Trapper Education & License Requirements in Washington State

Trapper Education and Participation

To obtain a Trapping License in Washington State, first-time applicants must successfully complete a trapper education exam. This exam ensures that individuals are well-versed in safe, humane, and proper trapping methods. The curriculum covers a range of topics to promote responsible and ethical trapping practices.

How to Access Trapper Education

Prospective trappers looking for educational resources can visit the Hunter Education website, a comprehensive source for training materials and information. Additionally, direct assistance and detailed inquiries can be addressed to the Hunter Education section of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) located in Olympia. Individuals can contact them at 360-902-8111 for guidance through the process.

Licensing Requirements

To legally set traps in Washington State, individuals must possess a valid Washington state trapper's license. This requirement, mandated under WAC 220-417-010, is a critical step in regulating and maintaining ethical trapping standards within the state. The license signifies that the holder has demonstrated the necessary knowledge and commitment to follow state regulations and ethical trapping guidelines.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Mandatory Exam: First-time trappers must pass an exam focusing on safe, humane, and effective trapping techniques.
  2. Educational Resources: The Hunter Education website and the WDFW office in Olympia serve as primary resources for trapper education.
  3. Licensing Mandate: A valid Washington state trapper's license is required for all trapping activities, ensuring compliance with state laws and ethical standards.

Washington State Trapping License Fees

Overview of Trapping License Year

The trapping license year in Washington State is set annually, starting on April 1 and concluding on March 31 of the following year. Understanding the license period is crucial for all trappers to ensure compliance and to plan trapping activities accordingly.

Detailed Fee Structure

Washington State offers several types of trapping licenses, each with specific fees that include transaction and dealer costs. Here's a breakdown of the current fees:

  1. Resident Trapping License: $41.60
  2. Resident Youth Trapping License: $18.50
  3. Non-Resident Trapping License: $200.00
  4. Fur Dealer’s License: $200.00

Where to Purchase Licenses

Trappers and fur dealers have multiple options for purchasing the necessary licenses:

  • Online: Licenses are available through the official Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) website at This convenient option allows for quick and easy access to all required licenses.
  • License Dealers: WDFW has authorized numerous dealers across the state where individuals can purchase trapping and fur dealer's licenses in person.
  • Commercial Licensing Program: For those who prefer or require in-person service, the WDFW Olympia headquarters office offers licenses through its Commercial Licensing program. Licenses can be obtained here either in person or by mail, though an additional application fee is applied for this service.

Important Points:

  • Annual Cycle: Understand the April 1 to March 31 license year to maintain legal trapping status.
  • Fee Inclusion: All listed fees are inclusive of transaction and dealer charges.
  • Accessibility: Multiple purchasing options cater to the convenience and needs of all trappers and fur dealers.

Washington Statewide Trapping Seasons and Regulations

Furbearer Trapping Seasons

Washington State designates specific trapping seasons for various furbearer species to manage populations and ensure sustainable practices. The primary trapping season for most furbearers, including Badger, Beaver, Bobcat, Mink, Muskrat, Raccoon, Red Fox, River Otter, and Weasel, spans from November 1 to March 31 of the current license year.

Specific Species and Seasonal Restrictions:

  1. General Furbearers (Badger, Beaver, Bobcat, etc.): November 1 - March 31.
  2. Marten: November 1 - March 31, with an important exception that trapping is closed in Clallam, Jefferson, Mason, and Gray's Harbor counties due to conservation and management considerations.

Legal and Ethical Trapping Guidelines

The trapping season is specifically for the lethal harvest of furbearing animals aimed at their hides and pelts. The following guidelines are critical for ethical and legal trapping:

  • Special Permits: Furbearers cannot be taken from the wild and held alive for sale or personal use without obtaining a special permit as per WAC 220-450-030.
  • Release of Non-target Wildlife: Any wildlife incidentally trapped for which the season is not open must be released unharmed. If the animal cannot be released unharmed, it must remain in the trap, and a WDFW representative must be notified immediately.
  • Lethal Dispatch: Lawfully trapped animals must be either lethally dispatched or released immediately. Firearms may be used for dispatching trapped animals in areas where their use is permitted. Trappers are encouraged to visit the Trapping Nuisance Wildlife website and consult the Trapper Education manual for guidelines on humane and effective dispatch methods.

Trap Check Requirements in Washington State

Restraining Traps Regulations

Restraining traps, which are designed to hold an animal without killing it, are subject to strict check intervals to ensure the humane treatment of the captured animal. The regulations for restraining traps are as follows:

  • 24-Hour Check: Animals captured in restraining traps must be checked and removed within 24 hours of capture. This frequent check is necessary to minimize the distress and potential harm to the animal, ensuring that any trapped animal is dealt with quickly and humanely.

