By: Tamara Spence, Sports and Recreation Editor
It would be fair to say that the larger portion of who I am and where I came from is at the end of a dirt road less travelled. Where we trim our roads annually and harvest dead trees near our trapper shacks for firewood for the upcoming winter season. It’s where generations of my family have drawn pictures on the walls and scribbled our stories of our days in leather bound notebooks. This is where I learned about generations of my family trapping, the purpose and the ethics involved – this is where the roots of who I am began. Where I received my first lessons of respecting the animals of our land and why it was of the utmost importance.
When I was younger it was always such a thought provoking concept – my family’s tradition. The preparation for the trapping season and the steps in the process along the way. The building and maintenance of a marten boxes, preparing our poles for beaver sets, the staining of our traps/snares in addition to maintaining the integrity of the number of springs that ran through our property.
It’s difficult to relate to, let alone even to understand if you don’t have an open mind or knowledge of trapping, to begin with. With the ignorance and unfair representation in the media, people make assumptions about what trapping entails and the modern day relevance. One main point I continuously make certain to pass on to people who let me bend their ear is that trapping is highly regulated in Canada; there is a pronounced deal of ethics involved with how we harvest our furbearing animals (beaver, muskrat, fisher, marten, weasel, raccoon, otter, red squirrel, lynx, mink, wolf, coyote). For the most part, what you see in the media and what is portrayed on “reality” TV is far off from what actually takes place here in Canada.
There are a number of laws within each jurisdiction that are enforced by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Laws that include, but are not limited to, seasonal dates that take procreation into consideration, location, and restrictions on specific species. It goes without saying that any outdoor advocate generally cares about the treatment of animals and the gifts our land harbors.
Humane trapping is always the goal and the Fur Institute of Canada conducts ethical testing to ensure a standard is upheld, much like Canada’s commitment of humane harvesting through the Agreement of International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS). The AITHTS agreement sets a standard of requirements that manufacturers must meet for the capture of any furbearing animal in Canada, and also includes testing certification through a creditable testing agency for their traps to be legal. Additionally, the process includes safety components for the operator of the trap. Approved traps must be deemed safe when maintained and used as directed from manufacturer specifications.
While these are just standards for what is required, as trappers we are always working with one another to improve and share knowledge about treatment and attention to animal welfare. Annually in Thunder Bay, there is a trapper’s convention that is open to the public to learn and purchase items. For those interested in applying for a license or Fur Management and Conservation course (40 hours, 32 hours classroom and 8 hours trap safety/setting/pelt handling) more information can be found through organizations such as Ontario Fur Managers Federations, Nishawbe Aski Nation and Union of Ontario Indians (trapping licenses only).