Howard Delo

Before we get started, I’d like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Despite how things might be going for you currently, you really do have a lot to be thankful for. I wish my ankle worked better, but I’m thankful I can still walk on it. I wish I had more money, but I’m thankful my fixed income covers the important stuff and I really do have what I need. I wish I was physically younger sometimes, but I’m thankful I still have reasonably good health at age 70. Be thankful for all you have.

Trapping season opened this past Nov. 10. The only thing I’ve heard about that opener in the media is a mention on the evening news about a group concerned with traps being set near popular hiking and dog-walking trails primarily in the Anchorage area. I’m sure the same concerns exist here in the Valley.

Trapping is probably the most controversial activity of the hunting, fishing and trapping trio of so-called blood sports. Many folks view trapping as a cruel “recreational” activity than should be banned. Trapping has been banned in limited areas of the Lower 48, but problems have arisen because of those bans.

In places where beaver trapping has been banned, people are complaining of flooded private property; damage to trees and road culverts; road and dike foundations being undermined; and other situations, which have developed from having an excess of beavers. Others are losing pets and backyard livestock to predators like foxes, bobcats, and coyotes which are no longer being trapped in some areas. In many of these locations, taking the animals by shooting is not safe because of the density of human populations.

Places like California are experiencing problems with mountain lion attacks on joggers and loss of pets and livestock among other negative impacts. Several years ago, California opted to ban all hunting and trapping of these large predators. The lions have lost their fear of man as a result.

For many of the species considered furbearers in Alaska, trapping is the only efficient way to harvest them and help keep their populations in check. For several of the trapping-listed species, hunting is not allowed, and trapping is the only tool of human control available for managing these populations.

Most people are not aware that, within the trapping industry and among trap manufacturers, a lot of product development has been going on over the years to develop trap designs which still catch animals but do so in a more humane way. Off-set and padded jaws on leghold-style traps are one example. Outlawing toothed jaws, with their significant leg and foot holding ability, was done years ago because of humane concerns.

Someone hunting an animal can make a conscious decision about taking any specific animal encountered, based on size, sex, age or other legal requirements. A trap, being an inanimate object, doesn’t have the ability to make a conscious decision but will be triggered by whatever steps or walks into it. The trapper is responsible for making the species-specific set based on trap type, set location, attractors, animal habits, and other trapping knowledge.

Ethical, responsible, and knowledgeable trappers will exercise common sense in selecting locations for trapping. They will avoid areas commonly frequented by non-trapping recreational users. They will make sets designed to harvest only the target species they’re interested in. They will use the proper size and type of trap to catch the target species and, perhaps more importantly, they will check their sets regularly, often every 24-hours. These frequent checks allow the trapper to monitor things around the set location, harvest animals taken in the set, and provide some level of security from the animal and trap thieves (read criminals) who harass legal trappers.

Trespassing is another common complaint against trappers. The good trappers will know who owns the land they are trapping on and, if it is private property, will have secured permission to trap on it. The most common trespassers are kids and ignorant adults looking to go trapping without following the “rules of good conduct” governing trapping activities.

A friend’s nephew was all excited about doing some muskrat trapping this season. He scouted the area of interest, learned land ownership, readied his traps, and went out to make some sets when the season opened.

I know this kid and I think he’s in the “good guy” group of trappers. I have no doubt his family has schooled him in proper, legal, and humane trapping techniques.

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