News, articles, opinions and tutorials on everything revolving around the world of Fur Trapping and Animal Damage Control.

By jeff, May 16 2017 09:10PM

The following is part I of a multi-part feature on bait utilization for trapping furbearers.

I recall one of my very first trapping experiences; hot off the trail from my Trapper Education course, ready, willing, and soliciting local trappers for insight. I set off into the woods on a cool December afternoon to bag myself a wily Fisher. Rather than consult the locals with a “what kind of bait do you use” inquiry, I dug deep into fisher biology and characteristics. Through dedicated research I determined porcupine, acorns, berries, and small rodents – notably red squirrels, were primary food sources for the mighty pekan. As luck would have it, on my way home from school I came upon a road-killed red squirrel just off center of the breakdown line and hastily collected the carcass as my go-to bait to compliment my seemingly flawless leaning pole fisher set. I wired the intact carcass whole to the top of a blow-down sapling in the midst of a dark hemlock grove and set a 160 body-gripping trap just in front of the carcass. After a short study to ensure everything was in place and legal, I marched out of the dense woods certain I’d have my query waiting with a steel necklace the very next day.

That trap set remained in place for the full thirty days of New Hampshire’s fisher season, and I’ll now readily admit I never did connect with the fisher I was certain frequented that area. There are several variables that could have transpired to produce the lack of results – timing, location, lack of fisher around, competing food sources, or even my choice of bait; no one will ever really know for sure.

An article produced by The Wildlife Society from earlier this year attempts to study bait preference in rabies carriers such as raccoons and skunks, and hopefully begin a protocol for knocking back the spread of diseases like rabies. It also got me thinking about that first trapping experience, and furthermore, it got my gears turning about baiting and the psychology behind baiting and bait presentation. The article (found here) discusses bait choices presented to raccoons and skunks in a controlled scientific environment, and suggests that at least for raccoons, there appears to be a preference.

The article states biologist Shylo Johnson “placed captive raccoons and skunks in pens with an even number of sweet-tasting baits, fish-flavored baits and occasionally with the animals’ usual food. After monitoring them for 24 hours and checking which baits were left, Johnson found that adult raccoons consumed 100 percent of the baits but displayed a preference for the fish-flavored bait, since they consumed it first. Skunks consumed 87 percent of the baits and showed no preference.

These findings got me thinking about the vast array of bait products on the market for both fur trapping and nuisance control work. There’s enough out there commercially available to keep you busy experimenting for most of your lifetime, and that doesn’t include the even bigger assortment of homemade concoctions confined to private fur sheds and pack baskets. Everyone has his or her favorite, and almost every single commercial bait claims to “get the fur stacked”. That being said, with all the bait mixtures available for purchase, one has to ask – is it all really great bait, or is it all just a lucky shot of “hocus pocus” superstition; playing on the opportunistic mindset of a wild animal?

With all the baits available on the market, it can be overwhelming!
With all the baits available on the market, it can be overwhelming!

For skunk control, I always turn to Little Debbie snack cakes to bring in the stinkers. A good friend of mine who’s also in the wildlife control business swears by KFC fried chicken, while yet another swears by marshmallows and peanuts. The ultimate truth is that I’ve caught skunks on just about everything from bacon grease to sardines – so is there really one bait that’s superior to another, or is it all up to an equally important component of trapping - presentation?

My father, for example, is an avid bass fisherman; and from a young age I was brought up on the skills of making the rod tip bend. It didn’t matter how full his tackle box was, if he found a new funky looking lure that he hadn’t seen before, he had to have it in his arsenal. His justification for purchasing more and more amounted to presentation. His theory was that the funkier, odder, or crazy colored a lure was, the more curiosity it would evoke in the fish and trigger an inquisitive bite. Most of your old-time anglers of the past would use traditional colors for their lures – something that mimicked the native bait fish and food sources found in the water body you were fishing. Those old-timers must have been rolling in their graves to see the fishing lure market come out with all sorts of rainbow, sherbet-orange and chartreuse colored lures that have now flooded the markets after their time. Of course my father had plenty of the “traditional” lures in his box, but he sure put up his fair share of Lunkers on those funky-looking lures as well.

