It refuels me as a trapper to share that. Watching them experience their first catch is like reliving my own first. You almost feel that same sense of pride that you felt when you caught your first animal.”
Ethics and Science
In addition to trapping skills, the clinics provide an opportunity for students to learn values that apply to all aspects of outdoor activities. “During a clinic, I put a great deal of emphasis on the code of ethics,” says Miller. “If a student can learn to respect the animals, respect other people and their property and respect themselves, the other skills will come with time and practice.”
The trapping clinics also help correct misconceptions about trapping. Modern trapping methods, including padded and offset jaws on foothold traps, along with the Best Management Practices for trapping created by the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, allow trappers to be selective in their harvest and release animals unharmed that are unwanted species or those with low-grade fur. Class participants get to see firsthand as released animals return to the woods unscathed.
If an animal is selected for harvest and dispatched, a modern-day lesson in “going green” might be in order. Non-trappers sometimes tout the faux pas of wearing fur, but Jeff Beringer, resource scientist and furbearer biologist for the state, puts it into perspective. “If you are wearing a jacket made from synthetic materials derived from oil products, animal habitat was damaged or destroyed to produce it,” he explains. “On the other hand, trapping is renewable. If you go to that same habitat and remove a raccoon, the next year another raccoon is there and the habitat is unharmed. In this day and age when people are trying to be ‘green’ and concerned about their footprint, using these renewable resources makes more sense.”
The Department of Conservation and other wildlife agencies use trapping as a means of research and wildlife management. “Without trapping, the reintroduction of wild turkeys and otters in Missouri, and the success of wolves in the western states, black bears in Arkansas and black-footed ferrets in South Dakota would not have been possible,” says Beringer. “To perform any kind of wildlife restoration or population study on a meaningful scale requires the use of trapping. Anytime you are trying to figure out the natural history of an animal, home range, habitat use, or survival rates, trapping is used. It is the best method to determine how populations are changing, which in turn helps us to set season lengths and limits.”
The once-locked vault of trapping knowledge has been opened. The trappers of today are not only willing to share information, but often go out of their way to get beginners started. “For our previous clinic, we had instructors from seven different counties. Some of them drove over 300 miles just to help with the class,” says Barnes.
An experienced trapper’s love for his craft cannot be underestimated. “My biggest fear is that trapping will die on my watch,” says Daniel. “That it wouldn’t pass on to the next generation. … I don’t want it to be something that slips into the category of ancient history because I didn’t do my part to make sure that enough people experienced it and knew it was out there as a way to enjoy the outdoors.”
With enthusiastic mentors available and training classes for all levels, now is the perfect time to learn more about trapping. It’s no secret that it’s another great way to enjoy Missouri’s outdoors.
DISCOVER TRAPPING WITH MDC Class availability varies depending on time of year, public interest and instructor scheduling. Check with your local regional office (see Page 3 for phone numbers) or visit www.MissouriConservation.org/regions for upcoming trapping clinics or to express interest in having one in your area.