal’s body or limb and is drawn tight.
- Can be used in a variety of set types on land and in water.
- May be set for live capture or quick dispatch of targeted animal.
- Typically set for neck catch, but some designed for foot catch.
- Basic components include: a) cable, b) lock, c) stop, d) breakaway device, e) ferrules, f) dispatch spring, g) support and anchoring system.
Identify characteristics and modiﬁcations of foothold traps and state their purpose. Foothold traps may be modified to be more effective and cause less injury to captured animals.
- Offset jaws have a space between the gripping surfaces of the jaws—typically 1/8 to 3/8 inches—when they are fully closed to improve animal welfare and increase holding strength.
- Laminated or cast jaws improve efficiency and reduce injuries by creating a wider holding surface on the foot of the animal.
- Double jaw traps use two metal jaw frames instead of one. One set of jaws is smaller and limits access to the restrained foot.
- Padded foothold traps have rubber pads on the jaws to increase efficiency and reduce injuries.
- Additional springs make traps faster and hold an animal more firmly.
- Center-swivel chain on a reinforced baseplate of foothold traps reduces injury to the trapped animal and reduces the likelihood of escape. Legal, Professional Behavior
Safe Trap Handling Trap preparation
Describe how to prepare and tune traps for proper and safe use.
New traps must be cleaned (degreased) and sharp edges should be smoothed with a file. Adjust triggers, pan tension, and dogs as appropriate for the target species. Traps may be dyed, dipped, painted, and waxed, but body grip traps should never be waxed to avoid personal injury. Cable devices should be inspected and may be dyed or painted. Used traps should be inspected and maintained. Weak springs or other components may need to be replaced or repaired. Chains and swivels must operate freely. Cables on cable devices should be replaced after capturing an animal. Practice with traps (and safety devices) to ensure they can be set safely and quickly in the field. Safe, Professional Behavior
Field Practices and Safety
Field Practices Set types
Describe one water set and one land set for foothold traps and bodygrip traps. Some common set types for foothold and bodygrip and traps may include the following:
- Land sets using foothold trap: a) dirt hole set, b) scent post set, c) flat set
- Land sets using bodygrip trap: a) cubby set, b) leaning pole set
- Water sets using foothold trap with submersion system: a) trail set, b) pocket set, c) feed pile set
- Water sets using bodygrip trap: a) bank hole set, b) channel set, c) under-ice baited beaver set Safe, Legal, Professional Behavior
Field Practices Trap setting procedure and safety
Describe the procedure to safely set and release at least one type of foothold trap and one type of bodygripping trap.
- The proper procedure to set a foothold trap is to compress the springs or levers, lay the dog over a jaw, and nest it into the pan notch. Foothold traps should be handled by the baseplate and adjusted from under the free jaw to avoid injury.
- Bodygrip traps are set by compressing the spring(s) and then gripping the opposing jaws to bring them together. The dog is then nested in the trigger notch to set the trap.
- Bodygrip traps should be held by the ends of the springs and a safety device should be used across the jaws to prevent a misfire.
- Other trap types and cable devices will require different techniques to set them properly. Traps should be released by reversing the setting process, keeping fingers and hands outside the jaw openings. Safe
Field Practices Tools and materials
List tools, materials, and supplies needed to make sets and run a trapline.
Required tools and materials for trapping vary considerably based on trap and set type, location, and target species. Excluding traps and cable devices, some basic equipment for water and land sets includes:
- Trap basket or other vessel for carrying equipment
- Hammer or hatchet
- Trap pan covers or substitute
- Trap setting tongs and safety devices
- Pliers with a side-cutter and screwdriver for adjusting or repairing traps
- Baling wire
- Stakes, grapples, slide wires, or other anchoring system components
- Small caliber gun for dispatching animals
- Cable cutter if using cable devices
- Lure, bait, and/or attractors
- Hip boots or chest waders if trapping in/over water
- Cotton, leather, or rubber gloves/gauntlets
- Notebook/trapline diary and/or GPS
- Flagging tape
- Spare trap tags
- Change of clothes (as appropriate for conditions) Safe, Legal, Professional Behavior
Field Practices Anchoring systems
Describe the proper methods of anchoring traps.
- Traps may be anchored with chain or cable attached to a stake(s) driven into the ground, an earth anchor, or another solid object (e.g., large tree).