So the question remains – is there really a definite preference that makes one type of bait more attractive and interesting over another? In the case of raccoons and skunks, I’m not totally convinced there is. Search your online trapping message boards and you’ll find hoards of trappers who swear their “raccoon mix” is the best. One trapper says they catch the most raccoons on a mix of peanut butter, marshmallows and crushed-up cereal, while another swears sardines, dog food, and apples mixed in a blender is the only way to go. Once more another says they only catch their raccoons on a ball of bacon grease. I’ve personally caught raccoons well off the beaten path on everything from stale Twinkies to beaver tails – and it’s a pretty safe bet that for every coon I trapped, I likely missed one who snubbed their nose at my set to what was presented. Therein lies the true beauty of modern trapping – what works for another trapper may not necessarily be what works for you, and the endless amount of experimentation is what quells the ever-growing curiosity of the trapper.

The author with a late-December raccoon.
The author with a late-December raccoon.

While bait choices are fairly loose when it comes to trapping, there are some key criteria each bait application should meet in order to be successful.

First and foremost, the bait you use should generate interest. A great “call/curiosity lure” can be used to draw the animal into your set area, but rarely will the set be effective unless the animal fully commits to the substance that lies just beyond the trap you hope to catch them with. Good baits should naturally funnel an animal, and create a focal point to draw an animal’s gaze and drive.

Second, your bait should motivate. The animal must be motivated – and if they aren’t motivated to feed or further inspect your bait, there’s no reason for them to slow down the foraging mission they are currently on. Think about the newspaper rack at your local general store; the biggest headline and boldest print usually gets your attention first, and depending on what it says will entice you to read further. In a forest full of distractions and food sources, your presentation must be worth the effort to your target animal. This is easier with opportunistic foragers like raccoons and skunks who’ll pretty much feed on what’s available, but for more finicky critters such as mink, the selection of bait can mean all the difference. In my experience, mink tend to gravitate more towards fresh fare – which means I typically use fresh fish or a recently trapped muskrat carcass to generate interest and maintain motivation. My bait for mink are changed every few weeks depending on temperature, to ensure I am competing with the local water body filled with fresh living fish, crawdads and frogs. The same rules to that of a raccoon certainly wouldn’t usually apply – unless anyone out there can convince me they’ve caught mink on Cheese Doodles or other “processed junk foods”.

Your bait choice should also focus on selectivity. What you are intending to trap typically dictates what kind of bait you’ll utilize, but your choice of bait could also help reduce interest from the critters you’re not intending to catch. This idea comes into play more so in urban areas where domesticated pets may roam. Choosing sweet bait, such as marshmallows, will attract skunks and raccoons while reducing interest from domestic cats, which are more interested in fishy baits and odors. Bait placement and choice may also inhibit interest from raptors and birds of prey that may be interested in meat-based baits.

Lastly, the end goal of baiting is to convince your target animal that the reward outweighs the risk taken. In a world full of pitfalls, where every step or choice could be your last, survival instincts run deep with furbearers, and your selection of bait may be the convincing argument driving an animal to commit to working your set.

With all these points in mind, I still find myself gravitating back to the Wildlife Society article referenced earlier. Raccoons are synonymous with water sources – whether it be creeks, lakes, streams, swamps, ponds, or even man-made outflows, some of the best ‘coon trapping I’ve come across was near or around water bodies. Is the science behind the above stated “bait study” proof positive that an entire species gravitates towards one preferred food source over another? Are the findings of this study pointing to proof of some evolutionary trait in the raccoon species that simply can’t be ignored no matter how far they drift from water and into urban sprawl? Or is it simply suggesting that raccoons are an opportunistic feeder, taking full advantage of whatever tastes and smells good? Am I just critically over thinking the idea of bait attraction? While I tend to lean towards scientific study and evidence for rationale, I’m afraid Shylo Johnson’s baiting study raised more questions than answers.

While I dive deeper into the complex matrix of bait presentation and preference for a follow-up article, feel free to share your favorite bait mixes for furbearers in the comment section below. Also, join the discussion on the Live Free And Trap Facebook page.

