Thousands of Kentuckians once trapped raccoons, beavers, mink, foxes and other furbearing animals. Trapping provided our ancestors with clothing, food and a source of income.
But trapping fell by the wayside as people began moving from the farm to the city. Fur prices declined in the 1980s and thousands of people quit trapping. Kentucky trapping license sales plummeted from more than 7,000 in 1980 to about 600 in 1999.
Now, trapping is making a comeback.
“Back in the 1980s, a lot of people trapped for commercial reasons,” said Laura Patton, furbearer biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Now people seem to be doing it for recreation, because they’ve retired and want a new hobby, or they’re taking their grandkids out.”
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, the United Trappers of Kentucky and the Fur Takers of Kentucky are all working to promote trapping. The organizations work together to offer trapping workshops for beginners, put licensed trappers in contact with landowners experiencing depredation problems, and educate people about the importance of trapping. Kentucky’s hunter education classes now include a trapping segment.
The efforts seem to be working. Despite continued low fur prices, the number of licensed trappers in Kentucky is steadily rising. More than 1,800 trappers bought licenses last season, triple the number in 1999 and a 19 percent increase over the previous year.
“I think now, more than ever, trappers are willing to mentor,” said Stacy White, president of the United Trappers of Kentucky. “I think they realize if we don’t teach it, it could pass on by without the next generation learning about this heritage.”
White said trapping teaches a strong work ethic, commitment and responsibility — qualities that will serve kids their entire lives. Trappers must have extensive knowledge of wildlife and habitat in order to be successful, often spending days or weeks running a trap line.
“I think there’s a sense of getting back to the real side of life, instead of all the electronics,” said White. “That’s one thing we push: Get out and do it. Don’t watch somebody else do it on TV.”
Trapping can be a fun way to learn about the outdoors for kids and adults alike. But trapping can also help solve problems caused by wildlife, or aid wildlife restoration efforts.
“Trapping is used for livestock depredation problems, aggressive species such as coyotes, beavers flooding roads, urban problems with raccoons and skunks, and otter damage around marinas,” Patton said. “We also use trapping for species restoration, such as with the river otter.”
Non-lethal traps were used to capture river otters in Louisiana. The otters were then moved to Kentucky and released. During the state’s peregrine falcon restoration, traps controlled predators at one of the release sites. Trapping is also used to capture animals for biological research.
For more information about learning to trap, go online to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website at fw.ky.gov. Under the “Hunting, Trapping & Wildlife” tab, click on “Furbearers and Trapping.”
Trapping seasons are going on now throughout Kentucky. All trappers must purchase a Kentucky trapping license, including those trapping on their own land. Reduced-price trapping licenses are available for landowners and for youth trappers ages 15 and under. For complete trapping regulations, pick up a copy of the ‘2009-10 Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide,’ available online at : fw.ky.gov, and wherever licenses are sold.