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 with Rob Miskosky

Something Positive for the Trapper

Recently, there has been a fair amount of news coverage regarding the fur industry and for the most part, this coverage has been extremely positive.

Until you read the “comments” section that follows these articles and you suddenly realize that trapping is completely misunderstood by many in our urban society.

Or, perhaps, some just refuse to acknowledge trapping for what it really is—an effective management and information tool used by wildlife managers and biologists across the country.

For a change, it appears the media has taken the high road; positively reporting on the fur trade without quoting some animal-rights activist/terrorist that hails from the PETArd mould. Usually these quotes are full of hatred towards trappers and trapping and have little to do with reality.

Dakota Miskosky with a spring beaver and muskrats.
While hunters and anglers are also in the animal-rights crosshairs, trappers have faced scrutiny from these groups for a much longer time. However, despite several hardships, including years of depressed fur prices, trappers and trapping have prevailed. Mostly because those that realize trapping’s importance to modern day wildlife management still understand the trapper’s role in the forest and the value of the knowledge he or she brings to the table.

And trappers aren’t easily put down; in fact, trappers are a resilient bunch who are as much protectionist as they are conservationist, in a good way.

Trappers are also highly sought after by many different types of landowners, from farmer to rancher to acreage owner, clear across North America.

Apart from man rescinding his landscape footprint, holding back from development and growth, trappers are a necessary mechanism for maintaining peace between man and animal that will only grow as man furthers his growth into places where wild animals exist.

And who better than the trapper to maintain a watchful eye on industrial activity and its impact on not only our furbearers, but also on all things fish, bird or animal in our boreal forest—the trapper knows his land base far better than anybody because he spends countless days there, watching and listening to the forest and its inhabitants.

Just as the angler knows and understands his lake or stream and the fish that reside there.

Or the hunter, who knows the requirements of the animals he pursues and who goes to great lengths to ensure healthy populations.

As a trapper who holds both a registered trapline and resident trapper status, not only do I trap for the province as a registered trapper, but I also freelance my skills as a resident trapper to many rural folk who understand the need to manage our many furbearing friends.

I have trapped for cattle farmers who hold little regard for predatory furbearers; in fact, I once trapped for a German fellow who would cheer every time I passed through his yard with a coyote in tow. In this man’s eyes, the only good coyote was a dead coyote, as was a good wolf a dead wolf.

Many others I have trapped for become extremely grateful, even emotional when I remove animals from their property. Most often, frustration has led the landowner to make contact with a trapper. And once word gets out that a trapper has been enlisted, it doesn’t take long before the trapper finds himself with more work than he can handle, as other landowners are often facing the same animal management problems as their neighbours are.

I can still remember my first catch after completing the Alberta Trappers’ Association training course many years ago. I was trapping for a farmer near Alder Flats, mostly coyote and beaver but I also had a few mink and weasel (ermine) sets up. Much to my delight, the first animal I caught was the aggressive little ermine.

At that time, not having a ‘trapping’ freezer to store caught furs in, I bagged my little white prize up and placed him in the family freezer in our basement to await skinning.

When my wife returned home later that day, I couldn’t wait to show her my first catch. Small it was, but a catch nonetheless and I was quite proud of my accomplishment. Her displeasure of having a dead animal in our deepfreeze became quite apparent when I offered to show her my prize. Upon opening the bag and revealing the little ermine, a black flea suddenly jumped out of its white fur and my wincing wife banned all further fur from our deepfreeze.

Now, my wife grew up in the Peace Country and although she never trapped or partook in any trapping activities, trapping was an accepted practice that received little attention. It wasn’t until later on when she moved to the big city that trapping suddenly became a notorious beast that needed slaying. Like most people, she wasn’t persuaded that trappers and trapping were evil; rather, she questioned the actions of groups like PETA and wondered how they could get away with many of the illegal terrorist-type things they were doing.

And this is where that line is drawn between those people who can appreciate and understand the trapper’s role and those who cannot. Those who cannot are doomed to side with the animal-rights activists and will leave those less-than-knowledgeable comments following a news piece.

Those who can have come to realize that this less-than-knowledgeable crowd is perhaps not trustworthy. If you were to examine many of their comments, “trustworthy” could easily be substituted for the word “sane”.

I believe that the PETArds of the world have gone to such great lengths to garner attention that they’ve overstepped the “good judgment bar” that many folks have set. Unfortunately for the PETArds, once that “good judgment bar” is overstepped, they are no longer looked at in the same light they once may have been.

Trappers, hunters and anglers will always be under the scrutiny of the animal-rights movement. Fortunately for us, the animal-rights movement have gone to such crazy and often illegal stunts that they aren’t taken nearly as serious as they once were.

However, this in itself is not reason enough to ignore the animal-rights movement. We must continue to promote ourselves as an ethical group of conservationists managing sustainable populations of fish and wildlife. If we can continue to do this, we will be held in a much higher light than those who would much rather see us fall to the wayside as barbaric, unwanted rednecks. ■

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