By jeff, Mar 24 2017 03:44AM

On March 28th 2017 (this coming Tuesday), the NH House Fish & Game Committee will be hearing public testimony on Senate Bill 48. The text of the bill can be read by clicking HERE, but to summarize, SB48 seeks to establish a “study committee” to begin looking into overhauling the management and policy making structure of NH Fish & Game (NHFG). This includes the removal of the Fish & Game Commission – a board of individuals serving as “checks and balances” for hunting, fishing, and trapping laws. You can read my previous synopsis on Senate Bill 48 HERE.

The bill is being driven by a coalition group, whose members have a history of anti-hunting ideology.

This “coalition” developed pie charts and supposed “breakdowns” of NH Fish & Game’s funding which appears completely inaccurate. This misleading rhetoric is the soapbox for which this group is now claiming demonstrates hunting and fishing in NH as “niche” activities, incapable of funding the department. You can view their information HERE.

I’ve been really trying to pick through this Coalition's logic for the figures they’re coming up with. Their whole accounting pie chart is about as identifiable as parts of a frog in a blender - all whipped up so that no one can really make any sense of it whatsoever. But, hey - It comes with a really cool official looking bibliography.

They completely omit Pittman-Roberts wildlife restoration, and Dingell-Johnson sport fisheries restoration funding - Based upon (according to their sources) the incredulous accounting of an anti-hunting group, "Nevadans for Responsible Wildlife Management" (NRWM), as well as a 2011 "Boating Survey" which relies on a “3% return” of ALL 118 million households in the USA answering to the question, "Did anyone in your household fish from a boat last year?" 16% said YES, which seems to lead this “genius synopsis” to the conclusion that 84% of Dingell-Johnson funds somehow don't apply to "fishing" - so it isn't counted in their math.

It also suggests "handgun" taxes don't count either. (I assume because no one at PETA hunts with a handgun) Which reduces the supposedly "ACTUAL" Federal appropriation from 33% to only 8%.

Senate Bill 48’s text also references a performance audit of Fish & Game from 2007, which concludes that only 16 percent of NH residents hunt or fish, and that 65 percent enjoy “watching” wildlife.

Let it be known - as is, the wildlife that “all residents” enjoy is currently funded by the 16 percent (the sportsmen). Of Fish & Game funding, license fees and federal excise tax on sporting goods make up 66 percent of the "total" budget, and more than cover the associated costs of managing “Fish” and “Game”. It should be noted ATV and snowmobile registrations pay more than their fair share as well. Historically, the sportsmen of NH have paid the entire expense of operating NHF&G. Of the current 29 million dollar budget, the State general fund chips in a paltry 600,000 dollars. NH sportsmen are paying 66% of the entire department, and all it's programs, above and beyond that which covers the cost of their vested interest – the “fish” and “game”.

To back all this up, during the Senate hearing of SB48, NHFG Director Glen Normandeau was heard testifying that NH Sportsmen (hunters, anglers, trappers) fund two-thirds of the Department. It should also be noted that at no time, has any of the small amount of “general funds” (which supporters of SB48 claim to be grounds for overhauling) EVER been attributed to game management. This funding still falls completely on the shoulders of NH's sportsmen.

If the supporters of SB48 want to make this a numbers game, we can certainly go there. While educating legislators and others about the three-ring-circus that has become SB48, it's important to keep the above-mentioned points in mind. The house of cards these groups are stacking for the public and politicians doesn't really hold any merit under the magnifying glass, and everyone needs to be made aware of it. Furthermore, it begs the question, with regard to the to-be-determined members of SB48’s “study committee”, do we really want folks who can't even get their facts straight in charge of wildlife management decisions in the future?

Senate Bill 48 also suffers from poor writing and drafting, and does not define in detail many of the requirements and tasks for the potential committee. This lack of definition leaves the bill open to interpretation based on whoever reads it – thus opening the door for unintended consequences.

You are encouraged to contact the members of the NH Fish and Game House Committee (found HERE) and inform them that Senate Bill 48 reeks of shenanigans. Those who’ve been paying the bulk of wildlife conservation and management seem to be getting the short end of the stick on this one. You are also encouraged to attend the hearing on March 28th – located in rooms 305-307 in the Legislative Office Building (just West and across the street from the gold dome State House in Concord, NH). If you can’t attend, please be sure to reach out to the House Committee members AS WELL as your local representatives (whom can be found HERE) and tell them you oppose Senate Bill 48. If using email, use the subject line “Relative to Senate Bill 48”.