Kill Traps Regulations

Kill traps, intended to dispatch the animal upon capture, also have specified check requirements, albeit with a longer interval due to their lethal nature. The regulations for kill traps are as follows:

  • 72-Hour Check: Animals captured in kill traps must be checked and removed within 72 hours. Regular checks are mandatory to ensure that the traps have operated as intended and to remove any animals promptly.

Sealing Requirements for Bobcat and River Otter in Washington State

Legal Requirement for Possession and Export

In Washington State, it is a legal requirement that all bobcat and river otter pelts, whether attached to the carcass or not, must have a department identification seal. This rule applies to anyone wishing to possess or export these pelts from the state. The seal serves as proof that the pelt was legally obtained and complies with state wildlife regulations.

Procedures for Pelt Sealing

The process for getting pelts sealed involves several key steps and requirements:

  1. Presentation Deadline: All bobcat and river otter pelts harvested must be presented for sealing to an authorized department employee or an individual permitted by the department. This must be done by April 20 of the trapping season.
  2. Condition of Pelts: Pelts must be presented in a condition that allows for sealing. This means:
    • No frozen hides or carcasses are accepted.
    • If pelts were previously frozen, they must be fully thawed prior to the sealing appointment.
  3. Scheduling an Appointment: Trappers must contact a regional office to schedule an appointment for pelt sealing. This appointment should be made before bringing in any bobcat or river otter pelts to ensure that staff are prepared to handle the sealing process.

Legal Restrictions on Trapping for Wild Animals in Washington State

Prohibition on Body-Gripping Traps

Washington State imposes strict regulations on the use of body-gripping traps due to their potential to cause harm to wildlife:

  • Restricted Use: The use of body-gripping traps, such as padded or unpadded foot-hold traps, all snares, and Conibear-type traps, is unlawful except when a special permit is obtained. This permit is typically issued for specific circumstances to abate an animal problem as outlined under WAC 220-417-040.
  • Permit Requirement: Individuals must obtain a permit to use these traps for controlling problematic animals. The permit ensures that the use of such traps is monitored and regulated to prevent unnecessary harm to wildlife.

Bait Regulations

The use of bait in trapping is regulated to prevent the unintentional harm of non-target species, particularly game species:

  • Prohibition on Game as Bait: It is unlawful to use game birds, game fish, or game animals as bait in trapping. This regulation is intended to protect game populations and ensure ethical trapping practices.
  • Exception for Nonedible Parts: While the use of whole game animals is prohibited, trappers are allowed to use nonedible parts of game birds, fish, or animals as bait. This provision allows for the utilization of parts that would otherwise be discarded, reducing waste and providing a practical solution for trappers.

Restrictions Near Exposed Meat Bait

To protect raptors and other wildlife from accidentally being trapped, there are specific restrictions regarding the placement of traps:

  • 30-Foot Distance Rule: It is unlawful to set traps within thirty feet of any exposed meat bait or nonedible game parts that are visible to flying raptors. This measure is designed to prevent the accidental trapping or poisoning of birds of prey, which may be attracted to the bait.

Identification and Disclosure Requirements for Trapping in Washington State

Trap Identification Regulations

Washington State mandates clear identification measures for all traps used in the field to ensure accountability and legal compliance:

  • Tagging Requirement: Trappers must attach a legible metal tag to the chain of their traps or devices. This tag should contain one of the following:
    • The trapper's WDFW identification number, which can be a trapper ID or Wild ID.
    • The name and address of the trapper, written in English letters not less than one-eighth inch in height.
  • Legal Consequences: Failure to properly identify traps is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable under RCW 77.15.190. This underscores the importance of following identification guidelines strictly.

Disclosure of Identities

The state provides a mechanism for property owners and others to identify trappers operating in their vicinity and to ensure that trapping activities are being conducted legally and ethically:

  • Request for Trapper Information: If a property owner, lessee, or tenant presents a trapper identification number to the WDFW and requests the identification of the trapper, the department is obliged to provide the requester with the trapper's name and address.
  • Mutual Disclosure: After the WDFW discloses the trapper's name, they will also release the name and address of the person requesting the information to the trapper. This mutual disclosure ensures transparency and accountability on both sides.

Legal Protections and Restrictions

The law sets out specific protections for trappers, property owners, and wildlife:

  • Protection of Traps: It is unlawful for individuals to take a wild animal from another person's trap, spring, pull up, damage, possess, or destroy another's trap without permission. These regulations protect the rights and property of the trapper.
  • Property Owner Rights: Conversely, it is legal for a person to remove a trap that is placed on property they own, lease, or rent, underscoring the rights of property owners and their ability to control trapping activities on their land.
  • Reference to RCW: For more detailed legal information and potential penalties, trappers and property owners are referred to RCW 77.32.545.