- Traps may be set on one-way slides on cables to allow trapped animals to move to cover or submerge and expire in deep water.
- Traps may be set on drags or grapples which allow the trapped animal to move from the trap site to nearby cover before becoming entangled. The anchoring system also should incorporate multiple swivels and a shock spring. Safe, Legal, Professional Behavior
Field Practices Proper dispatch in land sets
Describe one method to safely, quickly, and humanely kill a furbearing animal.
Trapped animals should be killed quickly and humanely. Animals in both foothold and cage traps may be shot using a .22 rimfire cartridge aimed to pass through the front of the brain into the body of the animal.
Animals also may be shot through the chest (heart/lungs) if the head is not readily accessible. Local regulations may dictate the use of other dispatch methods. Safe, Legal, Professional Behavior
Field Practices Proper dispatch in submersion sets
Describe the proper use of footholds in submersion sets.
- The animal welfare performance standard for submersion trapping systems is that the equipment must prevent the animal from surfacing once it has submerged.
- Traps are either set underwater at a depth that prevents the captured animal from reaching the surface or they are set in shallow water near shore and attached with a one-way sliding lock to a cable anchored in deep water. Safe, Legal, Professional Behavior
Field Practices Non-target catches
Avoid non-target catches
Describe techniques to increase selectivity and avoid non-target catches. Always make sets to catch a specific animal or small group of animals and take steps to prevent catching pets or other unintended animals. Techniques include:
- Proper set location for the species while avoiding high traffic areas used by non-target animals and the public.
- Proper trap size and type for the situation and species being sought.
- Proper selection and use of bait, lure, and attractants to attract target species.
- Proper pan tension on foothold traps.
- Proper trigger length and placement on bodygrip traps.
- Proper loop size (diameter), shape, and height of cable devices. Legal, Professional Behavior
Describe appropriate methods to release non-target catches.
Whenever possible, non-target animals should be released unharmed. If an unintended animal is captured the WCO should release the animal quickly, without danger to him/herself. Methods include the use of:
- A catchpole(s) or forked stick to restrain the animal while the trap is removed
- A board with a V-notch cut in one edge to shield the WCO from the animal while the trap is removed
- A large piece of fabric (e.g., canvas square, tarp, or heavy jacket) that is placed over the trapped animal to calm it while the trap is removed.
- If the WCO cannot safely release the animal, state wildlife agency personnel may need to be contacted for assistance. Most states have requirements for reporting non-target catches, whether dead or released alive. Safe, Legal, Professional Behavior
Field Practices Personal safety
Describe basic practices of safe wildlife control.
Wildlife damage management includes risks to personal safety, including those related to trap handling, weather, drowning, animal bites, and disease. Develop safe attitudes and make safe behavior a habit. Suggestions for personal safety include:
- Use trap safety devices (locks and safeties).
- Keep trap opening devices (tongs, rope, etc.) close at hand.
- Use properly tuned traps to avoid misfires.
- Wear gloves to avoid hand injury.
- Learn basic first aid and carry a first aid kit.
- Wear layers of proper clothing to avoid hypothermia and frostbite.
- Dress properly and use safety equipment when boating, wading in cold water, or working over/through ice.
- Utilize safe firearm handling practices when transporting firearms and dispatching trapped animals.
- Trap with a partner.
- Notify someone of your location and expected return time. Safe, Professional Behavior
Field Practices Identify causes, symptoms and treatments of hypothermia.
Hypothermia is a decrease in the body’s core temperature typically caused by cold, wind, and wet conditions. Symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Uncontrollable shivering.
- Slurred speech.
- Confusion and lack of judgement
Hypothermia should be treated by:
- Moving the victim to a warm environment and removing wet clothing.
- Warming the victim by covering with blankets or other insulating materials.
- Giving the victim warm (not hot) liquids and/or quick-energy foods.
- Seek medical help if symptoms persist or are severe.
Safe Field Practices Personal safety
Identify safe practices for handling firearms
Safe firearm handling practices when trapping include:
- Treat every gun as if it’s loaded.
- Transport firearms unloaded and only load them prior to making a shot.
- Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
- Keep the safety on and fingers outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
- Be sure of the target and what is in front of and beyond it. Close shots can ricochet off hard objects after passing through the animal.
- Do not make “contact” shots by touching the muzzle to the animal. Always fire from at least several inches away.
- Wear eye and ear protection.
