Bear caught in an Native American Deadfall Trap†


I’m not generally a big fan of pictures showing animals caught in traps but have made an exception in this case, because of the context.  This is no trophy picture, it’s a piece of fascinating anthropology showing a traditional trap in use by a people living in balance with their environment.

This photo is taken from ‘Customs of the World’ by Walter Hutchinson – a two volume first set first published in 1913 and detailing rites, traditions and customs across the world.  What it shows is a Pole Deadfall trap of the design illustrated in some of the historical books in our shop.  It looks almost exactly the same as the design on page 59 of Deadfalls and Snares.

The already very heavy striking log is made even heavier by leaning a second log across it, as visible to the left of the picture.  Built correctly these traps would have killed an animal very quickly, probably much more quickly and humanely than could have been achieved with spears or arrows.

Although these traps are relatively easy to recreate, it is almost impossible to get a true sense of how they would have been used for hundreds of years before the development of the steel trap.  This photograph must be one of the very rare examples of it caught on camera.