By jeff, Jan 31 2017 08:08PM

These truly are troubling times in the ‘shire for Granite State outdoorsmen.

As if anti-trapping house bills weren’t enough for 2017, a new legislative bill has been introduced into the New Hampshire Senate. Senate Bill 48 seeks to start the process of making drastic changes to our Fish and Game Department, and has received immense praise from animal rights groups and several infamous special-interest groups including The Humane Society of The United States.

Senate Bill 48 seeks to put a legislative study committee together, with the desire to further entertain the idea of making drastic (and in my opinion, unnecessary) changes to the NH Fish and Game Commission; which currently assists in overseeing rules and regulations on hunting, fishing, and trapping.

You can read the text of SB48 by clicking here.

To add a layer of confusion to the bill’s introduction, the legislative sponsors of SB48 are well established and well respected members of the senate; including the primary sponsor Jeb Bradley. I fear there may be unintended consequences with regard to the Fish and Game Department's wildlife management protocols if we begin to travel down the bumpy road Senate Bill 48 is heading; in particular, establishing the F&G Commission as "advisory only". With deep and sincere respect to the sponsors of SB48, the introduction of this bill is both in poor timing and poor taste with regard to Nationally recognized wildlife management standards.

What’s all the fuss about?

To understand why there is so much concern over SB48, you must first understand how the NH Fish and Game Commission currently operates. Essentially, the Commission is put in place to set general policies for the department, including the areas of conservation and management of wildlife populations. The department’s Executive Director currently also serves as the chief administrator of the commission, and is also given the authority to adopt and enforce rules for control, management, restoration, conservation, and regulation of the wildlife resources of the state. You can read the full language of duties of the Commission and Director by clicking here. One commissioner is selected from each of the state’s counties. One of the required stipulations for being eligible for a seat on the commission is to be an active outdoorsman holding a resident fishing, hunting, or trapping license in at least 5 of the 10 years prior to appointment.

I am a firm believer that these stipulations were put in place by the creators of NH TITLE XVIII Chapter 206 to ensure that wildlife and game species were managed in a proactive and sensible manner. I personally believe they also established these requirements to ensure that NH citizens would always have a natural-born right to live off the land and harvest our natural resources in a regulated and responsible form.

With all of this in mind, it isn’t very hard to imagine why anti-hunting groups would be foaming at the mouth to see these requirements dissolved and removed from the management playbook. This is exactly what SB48 intends to set in motion – the gutting of our Fish and Game Department’s decision making, while also castrating the state’s hunters, anglers, and trappers.

Information to share with your NH Legislaitors
Information to share with your NH Legislaitors

Strategic planning and cherry-picked science.

It’s quite ingenious when you really think about it; special interest groups have circled the wagons, tested the fence for weaknesses, and come up with the perfect formula to ensure it’s “their way, or no way”. Step one – start up the cause and establish “coalitions”, “leagues” and “society” groups to solicit donations and funding. Step two – cherry-pick scientific data and regurgitate it in a way that suits a biased narrative, omitting any findings that don’t fit the desired mold. Step three – convince a small, yet important chunk of the public to rebel against the governing bodies in charge of wildlife management policies. Step four – convince the politicians and legislators that this is for the “greater-good” and present the illusion that the public is on their side. Step five – go for the gonads and discredit the individuals in charge of said management practices; thus ensuring that your views are force-fed down the throats of the citizens.

One of the driving forces behind this bill, a “Wildlife Coalition” group, has issued public statements stating they are not an anti-hunting organization. However their actions and wording in their own mission statement speaks volumes, and hints at their motives to silence the modern outdoorsman’s voice in regard to wildlife conservation. This “Coalition” states they have formed with the intent to “save” the Fish and Game Department, with a “for your own good” mentality that comes off more condescending than comforting to the average outdoorsman or outdoorswoman.

