Two decades of teaching trapping
(Reprinted from above link)
The 20-year saga of Youth Trapper Camp in Beaver Creek Park is not only one of teaching children of all ages how to trap but also teaching them to be good stewards of the land and the importance of land management, organizers said.
"The significance of this camp is that this is the template that the rest of the country uses, this is one of the most premier trapper education camps in the country," third-year instructor Matt Lumley said.
Youth Trapper Camp Inc, a 501(c) 3 non-profit, held its 20th Annual Youth Trapping Camp last weekend south of Havre in Beaver Creek Park's Camp Kiwanis, educating both youth and adults about humane, ethical trapping practices aimed toward nature conservation. The camp saw more than 150 people attending, 76 children, 25 instructors, five staff members and a number of parents who registered.
Lumley, who has been trapping for 30 years, said that he was involved as an instructor because he wanted to pass the tradition of trapping to the next generation. He said trapping is an important tool for conservation as well as being historically significant it's one of the reasons the west was settled.
He added that he has two children who were also attending the camp.
"In a world where these kids got more and more video games, violence and things; trapping is an important recreational tool," Lumley said. "It gets the kids outside and shows them what the real world is."
Trapping has been a big part of his life, he said, a skill he learned from his father.
Kristy Russell of Turah east of Missoula said that she brought her children to the camp because they enjoy it. Her son, Luke, 10, has been attending the camp for the past four years and loves it, she said, and he wants to keep learning. It is the first year her daughter, Lucy, 6, has been to the camp.
She said she heard about the camp through a family friend, John Wilson, who is one of the instructors at the camp. Wilson has been trapping since he was young and had gotten Russell's husband and son both interested in the trade, she added. After hearing about the camp, she and her husband thought it would be a great way to help their children learn.
"It's a good place for them to learn and have fun," she said.
Russell said that something she noticed about her son after he attended the camp was that he knew so many things about the animals, not just trapping, but the facts. He was able to identify animals native to Montana, their tracks, habitats, diets, the diseases they carry, all after attending the camp. Gophers, for example, are one of the top carriers of bubonic plague, she said.
She said that next year her son will also be a junior instructor at the camp.
Her family also traps outside of camp, she added, using what they learned in their lives, like trapping skunks and raccoons.
"I like the education around trapping, how it is an essential part of wildlife management," she said. "You know it's not this barbaric, inhuman thing."
She said in their traps at home they have caught both of their dogs and their cat in several traps, but it didn't hurt them and after they were released they were not sore.
"Trapping is a Montana heritage and it plays a vital role in management," Russell said.
Camp organizer Fran Buell said that she wants the children who attend the camp to leave with the knowledge and respect for land and wildlife. She added that she also wants them to leave with a deep understanding of wildlife management.
"It is our responsibility, as the people of the land that are in their environment, to manage them, see they are comfortable," she said.
If they were not managed, it could endanger their habitats and food and spread disease, she said. A common issue with beaver overpopulation is diseases, which could contaminate water sources and spread to humans. Beavers also cause damage, cutting down trees, flooding meadows and plugging culverts.
Coyotes, she said, could get mange or rabies.
It's important people leave knowing they are helping the animals, not hurting, she said.
Non-consumptive users, or people who oppose trapping, don't know what is being taught, she said. The camp is teaching children to manage the land properly and with care. At the end of the camp everyone gets a certificate for the work they did and a take-home packet.
Lumley said that the natural world is not as dignified as it's portrayed. Unmanaged animals can cause a number of issues. He said that from his years as a trapper he has learned that it's important that people exist with nature and not separate themselves from it.
"We are a part of nature, not apart from it," he said. "That's the most important thing I've learned from trapping."
Something the children leave with is an understanding of how the natural process works, he said. He added that they caught two beavers Saturday and he wanted the children to know that those beavers will be utilized, using them for the essence, fur and even the meat if they chose to.
Teaching the children at the camp is teaching the future, he said, and it is important to teach the children the proper way.
"Education is the key to everything," he added.
Anyone can go out to set traps, but to teach them why to set it in specific places and where to set it helps minimize trapping non-targets and minimize conflict with humans.
Camper Ben Inman of Inverness, 12, said it was his fourth year at the camp, first attending when he was 8 years old.
He said the first year they didn't trap, but learned about how to set traps and learned about trapping in the classroom. The second year they got a little more hands on and learned how to properly set traps and built things like stretchers, snares and calls. The third year was when they were able to actually go out and trap.
The first animal he trapped was a beaver, he said, adding that he felt excited they were able to lure the animal in the trap.
"I think the funnest part is probably being able to go outside and find where you would be most likely to trap something and be a part of nature," he said.
He added that in addition to trapping he also learned to respect the animals they trapped.
"I think trapping brings a lot of stuff to the table," he said.
He said he plans to continue trapping in the future.
Montana Miss Teen Rodeo Rebecca Stroh of Chinook, 16, also attended the camp. She said the trappers donate a rabbit and fox vest to the Miss Rodeo and Teen Rodeo every year and they are invited as guests to many of their events. She added that she was having a good time at the camp and enjoyed being around the children.
"I'm learning just as much as the kids are," she said. "... Everyone's been so kind here."
She said that she is interested in trapping on her own after going to the camp, adding that she already is a hunter and can see herself looking into it more.
"I didn't realize how much they do with the little kids to teach them about it when they are just so young," she said.
Camp organizer and Montana Trappers Association President Jim Buell said that he enjoys seeing all the children so enthusiastic about trapping.
"Hopefully, they learn a little something about conservation and nature and the part humans play in nature," he said.
Jim and Fran Buell will be inducted into the National Trappers' Hall of Fame in July.
He said the award is not about how good of a trapper someone is or how many animals they trapped, but what they have done as a human being and what they have done to promote trapping in the state and country.
Fran Buell has always been on the education side for the Montana Trappers Association and Jim Buel has served with the state and national trapping associations since 1984.
He said they appreciate being awarded, it being an honor. Only 30 people have been inducted into the Hall of Fame in the past 20 years, he said. He added that it was never something he desired or yearned for but it is nice being recognized.
"It's just something I believe in," he said. "I believe in trapping as a conservation tool because if we don't control the animals in their habitat, Mother Nature will, and Mother Nature is much more cruel than a human being."