Mostly Trapping

Newspaper: Trapper shows how fur is sustainable and ecologically friendly
Feb 3, 2020 08:33 ET

(Reprinted from above link)

Original title: Whitestone trapper says fur is sustainable and ecologically friendly

109 licensed trappers live in West Parry Sound, with the industry regulated internationally and locally

WHITE STONE — The trap line in Whitestone the snowmobile trail follows isn’t marked. That’s for good reason. Trapper Ray Gall has had traps stolen, possibly by those opposed to it or by those who want a souvenir from their trip to the north.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry sees trapping as culturally significant and as an important income for those living in the north and rural areas.

“It is also an effective wildlife management tool for regulating the populations of fur bearers like coyotes, beavers and raccoons,” ministry spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski said.

“Trappers also play an important role in reducing human-wildlife conflict like predation on livestock and damage to property.”

There are 42 registered trap lines in West Parry Sound, from Seguin to Henvey Inlet First Nation. There are also 109 licensed trappers in the region, although they may have a line elsewhere in the ministry’s Parry Sound District.

Trapping in West Parry Sound recently made the news after an off-leash dog was caught and killed in a conibear trap near Seguin’s Rose Point Trail earlier in the winter. That led some to post warning signs and the trapper to voluntarily remove the legal traps.

With the news, the North Star called up Gall and this reporter set out by snowmobile with him one rainy Sunday morning in January to get a feel of what a trap line is, the role of a trap line, the regulations that govern it, and why they would be along a public-use trail.

In Canada, only certain traps are allowed and the time frame they can be out, in Ontario, is set out by the MNRF with quotes for fur bearing animals, such as marten, and beavers.

Gall manages two lines, but that morning we only visited three traps on one line.

Gall's marten/fisher traps are placed at the end of solid rectangular boxes too small for larger animals to get into. They are also set off the ground to keep them out of reach of any wayward pets.

Gall slowed the snowmobile to look at tracks of a fisher that bypassed one of his traps.

If a trap is used that doesn’t meet the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards, which was enacted in 1997, Canada could be shut out of the European and Russian market, said Gall.

While there is a robust overseas market for fur, trapping isn’t his livelihood. In the 1980s, he said, pelt prices were high enough for trappers to make a living, but today it’s a part-time job that has him on the line once or twice a week.

He’s been a hunter his whole life and a trapper for over 10 years, taking over the line when the licence holder retired for health reasons. He’s also gone on to not only teach the mandatory 40-hour course to become licensed, but also teaches the instructors of that course and champions the industry with the province as part of the Ontario Fur Managers Association.

"My grandfather and great-grandfather used to trap back in Europe,” he said.

He said the number of people taking the course for commercial trapping is increasing, and the province pegged the average trapper’s age in West Parry Sound area for the last five years as 45.

“Trapping is here to stay. Whether it’s going to happen in one form or another. We’re about traditional trapping, which is trapping for fur. We’re taking the excess that the winter’s going to die off anyway.

"If you look at muskrat, 80 per cent of their population die as soon as the snow gets here,” he said, adding that catching beaver also ensure ponds remain healthy for use by other fauna, including moose, salamanders, Blanding's turtles and other at-risk species.

The Whitestone line he runs is steps away from the snowmobile trail because it was there first.

“Most of the snowmobile trail systems were assumed by snowmobile clubs from either logging trails or trapping trails,” said Gall.

While there is a market with the largest tanneries in China, Gall spoke to the need to change the attitude toward fur for consumer purposes in North America.

“I think we need to do more education on sustainability of wild fur to change the perception of ‘Oh, my God, you’re wearing an animal’ … in North America."

Of the two live traps visited that morning, neither had snared an animal.