Based on their own admissions and the individuals they are affiliated with, it’s painfully clear this “coalition” seeks to drive a wedge between activities like hunting, trapping and fishing, and the general idea of conservation. This is a deceitful and repulsive attempt to suggest that hunting and fishing activities have no merit in today’s conservation models – when in reality hunting, trapping and fishing activities are the exact definition of the Teddy Roosevelt-era mindset of conservation values. Living off the land through rifle, steel trap, or fishing line are the kind of activities that make conservation so successful, as these purveyors of the land (in the form of hunting, fishing, and trapping) have the most to lose through unregulated harvests.

The driving forces behind SB48 are the same groups that chant and tout unconfirmed studies suggesting wild predators and nature can “sort itself out” with no human management. These insane ideas may hold water if human populations were not saturating the landscape; but with mankind growing bigger and bigger every day it is up to us to properly study our wildlife populations to reduce crashes in specific species demographics. I have yet to find any unbiased research that backs the claims that the North American Model of Conservation is somehow antiquated. What I have found, however, is data that has been skewed and twisted to fit a specific narrative or end goal for these extremist groups; funding and money usually lie at the end of these goals, sadly.

Public Opinion vs Public Knowledge.

Some have argued that the current Commission is somehow “reckless” and does not take public outcry into account on decision making. I would call on anyone to point out one instance where the current makeup of our Fish and Game Commission has attributed to the deficit of wildlife populations. At no point in my lifetime has any decision made by the Commission negatively impacted NH’s wildlife populations as a whole. On the contrary, game species populations have flourished. When bobcat populations began to swell unregulated last year, the Commission implemented science-backed management procedures to achieve more data collection; a decision that the newly formed “Wildlife Coalition” cites as the driving force behind their crusade to eviscerate the Department. Newsflash for this “coalition” – bobcats taking naps under suburban birdfeeders is not a characteristic of healthy bobcat behavior, and signals a swell in carrying capacity. It doesn’t take a biology degree to understand a need for management on the natural landscape, which is yet another reason why folks with a hunting background have a hand in decision making. Despite the common-sense logic behind this decision, a small percentage of the public made a lot of noise – thus forcing the Department to withdraw its bobcat season proposal. Not all was lost, as I now charge a high premium as a wildlife control operator to taxi caged nuisance bobcats from one end of the state to the other.

More than a “boys club”.

The Fish and Game Commission is not just a “boys club” pandering to the hook and bullet crowd, as the supporters of SB48 would have you believe. There are plenty of instances where the state’s sportsmen and the Commission haven’t seen eye-to-eye. Additionally, members of the current Commission are not solely hunting-oriented, as they belong to many other facets of conservation including Forestry, land management, and an array of non-hunting oriented conservation organizations. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t feel having a license and experience in the activities you are overseeing is a negative.

Most importantly, the Commission serves as a “checks and balances” system to ensure that wrongful public perception and non-scientific based rhetoric doesn’t clout the wildlife management process. Without a Commission, I fear modern science-based management decisions, which include hunting, fishing and trapping harvest would be swallowed up in the circus sideshow that is modern public opinion. As an avid outdoorsman, I have faced my fair share of harassment and unwarranted attacks from other members of the public who are clearly misinformed and/or extremely narrow-minded about how hunting and trapping practices are carried out on today’s landscape. Many of these attacks have come to me in the midst of doing immense good for conservation as a whole. More to the point, a quick jaunt around the comment section of the Fish and Game Department’s social media pages and one can get a pretty accurate example of why a checks and balances system for hunting activities is needed to ensure proper, non-biased wildlife population management is implemented. Do you really want someone who finds hunting to be a vile activity in charge of determining how many turkeys should be harvested next season to ensure healthy population demographics?

When referring to the current Commission make up, some folks have questioned whether the fox should be in charge of guarding the hen house. Absolutely, provided that fox understands that he can’t eat the whole coop at once, and must conserve the flock for himself and all his woodland chicken-eating neighbors for generations to come. On the contrary, if the chicken was in charge of guarding the flock, something tells me we would have way more chickens than there would be feed to go around.

