Trapping Conservation and Self-Reliance News

Trappers remove animals and help with research
Oct 19, 2022 08:47 ET

[Reprinted from original]

For Jeff Traynor, co-owner of Monadnock Pest and Wildlife Services, evicting various non-human creatures from human dwellings is a big part of his job. He said fall is the time of year when the wildlife side of his business picks up.

Traynor, a New Boston native who is also vice president of the New Hampshire Trappers Association (NHTA) and a self-proclaimed poster child for trappers, holds an associate’s degree in entomology. He said he has been tracking wildlife and “trapping critters” in his backyard since he was a child.

“My father instilled a love of the outdoors in me at a young age,” Traynor said, adding that he became interested in trapping after finding a foothold trap on an old property near his childhood home, but that these days he traps mostly for a living and for conservation reasons. “It’s ironic that I’ve spent so much time defending trapping, but I don’t do much hobby trapping now.”

Today, Traynor makes a living keeping animals out of people’s homes and working with wildlife biologists around the state on education conservation projects and wildlife control. While a lot of his business is on the pest side this year due to the drought, he said it has also been heavy on the wildlife side of things. Monadnock Pest and Wildlife Services offers methods of removal that Traynor says minimizes the harm to animals while safely evicting them from homes.

In early October, Traynor was called to a home in Francestown that had been infested by flying squirrels, which he said often manipulate the joints under the roof shingles to find their way into people’s homes. The type of trap being used that day was an eviction trap, which allows the squirrels to exit the home unharmed. The next step, Traynor said, is making sure they don’t come back. This is done by identifying and sealing the entry points for bats, squirrels, mice, rats and many other animals.

“The key is not to crowd them in. Once they get in the house it’s just a dead tree to them,” he said, adding that he offers a five-year warranty for bats – which can squeeze through a quarter-inch opening – and squirrels, which only need one half of an inch to gain entry. “They can fit into amazing spaces.”

Research role
Hillsborough County NHTA Director Ron Morin, of Mount Vernon, has been an avid trapper for many years. He said the NHTA assists New Hampshire Fish and Game with research and development and provides training and education, including advanced trapper education courses after licensing. Morin said he has been a hunter for 57 years, mostly in Antrim, and that he began trapping coyote and other canines as well as beaver, muskrat and otter after retirement.

“It’s a very time-consuming hobby and a big investment,” he said, adding that a new basic trapping setup can cost in the $1,000 range.

In New Hampshire, there are 14 fur-bearers, and two are protected. It is illegal to hunt or trap bobcat and pine marten, which live in northern boreal forests of the state.

Morin described a University of New Hampshire study with a veterinary lab the NHTA assisted in 2019.

“They wanted to study canine distemper, and a fur-bearer biologist who was a member of our organization informed us gray fox and fisher carcasses were needed,” Morin said, adding that 49 animals were sent to be tested and only two tested positive for distemper but that they all tested positive for rodenticide – pesticides that kill rodents, including mice and rats. “Rodenticide comes from people’s homes and the animals eat the stuff, get dehydrated and lethargic and then begin looking for water. When they die, other animals eat them.”

NHTA is also providing the U.S. Department of Agriculture data for a rabies study in the White Mountains region that is using baited blocks with a rabies vaccine as well as a marker, Morin said. After collecting carcasses, the goal of the study is to determine if the animal ingested the vaccine and if it’s working.

“If it does work, they’re going to bring it south right to the coast to try to eradicate rabies,” he says.

New Hampshire Fish and Game wildlife biologist Pat Tate said the NHTA has been called on for help with a number of projects during his 23-year tenure at the agency, including bobcat collaring and capturing fisher cats for research.

Most recently, NHTA has been helping with Fish and Game’s fur-bearer project, which Tate directs, collecting DNA samples for a University of Vermont study looking at the genetic flow of the landscape between Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Tate’s job includes a broad list of expectations, he said, in part because New Hampshire Fish and Game is a small agency compared with other state agencies. On top of being the director of the fur-bearer projects, he also carries regional wildlife responsibilities that includes data collection for various species in Region 3, which includes southeastern New Hampshire and the Seacoast.

“Today, I’m working on bobcats and just yesterday I was handling calls about a black bear in Dover,” Tate said. “My duties are very broad overall.”

Tate’s fur-bearer responsibilities include data-collection, processing and interpreting data and communicating with the public, as well with the NHFG commission.

“As employees we’re all multitalented and we end up multitasking,” he said.

Conservation efforts
Tate said the value of conservation efforts assisted by NHTA includes trapping as a whole.

“Wildlife management can be considered a strange field,” he said, explaining that wildlife populations need to be managed and it’s extremely difficult to manage birth rates. “I always think about that song by Tears for Fears, ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World,’ and with wildlife it’s always reproduce, reproduce, reproduce. Trying to use drugs or chemicals to alter birth rates can be detrimental to the environment and to animals, considering all the factors that come with that.”

Tate cited the ineffectiveness of attempts to control the whitetail deer population in the state with chemicals that cause sterilization. Some animals are sterilized, but there is migration from other areas.

“It may work in a lab setting, but in the field it doesn’t work,” he said, adding that the animals must also be captured, treated and released, which is difficult.

Tate is straightforward when he explains that wildlife populations need to be managed by the removal of animals, and that the North American model uses hunting and trapping to do that.

“We have open trapping for species that need to be controlled, and those seasons are structured around times of year when those animals have valuable product,” he said. “That’s where trappers assist in wildlife management, education and conservation.”

Tate said he has some one-on-one relationships with those who are opposed to trapping and that he doesn’t refer to them as “anti- trappers” because people find it disrespectful.

