It’s amazing how much you can learn if you walk into something new with an open mind.
That was the thought I walked away with after spending a couple of hours at the Saskatchewan Trappers Association convention in Humboldt last week.
I really had no preconceived notion about trapping when I walked in. I’m not an anti-fur activist. I don’t protest hunting. Though I love animals, I realize that we need to control the wild animal populations in this province, or we run the risk of nature doing it in ways that can be far more cruel.
But I still had my eyes opened as to what these trappers are really all about.
The people I met at that convention are extremely well-informed about the animals they trap and skin. They know what they eat, where they live, and how they live. They know that beavers have a special claw they use to comb their hair, that the hair of a wolverine doesn’t frost up and that a fisher can actually eat porcupines, and dissolve any quills they happen to get at the same time. Truly fascinating stuff.
At the same time, they are businesspeople down to the bottom of their boots, and so in addition to diet and habitat of the animal, they also know how to trap them, how to skin them properly to get the most they can for them, and how much they’ll likely get paid for each kind of pelt.
Those I talked to seem to respect the animals they trap, and they keep track of what’s being caught in their traps. If they start to catch too many females or juveniles, they stop trapping that species, one said, because they don’t want to deplete the population to the point where it can’t recover.
That makes sense on a wildlife conservation level, and a business level — they make their living off these animals, so they want to ensure there are enough of them around that they can continue to do what they do.
These trappers are also storytellers, I discovered.
Get one going, and they will tell you how their grandfather paid for his first quarter section of land by selling muskrat pelts, or about how they used to get thousands of dollars for a pelt that now sells in the hundreds of dollars. And if you want to push a button, mention bounties on animals. You’ll get an earful about the wasted animals that result from such government programs.
Trappers, I discovered, like to talk. And they like to talk about trapping. And they feel misunderstood.
A lot of us, myself included, are pretty ignorant about trapping. And ignorance can lead to intolerance, and that intolerance could potentially kill the trapping industry one day.
Trappers get upset when they’re painted as evil monsters, killing hapless animals to outfit people without a conscience with a fur coat. What they do, they argue, helps keep the fur-bearing animal population of the province under control and healthy. Their traps are humane — they kill an animal instantly, unlike a disease like mange, which can leave an animal suffering for months before the elements finally kill it. And by reducing the surplus population of an animal, it ensures the rest of them remain healthy.
Fur, it was pointed out to me, is also a renewable resource.
So though I’m not likely to become a trapper or a hunter myself, I can appreciate the efforts of individuals like the ones I met at the convention, who do their best to make their living and be at one with the enviroment.
For that, I say thanks.
We all have our place, after all, in the circle of life.