The word alone often elicits a strong opinion. More often than not, people simply have a lack of understanding as to why and what they really do.
Most people probably don’t realize the positive benefits trapping has on an environment or an ecosystem. Nor do I think people really think about the consequences of too many of any one animal around. Realistically if trappers didn’t step in to help the Department of Environmental Conservation control animal populations, Mother Nature so to speak, would step in for us… and let’s face it, Mother Nature, she can definitely be cruel.
When animal populations get too high, the habitat can’t support what’s living in it. When this happens, disease often takes over. When it spreads, it can wipe out a population, sometimes for good. Trappers don’t want that to happen.
In general, trappers love wildlife and we love to see it healthy! We understand the delicate balance of nature and when a piece of it goes missing, it can upset a whole ecosystem.
Let’s talk about doing it yourself. I would highly suggest the novice take a trapper education class – in many states it’s required. In many states, it’s a free one-day class. This class will also give you connections with local, more experienced trappers who, more likely than not, will be happy to help you and show you the ropes!
Next, check your state laws and local town ordinances. You need to know what’s legal and what’s not. Once you know the laws, plan for how you are going to humanely dispatch the animal. Consider this too – why would you want to move your problem animal and give it to someone else? Be considerate of others even if the state you’re in allows transport.
The 411 on Tools
Beginning trappers should start out with basic gear needed to trap one or two species. Buying new equipment for a variety of species can be expensive, so you should learn to be successful with basic gear before you invest too much. As you gain experience you will develop a better sense of the gear needed for other types of trapping.
Trap Tags – State law requires the trapper to have his or her name and address or conservation ID number attached to each trap in a permanent way. A laminated or weatherproof tag with permanent marker can be used.
Trap Stakes & Grapples – Steel stakes are needed to anchor traps. Know the length and size you need for specific furbearers and soil conditions. You may also need to use grapples in certain conditions.
Pliers and Cable Cutters – Pliers are needed for trap adjustments and cutting and bending wire. If aircraft cable is used for snares or anchoring systems you will also need cable cutters.
Hatchet – A hatchet is used for cutting limbs, driving stakes, chopping ice, and making certain types of sets.
Wire or Aircraft Cable - Wire or aircraft cable (3/32- or 1/8-inch) can be used to make submersion sets and fasten traps.
Trapping Staff/Walking Stick – A staff has many uses. Use it to check water depths when wading, detect underwater dens, and retrieve traps from water. A heavy staff may also be used to dispatch animals caught in some traps.
Trowel – Trowels are used to make dirt holes or pocket sets in water.
Pack Basket, Bucket, or Heavy Bag – Any of these items can be used to carry all your traps and other equipment.
Knives – Folding and locking knives are recommended for trappers. Their uses are endless on the trapline.
Dirt Sifter – A dirt sifter is a frame about 8 inches square and 3 inches deep with a quarter inch mesh screen on the bottom and is used to cover traps with fine soil.
Pan Covers – A pan cover is recommended to keep dirt and debris from getting under the trap pan on land sets. Wax paper, screen, plastic, and clean cloth patches are used for pan covers.
Catchpole – A catchpole is used to hold an animal so it can be safely released or dispatched. It is essential for a land trapper.
Gloves – Trappers need a variety of gloves. Latex gloves are used when skinning animals. Water trappers use gauntlet gloves that cover the arm to the shoulder to keep dry in cold weather. Land trappers use rubber or cotton gloves to keep human scent off of their traps.
Waders – Water trappers need either hip or chest waders as they will often find themselves working in water depths that would overtop boots.
Once you have caught an animal, it is your responsibility to see that the animal is taken care of properly. Remember, conservation means wise use of our natural resources. Letting an animal spoil from lack of attention would be a waste of the resource and an irresponsible act.
We hope you do what it takes to be a good steward of the land, and learning a new skill can be a lot of fun. Happy trapping!