Permission Requirements for Trapping on Private Land in Washington State

State Trapping License

While a state trapping license grants the holder the right to trap furbearing animals statewide, it does not automatically confer the right to trap on all types of land, particularly private property.

Obtaining Permission

Trappers must obtain explicit permission to set traps on private lands under several circumstances:

  1. Improved and Used Land: If the private land is improved and apparently used (e.g., cultivated, built on, or otherwise actively maintained), trappers must seek and obtain permission before placing any traps.
  2. Fenced or Enclosed Land: Land that is fenced or otherwise enclosed to exclude intruders or to indicate a property boundary line is off-limits unless the trapper has obtained explicit permission from the rightful owner, lessee, or tenant.
  3. Posted Land: If the private land has been posted with notices in a conspicuous manner indicating no trespassing or similar warnings, trappers are required to obtain permission before engaging in trapping activities.

Understanding Closed Areas for Trapping in Washington State

General Access to Public Lands

In Washington State, while many public lands are accessible for trapping, there are significant exceptions. It's crucial for trappers to be aware of where they can and cannot set traps to avoid legal issues and to respect conservation efforts.

Common Closed Areas

Certain types of public lands are typically off-limits for trapping activities. These include:

  1. State and National Parks: These areas are preserved for their natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and ecological significance. To maintain these values and ensure visitor safety, trapping is generally prohibited.
  2. Federal Wildlife Refuges: Most of these refuges are established to protect wildlife habitats and species. Trapping may conflict with the refuge's conservation goals and is usually not permitted.
  3. State Game Reserves: These areas are often designated to protect game populations and their habitats, and trapping might interfere with these objectives.

Responsibility of Trappers

Trappers have the responsibility to verify whether an area is open or closed to trapping before setting any traps:

  • Check with Land Managers: Prior to trapping, it's imperative to contact the appropriate land management authorities (e.g., park rangers, wildlife refuge managers) to confirm whether trapping is allowed. This step ensures compliance with current regulations and avoids inadvertent legal infractions.
  • Refer to Official Publications: Legal descriptions of state game reserves and specific regulations can be found in the "Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Pamphlet" and Chapter 220-411 of the Washington Administrative Code. Trappers should consult these resources for detailed information on closed areas and other regulations.

Trapper Report of Catch Requirements in Washington State

Mandatory Reporting for All Licensed Trappers

In Washington State, every licensed trapper is obligated to submit an annual report detailing their trapping activities. This requirement is in place regardless of the trapper's level of activity or success during the season.

Reporting Deadline and Procedure

  • Deadline: All trapping activity reports must be submitted by April 20 of each year. This deadline allows the department to compile and analyze data from the trapping season in a timely manner.
  • Method: Reports must be made using the department's WILD licensing system, accessible online at This system streamlines the reporting process and ensures that all data is collected in a standardized format.

Trapper Responsibilities

  • Complete and Accurate Reporting: It is the trapper's responsibility to ensure that their report is complete and accurately reflects all trapping activity and harvest. This includes both successful and unsuccessful trapping efforts.
  • Compliance: Trappers must submit their reports by the designated deadline to remain in compliance with state regulations. Late or incomplete reports, as well as false reports, are considered noncompliance.

Legal Implications of Noncompliance

  • Infractions and Penalties: Failure to report or submitting false reports is considered an infraction and is punishable under RCW 77.15.160. This law underscores the seriousness of accurate and timely reporting as part of responsible wildlife management.
  • Enforcement: The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) enforces these regulations to ensure that all trappers contribute to the state's understanding of trapping activities and their impact on wildlife populations.
Washington Trapping Laws & Regulations

Incidental Take of Canada Lynx Protocols in Washington State

Protected Status of Canada Lynx

Canada lynx are a protected species in Washington State, recognizing their ecological importance and the need for conservation measures to ensure their survival and well-being.

Protocols for Accidental Trapping

Due to their protected status, specific protocols have been established for instances where a Canada lynx is accidentally trapped:

  1. Immediate Release: If a Canada lynx is accidentally trapped but is uninjured, it must be released immediately. Quick and careful action helps minimize stress and potential injury to the lynx.
  2. Mandatory Reporting: Within 24 hours of the incident, the trapper must report the accidental trapping to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). This report can be made via email ( or phone (360-902-2515).
  3. Report Details: The report must include comprehensive details of the incident, including:
    • Circumstances surrounding the accidental trapping.
    • Observed physical and ambulatory condition of the lynx at the time of release.
    • Final disposition of the lynx, detailing how it was released and its condition upon release.

Handling Injured Lynx

In cases where the Canada lynx is injured and cannot be released unharmed:

  • Leave in Trap: The lynx must be left in the trap to avoid further injury.
  • Immediate Notification: A WDFW representative must be notified immediately. The representative will provide guidance or assistance in handling the injured lynx appropriately.

Washington Trapping Laws & Regulations

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