By Duane Fronek
I hear it often, “people still trap?”. Believe it or not trapping is still alive and well since it’s beginning in this country. When most people hear the word trapper or trapping, they envision a leather and fur clad mountain man clutching a .54 cal Hawkin rifle, with traps slung over his shoulder with a mule or horse in tow. Boy, how I wish it was at times. But times change as the season’s and the years and decades roll along like a river carving it’s way through history. Unlike the river where it’s course has pretty much stayed the same, trapping has changed considerably, but yet the spirit in which it’s pursued still lives on in the trapper.
There’s also other visions that come to peoples minds as well, animals chewing their feet to get free and animals maimed by traps. Most of what was and is out there today is from the animal rights campaigns back in the 70’s and it’s still spread today, the images are used over and over , the same pictures. Most of which were acquired by staging such photos or by getting pics from a non educated trapper back then, but most were staged by the AR groups, maybe stealing traps and setting them to catch and photograph something of what they desired. They spread a lot of untruths about trapping and use the shock and awe type angle to make believers out of non trappers and even other hunting groups that trapping is inhumane and causes needless suffering.
Aside from the lies these AR groups spread, its what they don’t want you to know about trapping that is a threat to their cause and credibility. They try to mis-lead the uninformed and if they ever accomplish their goal of outlawing trapping, hunters will be next on the chopping block and in full assault mode, probably the dog hunters first, the hound guys then bird hunters, they are already going after dog breeders, then the bow hunters because of the crude weapons and the list goes on, They have a systematic plan to do away with all blood sports and anything to do with them. So what don’t these AR groups like the HSUS or PETA want you to know and not telling you about trapping?
Well where do I start. Well for one, trapped animals don’t chew off their leg to get out of a trap, that would take reasoning and to to have been caught before to come up with that reasoning. Animals just don’t have that mental capacity. It would be like “gee I’m caught in a trap, if I chew my leg off I can get away”, the second flaw in that is traps today are designed to hold the animal comfortable, meaning the blood flow is still going to that foot, which means the animal would feel the pain of chewing if it did that. Animals will not intentionally inflict pain on itself, the human is the only thing on this planet that will intentionally hurt its self. So, where do these images come from the anti’s tote about so much. Well most are old photos like I mentioned and anything new these days is pretty much photo shopped. Not saying things like this hasn’t happened but it was usually due to wrong trap size, trapper inexperience etc.
Well that’s all changed over the years. Trappers them selves have experimented, discovered, put into use more humane traps. They were in the forefront in the Best Management Practices for trapping (the BMP’s) testing traps, equipment etc. to find what traps worked best. You can find the summary here
Trap showing the thicker jaws eliminates foot damage
Traps today are more animal friendly, using traps with thicker jaws to eliminate cutting that sometimes happened in the past, the thicker jaws ensure blood flow to the foot so it doesn’t go numb. A trapped animal will try to chew on the trap itself, but if the foot is numb below the jaw, they have in the past chewed on the numb foot because it was softer than the trap to chew, but with the way trappers are setting up the traps these days and techniques these issues are null, using better systems to stake traps down and using swivels in the chains to allow free movement for the animal.All this brought about not by the AR groups, but by trappers themselves looking to improve their equipment and their success, and their appearance in the public eye. Traps today can catch animals and those animals can be released unharmed with no foot damage, and this is important when trapping in areas where people don’t keep their dogs tied up like they should. Then the free roaming dog gets caught and they try to blame the trapper when he was legally set and had permission to trap the land their dog crossed over too. But the incident tends to go away, not always, but usually is forgotten because traps today don’t wreak the havoc and damage the AR’s claim. The dog usually limps off after being release and acts like nothing happened in just a short time.
Foot undamaged , just enough pressure to hold the animal
Coyote held comfortably in a foothold trap
Another thing the AR groups don’t tell you is, even though we are a small group, we contribute the most when it comes to keeping furbearer populations in check. Take coyotes for example. Most coyotes that are killed in this country are taken by trappers, coon, it’s a horse apiece between hound guys and trappers. For critters like skunks, possum etc. the majority are taken by trappers. And good that they do, all these animals mentioned can be hard on nesting birds, from song birds to ducks by eating the eggs every spring and some hunting clubs hire trappers to come in and clean out these nest robbers. Then theres the beaver that causes millions of dollars each year due to the habit of building dams and flooding, roads, property, timber etc. If trappers weren’t out there, the cost to the taxpayer to control all these animals would be astronomical. The reward for the trapper is the fur he sells and recent years hasn’t been that great. But yet because it’s in their blood, they forge on. Some, even hunters disagree with killing an animal for it’s pelt. But the reality is, by doing so the resource is being utilized and it’s renewable and green. I believe some animals were meant to be eaten and some were meant to be worn. And like mentioned before if trappers weren’t out there, the gov. would have to do it all, costing taxpayers and probably the fur being tossed if it were to be that way, wasting a resource. There are gov. agencies that trap, and when the fur is prime it’s sold to help fund the program, but fur that’s not worth anything that’s trapped in the summer by the gov. because it’s necessary are usually no good and a waste. So trappers do a huge service for the public. Yet there are others that claim trapping isn’t fair chase. Well I hate to break it to them, nothing is fair chase unless your out there naked hunting with a stick. Every tool man has developed, bows, guns, traps were developed to give man an edge over the animal kingdom, period. We cannot compete without these tools. Animals don’t even execute fair chase, to them it’s do or die, it’s that simple.
What else do trappers do. Well they contribute both time and money and work with state agencies to further ensure healthy populations of wildlife, just like the many other outdoor user groups, like DU, Delta Waterfowl, White-Tails Unlimited, Trout Unlimited. Trappers have been instrumental in re-introducing the pine martin in WI, Fishers in eastern states and WI. Trappers play a vital role in animal studies, often being called upon by state agencies to submit animal samples to study, etc. Even being asked to keep an eye out for observations. Most trappers spend more time in the outdoors hours wise than most user groups and they observe a lot.
Trappers have also taken it upon themselves to ensure trapping is here to stay, most states now have a trapper education program just like they have for hunter education. It’s usually a cooperative effort between trapping assoc. and state DNR agencies. They teach ethics, humane practices, wildlife management, fur handling, diseases etc. In WI. It’s mandatory for first time trappers. Which is a good thing, it gives new trappers the right tools and knowledge to go about it to prevent those problems we’ve had a few decades ago.
In this day and age, you may not recognize the trapper in the outdoors, he won’t be clad in furs or leather. He’ll probably be wearing hip boots or waders, or wearing blue jeans and a ball cap, he’ll probably be driven a 4x4 and the bed loaded with fur, but you’ll get a hint of aroma in the air, it may be mink, or skunk or the sweet smell of beaver castor. At any rate, if you do happen to run into a trapper, you can know your talking to an individual who loves the outdoors as much as yourself and is putting his time and money into what he believes and the passion he holds for the outdoors.