The recent incident in Corinth with a dog being caught in an illegal trap set has spurred fresh commentary calling for more restrictions or a complete ban on trapping in Vermont.
The oft-repeated falsehoods prove a tired technique that believes if you tell lies often enough to those uninformed, you will gain support in your unsupported arguments.
No one more than a trapper wants to avoid catching a domestic dog. We own and love our pets as much as anyone else. And the statistical occurrence of catching pets is extremely rare.
I started trapping over 55 years ago and have caught exactly one dog. The beagle was released without a scratch and started following me out of the woods. I took it home, kept her overnight, found the owner and returned it the next day. I would have inherited that dog if the owner could not be found. By the way, bear hunters love their dogs too.
Hunters live and breathe their dogs year-round. Though it cannot be measured, believe me when I say that the dogs and cats saved from being killed by fisher, bobcats, foxes and coyotes by regulated trapping is several magnitudes greater than those caught or killed in traps.
So, the charges of trapping being indiscriminate, cruel and unregulated are generated by emotion and disproportionally highlighting extreme and rare occurrences. Some of my colleagues have competently addressed these issues. But I do want to talk about the greater umbrella surrounding trapping and wildlife management in general.
Furbearer species, along with most wildlife, are generally very short-lived compared to humans. Five years can be old, with reaching 10 years old often ancient. Along with this phenomenon often comes a high birth rate with a surplus of young every year.
This surplus results in high yearly mortality by many natural causes, all far less humane than being taken by trapping. The ongoing fragmentation of suitable habitat with increased development further compounds this situation.
Regulated trapping and harvest will increasingly be more of the solution rather than the problem in the future by keeping furbearers in harmonic alignment with biological and societal carrying capacities.
Finally, I want to address the idea that the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department ignores trapping and other activities. I can say from decades of involvement with the department that it is very clear-eyed about trapping and other extensions of sound conservation principles of game and nongame species alike.
This is what they are trained to do, and they do it very well.
Trappers are an ally and play an integral role in furbearer management by providing biological data that could not be obtained otherwise. Mandatory trapper reports are collected each year that show all species harvest numbers and trapper effort. The location and watershed of taken otter, fisher and bobcats are noted, along with the carcasses of these species being surrendered for biological necropsy.
Regulations and management can be altered by this information.
The ecological understanding and reverence that we feel is enhanced by direct experience with the natural world and lessened by the lack thereof. Trapping, hunting and other consumptive activities provide a historical conduit to that world. That ancient, indigenous wisdom should remain intact.
Paul F. Noel of Irasburg is a lifelong sportsman and conservationist.
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