One thing I didn’t hear at the public hearing of SB48 was the fact that Commission decisions are currently made based on advisement of state biologists and the most up to date, unbiased management guidelines. This includes up-to-date science as well as examples from the nation’s other state game agencies, USFWS and the USDA among countless other resources. It should also be noted that the Commission’s meetings are currently public, and encourage public input. Supporters of SB48 suggest that this is not good enough, and “non-consumptive” members of the public must have the overall say since hunting participation has dropped in recent years.

While “wildlife watching” and other non-consumptive outdoor activities have surpassed hunting and fishing activities among NH’s demographic, I will go out on a limb with concrete certainty that these “wildlife watching” activities would cease to be enjoyable without the activities and funds from sportsmen playing a part in keeping our wildlife abundant, healthy, and diverse. The public is fully permitted to enjoy “wildlife watching”, and is fully permitted to give input during the Fish and Game Department’s hearings on rule making or changes. So this begs the age old question – if it isn’t broke, why are we throwing it in the dustbin?

A Numbers Game.

Some of the supporters behind the upbringing of SB48 suggest that budget shortfalls within the Fish and Game Department are reason enough to bring about these changes. There is no doubt the Department is facing budget shortfalls, however it should be pointed out these budget issues have very little to do with how the Commission manages fish and game laws. Perhaps if our Fish and Game Department spent more time managing wildlife and habitat instead of being tasked with dragging lost tourists off mountaintops, they would have fewer budget issues.

Instead of throwing the red herring of budgets into the debate, it would serve the powers that be to issue a committee to study moving search and rescue operations out of our game management department, freeing sportsmen’s dollars for what they were intended for. Members of some animal rights organizations have also contested that public general funds have been used to help keep the Fish and Game department afloat, and therefore entitles them to a seat at the Commission’s table. It should be noted that $600,000 in General Fund money was sent to the Fish and Game department a few years ago to help fund search and rescue and to prevent staff lay offs. What hasn’t been mentioned was the $500,000 taken from the department a year earlier to balance the governor’s budget – money that could have been federally matched (through taxes on hunting and fishing equipment) for $2,000,000 for public access use. If you really want to talk numbers, New Hampshire's Fish and Game license buyer (the sportsmen) pays almost $5,400,000 per year for the Fish and Game Department’s share of state required retirement and health benefits costs. New license fees in 2016 have brought roughly $1,001,000.00 into the Department for additional funding. I’m having a hard time finding how much the animal rights and special interest groups have contributed.

Lack of foresight.

Whether to address budget shortfalls or have a non-wildlife decision maker thrown into the mix of the Department, eviscerating NH’s Fish and Game Commission is not the answer to dealing with these hypothetical concerns. I am a firm believer that this bill is the first step toward changing New Hampshire’s Fish and Game makeup for the worst. By overthrowing the current standards put in place (and I assure you, this is in fact the first step to overthrowing), tried and true methods of wildlife management will suffer – and outdoorspeople aside, our state’s wildlife will be the group who ultimately pays the price of this endeavor.

While no harm ever came of studies and taking a “second look” at a subject, Senate Bill 48 and the outside driving forces behind it leave all too much to be implied, and opens a Pandora’s box of unintended adverse effects. In my opinion, and the opinion of the majority of concerned citizens, this bill presents the beginning of an unprovoked attack on our outdoor rights, and our Fish and Game Department’s currently successful tasks of properly and efficiently managing NH’s game species.

A wave of anti-hunting legislation in 2017.

While Senate bill 48 seeks to establish a committee to further study the possibility of making these changes to the Commission, a bill in the house, titled House Bill 467 seeks to make some of these changes right now. My sources indicate that HB467 has made it's way through the House Fish and Game Committee, and has been voted "inexpedient to legislate". According to my sources, our odds are good that this bill will be killed, but we should continue to monitor it's progress. You can read the text of both bills by clicking on them here: SB48 and HB467. Several other restrictive bills made their way through the Legislative Service Request phase this year, including a bill to restrict beaver trapping. These bills have since been withdrawn or killed.

What the future could look like.

