The season for one of the oldest known methods of hunting is fast approaching, and state wildlife officials are encouraging people to educate themselves on the ins and outs of trapping before heading out in pursuit of their favorite furbearing animals.
Utah’s trapping seasons aren’t that far away. If the Utah Wildlife Board approves the date, permits to take bobcats will go on sale beginning Oct. 3.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is encouraging anyone interested in trapping to take a furharvester education course now. Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1984, is required by law to complete the course before trapping in the state.
Kirk Smith, assistant hunter education coordinator for the DWR, said the agency has increased the number of furharvester education classes it offers in the state.
The course can also be taken online at http://go.usa.gov/KYY. The total cost is $40.50 — $34.50 for the course itself and $6 for a Furharvester Education Registration Certificate. Payment isn’t required until the course is successfully completed.
Smith said the course teaches people “how to trap safely and responsibly.”
Trappers in Utah target numerous furbearing animals, including beaver, bobcat, fox, mink, muskrat and raccoon, among others.
Native Americans were the original trappers in the United States. It later became a primary source of income for white settlers, who trapped some mammals to near-extinction in an attempt to meet an insatiable demand for fur in Europe. Today, trapping is not about survival for most people, but more of a tool of wildlife management and a form of recreation.
Before the pioneers, predators such as the mountain lion, wolf, and bear controlled furbearer populations. But as their numbers have steadily declined over the years, hunters and trappers have come to fill that predatory niche.
Smith said there’s a common misperception that trapping is cruel and unnecessary, but when done properly and ethically, he said it’s an effective way to keep animal populations in check. Furbearing animals naturally reproduce at a rate higher than what their environment can sustain, especially with fewer natural predators around, so trapping can actually help maintain healthy population levels, he said.
Laws and regulations establish trapping and hunting seasons. These seasons usually limit harvesting to the fall and winter months, allowing wildlife populations to reproduce in the spring to renew their numbers after the harvest.
Regulations also limit the species and number of animals that may be harvested. These limits change from year to year, based on current market demand and furbearer population levels. Other regulations may restrict the types of traps you can use, locations where trapping is allowed, how you set your traps, and how often you must check them.
The DWR is looking for more instructors to teach proper fur-harvesting techniques and methods. A total of 47 trained volunteer instructors are currently teaching the furharvester education course, but Smith said more are needed.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer furharvester education instructor can visit http://go.usa.gov/KYC to learn more.