“I like to say ‘those against trapping,’” he said. “My experience in talking with people is that they have polar opposite viewpoints,”

Tate added that there are often heated discussions between the two positions, and said he always walks away from these conversations feeling there’s an equal level of respect for the animal but very different understandings of wildlife management.

“A person against trapping thinks about the well-being of that individual animal, and a person who supports trapping doesn’t think of the well-being of that individual animal but of the entire population,” he said, adding that he has met people who have grown up in rural parts of the state who are against trapping and others from urban areas who are trappers. “I’m not so sure it’s where a person grows up, per se, or if it’s attributable to innate beliefs. I just don’t know the answer.”

Traynor said that when he was in college, he often heard people speaking about animal rights in discussions between professors and students and the question always was, “What are animal rights and what are human rights?”

“We have these big discussions around animal welfare and when it comes to trapping, animal welfare has been considered,” he said, explaining that animal welfare and the reduction of suffering has always been a part of the testing process. “We’ve worked with veterinarians to create more-humane traps. In the world of trapping animal welfare has been addressed.”

The NHTA is also working with the USDA in southern New Hampshire and NHFG on a project that is testing genetic differences throughout various states for raccoons and other species. Morin said the NHTA is providing beaver, muskrat and mink samples tissues for this study, which is being run out of Middlebury College in Vermont, in Oklahoma and with the Smithsonian Institute. The research looks at the ways people may have shaped the geographical distribution diets and biology of fur-bearing populations.

“That’s all stuff we do to help in the research and well-being of animals,” Morin said. “As a society, we’ve done a terrible job educating the public about wildlife management. That’s what all of this is about.”

Morin said the issue is the same with hunting.

“People look at it as a sport,” he said. “But we’re also managing the population.”

Morin said that once a species overpopulates two things can and often do happen – disease and starvation.

“Both are slow and cruel,” he said, adding that another aspect is social acceptability. “How would [people] stand for bears roaming in their backyard on a regular basis? The bear population is higher than what people want in the Monadnock area, and they extended the hunting season last two years until end of muzzle-loading season to lower the population.”

Since 1998, 37 states, including New Hampshire, have participated in a national effort to develop trapping best-management recommendations based on an evaluation of traps in terms of animal welfare, selectivity, efficiency, practicality and user safety, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game.

An opponent of trapping
Kristina Snyder, of Chester, is an activist against trapping and the primary organizer of NH Citizens Against Recreational Trapping, a Facebook and activist group followed by nearly 4,000 people.

In March 2021, Snyder said she had an encounter with a member of the NHTA that led to her seeking legal council to register the group’s name. Trapper Joseph Paolilli had looked up the trade names with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office, and finding no record of it, registered the name. Her lawyer informed her that even though she didn’t register the name, it was commonly known she had been using the name because it had been seen in an article. After taking Paolilli to court, Snyder was able to register the name.

“It is what it appeared to be, which was a sly move to take away my activism against trapping,” Snyder said, adding that the incident, because of the news attention it created, actually doubled the group’s page following. “It was around then we began doing protests.”

One of the main reasons Snyder said she believes some people were upset and registered the trade names has to do with the Miss New Hampshire pageant, which until recently donated a fur coat to the winner each year. The most-recent coat, in 2018, was made from gray fox, she said, adding that it takes between 12 to 14 foxes to make the coat. Snyder became active in ending this practice about five years ago by meeting with leaders of the organization.

“I was told the girls love fur,” she said, adding that she started a petition against the practice and held a demonstration in front of the pageant. “One day, on the Facebook page I received a message from a former contestant who said she was told her coat needed to be accepted weather she liked it or not.”

Following this, Snyder said the woman interviewed with reporters and expressed feeling uncomfortable, at which point Miss America and PETA became involved.

“The protests around this issue made the news,” she said. “Last year, the Miss NH pageant quietly ended their relationship with NHTA.”

Following the trade-name recognition issue, Snyder said she told reporters she wanted to move forward and that her Facebook group ended up growing more support following the attention.

“I was amazed how many people donated,” she said, referring to a GoFundMe campaign she started at the time. “I received hundreds of dollars from mainstream people, not just animal rights people.”

Snyder said she is driven to protest recreational trapping, but not nuisance trapping of the type Traynor makes his living on.

“Ideally, I would love to harm no animals,” she says. “I’ve been at this long enough, though, and I try to be realistic looking for low-hanging fruit to see where there’s general consensus.”

Snyder’s issue, she said, is that no matter how humane a trap is, animals are still being tortured and killed.

“Hobby trappers are out there spending money, not making a living,” she says. “A nuisance trapper, that’s how they’re making their living. There is a stark difference on those levels.”

Snyder said she has made some headway in her crusade to stop hobby trapping and has become friendly with NHFG biologist Patrick Tate.

“I learned from that first bill in 2013 that was trying to ban body-gripping traps and their testimony,” she said. “I have friends who are hunters, but trapping is a whole different thing.”

Traynor said he sympathizes with animal-rights activists like Snyder, but that sometimes the tension between trappers and activists can be heated and ultimately unproductive. Traynor said he has been trolled on Facebook and received threats over the years, but that he does his best to stay focused on the work of protecting the rights of trappers and doing his job.

Traynor said he believes in a practical approach to helping mitigate the nuisance issues associated with trapping animals and that sometimes animals must be euthanized. He often hears the “peaceful coexistence” argument, but said this isn’t always realistic.

“I am able to evict most animals non-lethally,” he said. “But there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. In nature there is death. Living in complete harmony just doesn’t always work. Skunks are everywhere this year; where am I supposed to put them?”

While the exclusionary approach is the preferred method, Traynor said he does euthanize animals in rare cases through carbon dioxide methods but never uses poisons on larger animals.

“It's a chess match,” he said. “And my job is not very glamorous.”