For trappers and furbearers there have been many changes over the years. Change has come from fashion trends, social and political awareness; periods driven only by the pursuit of wealth, other times when harmony and the search of emotional well being was all that mattered. Trapping has changed but only some of the changes have been brought on by these influences. Most of the changes experienced by trappers and animals have been due to habitat loss.
Habitat loss has come from the growth of cities and municipal areas, the expansion of infrastructure, farming, logging, mining, and exploration for oil and gas. The amount of habitat lost is not equal in all areas of development. When cities are built the habitat for fur bearers is completely destroyed. During logging operations trees are removed damaging animal habitat but the trees are replanted, restoring the habitat over time. When farm land is developed the habitat is destroyed for some animals but for others it is improved.
When assessing changes in habitat for furbearers it is important to understand that not all habitats are of equal value. A good example of this is the location of many cities and densely populated metropolitan areas. Cities are often located in areas of abundant nature resources along rivers, in valleys with deep soil and near lakes. These areas have natural sources of water where large trees and lush vegetation thrive making it ideal habitat for many animals. Cities are built in these areas in part because it is where our distant ancestors settled. These locations made sense; they had water, large trees for building houses and good soil for growing crops. Many of the cities we live into today grew around these settlements and posts.
The wealth of natural resources found in these areas makes them perfect habitat for every form of wildlife. Every time a new building or road is constructed more of this prime habitat is taken away. Although many people have become very sympathetic to the plight of the creatures that used to live where their kitchen now sits, common sense persists; a wolf cannot raise its pups in our laundry room and a beaver cannot dam the river we so enjoy living next to because we can’t swim to get home. Unfortunately for the trappers and the animals this once abundant habitat can no longer sustain the large healthy populations of furbearers that it once did.
Although other things have impacted trapping and furbearers nothing compares to the impact of changes in habitat. These changes have shifted the trappers’ role, in developed areas, from sustainable trapping to animal control. Trappers are now hired by municipalities around the world to eliminate or control populations of furbearers living in urban areas. Where trappers once sustainably trap for fur they are now hired remove animals.
In undeveloped areas were habitat is still to some extent undisturbed trapping is done in the traditional way. A sustainable number of animals are harvested to ensure healthy populations. The number of animals trapped is determined though careful management of quotas, licensing, trapping seasons, trap line systems and trap standards. Recommendations are developed through careful research with the goal of maintaining the healthiest possible population of the animal within the available habitat.
One of the most important roles that trappers play in a modern world is that of educator and conservationist. Trappers have gathered a wealth of knowledge though years of experience and learning. Many of the older trappers still alive today spent years living in the wild before the modern world made its march into the habitat of animals that most people know very little about. Trappers have the opportunity to observe animals both before and after their habitat has been changed. They understand the behaviour and habits of animals that most people will never see in a lifetime. Trappers working together with other conversationalist can teach the lessons they have learned to help ensure the survival of the animals that make their living possible.