This isn’t a debate about a round of golf. While the term “sportsmen” would imply hunting and trapping on the modern landscape is strictly for leisure, there’s a magnitude of different facets that are plugged into modern outdoor sporting activities. Biology, data collection, population monitoring; the list goes on and on. Hunting and trapping ensures there is a biological “health to the herd” and early detection for any potentially disastrous effects to our wildlife – the eyes and ears of conservation. Imagine a time in New Hampshire’s future where very important game management decisions are being cast by individuals who have never casted a line, pulled a bow string, or laid steel traps in the soil. The health of today’s wildlife species are a direct result of regulated hunting and trapping activities from the past – are we willing to throw that all away for political correctness? Additionally, should our fish and game policy makers be punished for holding a hunting, fishing or trapping license?

It would be in your best interest to research the past year’s current events – both Nationwide, and here in The Granite State. I’m talking about castrating bucks to put an end to deer hunting, feeding beavers birth control to eradicate trapping, and sending death threats to your neighbor because he shot a lion to ensure the safety of an African village. I can see the future playing out as if I’m some kind of sideshow fortuneteller with a murky crystal ball; and NH Senate Bill 48 has all the right language to set the stage for total destruction of our state’s wildlife populations and game management procedures.

I implore anyone reading this article to contact your local House and Senate representatives and let them know you oppose Senate Bill 48. To find your representatives, or the representatives of this bill, click HERE. Help spread the word to your outdoor and conservation-minded friends and family and have them do the same. Utilize some of the information I have made available in this article, and make as much noise as you possibly can regarding the concerning implications of this legislation. Contact your reps and continue to contact them throughout the life of this bill in the House and Senate. Most importantly, remind your House and Senate members that sportsmen and sportswomen vote too.

By jeff, Jan 5 2017 05:53AM

UPDATE (1-13-17): I have recieved word that the animal rights group behind LSR-2017-0288 have annouced their decision to withdraw the proposed bill - citing lack of public support. I would like to think the lack of public support is less about support for beavers and their role in the ecosystem, and more about a lack of support for drastically, and unnecessarily, shrinking New Hampshire's wildlife management toolbox. I have yet to fully confirm the withdrawl, but it would appear the Legislative Service Request has since been removed from NH's government website.

The withdrawl of this bill is a prime example of what happens when folks band together, and let their voices be heard! There were many individuals and organizations who saw this proposal for what it was, but most importantly, it was a grassroots effort by YOU - the NH citizen, contacting legislaitors and making the "powers that be" fully aware that this was a very unfavorable and reckless amendment for New Hampshire's beaver populations. I would like to stress again that the argument here is NOT whether folks feel the beaver is an integral, keystone species and benefit to the ecosytem; but rather a popular disdain for removing regulated fur trapping from the modern wildlife management playbook - Special Thanks to all who made the efforts to make your voices heard - you are the TRUE ally to New Hampshire's common-sense conservation efforts!

As expected, New Hampshire citizens will be facing another wave of anti-trapping legislation in 2017. In particular, one current Legislation Service request (a bill before it becomes a bill) known as LSR- 2017-0288.

The NH legislative session beginning in January 2017 is expected to see the introduction of revisions to a "Beaver Protection Bill", which will be heard in the Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee. The most current text of the bill appears to make extreme restrictive changes to the current Beaver RSA, with the current language changed to the following: Click here to view the changes proposed in BOLD.

The bill proposal attempts to remove beaver trapping from the wildlife management equation by forcing all New Hampshire residents, business owners and municipalities to implement costly beaver “flow devices” at the entrance of dams where flooding is occurring. Nowhere in the bill proposal does it exempt recreational trapping seasons, which suggests that, not only are you forced into a costly tap dance with beaver flow pipes in a damage control situation, but you will no longer be allowed to lawfully harvest beavers for their naturally warm and waterproof fur, or edible (and might I add tasty) meat – or hire a free, locally licensed beaver trapper to do so. Some lawmakers and supporters of the bill have tried to pass this off as a "Wildlife Control" related issue, stating that it is not an anti-trapping bill. I'll reiterate that its painfully clear from reading the current proposal, that there is no language in the proposed bill which differentiates nuisance beaver “control work” from regular legal fur trapping seasons – this screams “anti-trapping bill” if I ever did see one. I think someone’s pants are on fire!