Safe Field Practices Personal safety
Explain the importance of personal preparedness when outdoors.
Preparation is important for reducing the likelihood of serious emergencies while performing wildlife damage management. Staying in shape can prevent injury, exhaustion, and stress-related disorders. Carrying medications and a first aid kit allows immediate treatment of minor issues in the field. Proper clothing will reduce the effects of harsh weather conditions. WCOs should know the area they are trapping and carry a basic survival kit including high-energy food, water, map and compass, knife, fire starter, and signal device.
Safe Field Practices Using boats for wildlife control
Describe important safety practices when using boats while performing WDM. Take a boater education course. Always wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD). Do not overload boats. Avoid boating during severe weather. Take extra care when navigating in or near dangerous currents in rivers, tidal areas, and around dams or other obstructions. Safe, Legal, Professional Behavior
Field Practices Fur handling
Describe proper and safe fur handling techniques.
Use proper methods of skinning, fleshing, drying, and freezing pelts to maximize value. Properly prepare pelts of different species (e.g., open- vs. case-skinned) and identify which species are marketed “fur out” and “leather out”. Wear protective gloves when handling and processing carcasses and wash thoroughly afterwards to avoid parasites and diseases. Utilize proper knife handling skills to avoid cuts while skinning and fleshing. Clean and disinfect knives, skinning benches, cutting surfaces, and other equipment with a mild bleach solution. Report observations of sick or diseased wildlife to state wildlife agency personnel. Safe, Professional Behavior
Field Practices Fur marketing
Identify options to market pelts.
Markets include local and traveling furbuyers, shipping agents, local auctions, taxidermy/educational specimens, and retail sales. Pelts may be sold “in the round” (unskinned) or “green” (not fleshed or stretched). Pelts are graded on color, size, primeness, and damage which affect price, along with market demand.
Field Practices Non-fur marketing
List and describe the uses of the non-pelt parts of furbearers.
Many non-pelt animal parts can be used and sold. Meat of furbearers can be used for tablefare or as a food source for pets. The glands of beaver and other furbearers are used in perfumes, leather preservatives, holistic medicines, salves, and moisturizers. The meat and glands from furbearers are used to make baits and lures to catch other furbearers. Skulls, bones, claws, and teeth of harvested furbearers are bought and sold by companies that specialize in animal parts for arts, crafts, and novelties. Legal, Professional Behavior
Trapping Laws and Regulations,
Reasons for ADC laws and regulations
Identify why trapping laws and regulations are important.
Nuisance wildlife control laws and regulations protect people and non-target animals, ensure that the animal is properly classified as a pest, and ensure that the methods used to control or remove the animal are efficient, humane, and fair to all users.
Identify when trapping is used to directly manage wildlife.
Regulated problem animal control helps manage wildlife and habitats. When wildlife populations cause conflicts with people or with other wildlife species and habitats, biologists may adjust trapping regulations to increase the harvest and reduce the population. Trapping may be used to protect rare and endangered plant and animal species, wetland habitats, and personal property. Regulated wildlife damage management methods are also used for localized disease control, wildlife research, and wildlife restoration (e.g., reintroduction programs).
Use resources to find current wildlife control regulations Find information regarding wildlife control regulations by using an official resource such as your state fish and wildlife agency.
Resources for nuisance wildlife control regulations, allowed methods of trapping, and species-specific information can be found in official state publications, on wildlife agency websites, in access guides and booklets, using mapping software, and by contacting agency personnel. These resources provide information regarding how to obtain a WCO license, lawful trap types and trap sets (techniques), bag limits, other restrictions on wildlife control, permit and/or stamp requirements, tagging, transporting, reporting requirements, and trespass laws.
Personal Responsibility and Professional Behavior
Professional and respectful
WCOs promote a positive image of WCOs and trapping
Explain how Professional WCOs show respect for natural resources, other WCOs, landowners, non-WCOs, and themselves.
A Professional WCO respects wildlife and the environment, respects landowners and property, shows consideration for non-WCOs, traps safely, knows and obeys trapping laws, supports wildlife conservation, traps using best management practices, becomes knowledgeable about wildlife, works only with other ethical WCOs, and cleans up after him/herself (does not leave trapping debris/litter behind).
A responsible WCO will display captured and dispatched animals in a respectful and responsible manner, wear clean, appropriate clothing in public places, present a professional image when talking to the public and the media, avoid alcohol and drugs before or during a trapping event, take tasteful photographs, harvest only as many animals as required to mitigate the wildlife damage, avoid display of trapped animals on social media and other outlets that might incite the public, and train his/her replacement (becomes a mentor).
Professional and respectful WCOs promote a positive image of WCOs and trapping
Explain why developing responsible WCO behavior is important for every WCO and the future of the wildlife control industry
WCOs need to develop a personal code of conduct (code of WCO ethics) which includes, but is not limited to, following laws and regulations and ensuring proper and appropriate behavior at all times. Positive actions by responsible WCOs lead to a more positive image of WCOs by the public. The result can be greater acceptance of and support for trapping and wildlife control, as well as greater awareness and interest in becoming a wildlife control operator. Legal, responsible behavior
Communication about wildlife control
Identify the benefits of wildlife control. Wildlife control is used to protect property and public safety, and is a wildlife management tool used in severe nuisance control, disease abatement, data collection, and habitat protection.
Communication about wildlife control and animal damage prevention
Describe how to effectively communicate the role of a wildlife control operator.
The public is typically misinformed and often unaware of even the most basic reasons for wildlife control. Wildlife control is usually supported by a majority of the public when the scientific information demonstrates that control is necessary, can be done respectfully and humanely, and benefits human beings and wildlife.
Important points to share include:
- Trapping activities are highly regulated.
- State wildlife agencies continually review and develop rules, regulations, education programs, and capture methods that consider animal welfare and public safety.
- Trapping is managed through scientifically-based regulations that are strictly enforced.
- Regulated trapping does not cause wildlife to become threatened or endangered.
- Regulated wildlife control provides many benefits, including reducing wildlife damage to crops, livestock, and property; and reducing threats to human health and safety.
WCO Best Management Practices for Trapping
WCOs who follow Best Management Practices show respect for animals
Describe trapping Best Management Practices.
Best Management Practices (BMPs) for trapping are carefully researched recommendations designed to ensure animals are humanely captured.
- Trapping BMPs are based on scientific research and professional experience regarding currently available traps and trapping technology.
- Trapping BMPs identify both traps and techniques that address the welfare of trapped animals and allow for the efficient, selective, safe, and practical capture of furbearers.
- Trapping BMPs are intended to be a practical tool for WCOs, wildlife biologists, and wildlife agencies.
- Trapping BMPs include technical recommendations from expert WCOs and biologists and a list of specifications of traps that meet or exceed BMP criteria.
- Trapping BMPs provide additional technical and practical information to help WCOs and managers identify and select the best traps available for a given species and provide an overview of methods for proper use.
- Trapping BMPs recommend practices, equipment, and techniques that ensure the welfare of trapped animals, avoid unintended captures of other animals, improve public confidence in WCOs and wildlife managers, and maintain public support for trapping and wildlife management.
- Promotes professional behavior
State the purpose for the development of Best Management Practices for animal trapping.
The goals of Best Management Practices for trapping are:
- To educate those who use traps about the most humane, safe, selective, efficient, and practical devices currently available.
- To improve regulated trapping and wildlife control by evaluating trapping devices and techniques used for the capture of animals. Professional Behavior
List BMP criteria for the evaluation of trapping devices.
There are five main criteria used in the evaluation of trapping devices for trapping Best Management Practices (BMPs):
- Animal welfare—BMP-approved traps must result in low injury scores to trapped animals. Approved traps exhibited moderate, low, or no injury to at least 70% of the trapped animals.
- Efficiency—Traps meeting BMP criteria must be able to capture and hold at least 60% of the furbearers that spring the trap.
- Selectivity—Traps must be set and used in a fashion that limits the risk of capturing non-target species while increasing the chances of capturing desired furbearers.
- Practicality—Criteria used to measure practicality include cost, ease of transport and use, storage considerations, weight and size, reliability, versatility, and the expected lifespan of the trap.
- Safety—Traps are evaluated for safety to the user and other people who might come into contact with the trap. Professional Behavior
Describe how to correctly measure jaw spread of foothold traps.
There is no standardized system linking mechanical design features with trap sizes and naming conventions. Jaw spread features of traps are listed in the trapping Best Management Practices so that similar traps may be identified. Two measurements are used:
- The inside spread of the jaw frame at its widest point along the line from the dog to the opposite side.
- The width between the two jaws where they connect to the hinge posts.