This particular bill proposal has so many theoretical holes and downright lunacy, that I honestly thought it was a joke the first time I read through it. It is painfully clear that whomever drafted and wrote up this bill has no wildlife management knowledge, nor do they fully understand the characteristics of the North American Beaver as a wild species on today’s landscape with humans. In a recent article by NH newspaper The Union Leader (click to view the article), Rep. Carolyn Matthews (R-Raymond) who is sponsoring the bill, has stated that a local Animal Rights organization is responsible for the bill’s proposal. She goes on to state that the bill proposal seeks to make beaver trapping “a solution of last resort”; which if we’re being honest here is just code-slang for “screw your outdoor heritage and natural-born right to live off the land and utilize a natural, renewable resource”.

Been down this road before.

New England Trappers have been down this road many times before. One simply has to look at the infamous Chelmsford, Massachusetts example to get a taste of how poorly anti-trapping legislation effects society and wildlife collectively. After passing anti-beaver trapping legislation, the state's beaver issues and complaints exploded. Massachusetts has since reinstated lethal beaver trapping on a permit basis. Even with these points in play, Granite Stators yet again seem to find ourselves encompassed in repetitive, restrictive legislation that has (in recent years) begun to border on outright harassment. This time, instead of looking at rational, sound conservation management of bobcats, we are now fighting to hang on to the health of a great keystone furbearer species – the beaver.

A petition has been started via to place pressure on legislators. The petition utilizes sweeping generalizations and information that appears to be peeled straight from a PETA recruitment video. The information on their petition site seems to extremely contradict itself as well – suggesting that trapping somehow negatively impacts the beaver population, while in the next sentence stating that trapping doesn’t “kill all the beavers and isn’t a long-term solution”. So which is it? Do trappers “kill all the beaver”, or is the beaver population doing so well that “trapping doesn’t work to control them”? The petition (at the time of this article being written) features just over 200 signatures – with the bulk of signatures coming from places like The United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Florida, and places that are very far away from New Hampshire itself. Nothing says “grass-roots New Hampshire” quite like Europe – right?

All comedy aside, it is very important for both sides of this argument to really understand and come to terms with something; no fur trapper wishes to inflict negative impacts to our beaver population as a whole, nor do we want to see ecosystems disrupted. There is no argument from either side that beavers are beneficial to the environment, and all the fear-mongering and wailing about how “good” beavers are isn’t going to change that irrefutable fact. Let me be perfectly clear, as a fur trapper myself, I am one hundred percent aware of how beneficial beavers are. I also understand how modern wildlife management and sound science works - you can hunt and trap furbearer populations under strict regulations and continue to see their populations, and natural habitat flourish. Anyone who passed high school biology should be able to understand concepts like carrying capacity, disease contraction, and animal predation.

Take Action!

So what can you do to stop the madness? For one, you can educate your neighbors and family about the benefits consumptive practices like trapping present for wildlife species (as a whole). If you are a local trapper, make your landowners aware that there is legislation currently moving through the state house that seeks to greatly restrict the activities that take place on their private property. If you are in the Wildlife Control Industry – let your beaver customers know their bill for cost of beaver control will go up two-three figures if this bill proposal is passed. Politely speak up for science-based management like hunting and trapping on social media and online comment sections, and/or utilize the “Letter to the Editor” section of local newspapers.

Any and all New Hampshire residents are encouraged to contact their local legislative representatives. To find out who your representatives are for your area, click HERE. I’m not talking about sending a quick email or handwritten letter; I’m talking about blowing up their phones and speaking with them directly – Government is unfortunately not for all, it goes to those who show up, so put your representatives to work by telling them by phone or face to face exactly how you feel about having your natural rights constricted to sudden death. Call them now – and then call them again and follow-up in two-three months. This is what your legislative representatives signed up for – they want to hear from YOU. If you refuse to speak up for your outdoor rights, you might as well tear up your hunting/trapping licenses and sit on the sidelines.

Get the facts.

Some key points to keep in mind when speaking with legislators, colleagues, or members of the public:

- New Hampshire’s beaver population is currently healthy and thriving.

- No trapper wishes to negatively impact NH’s beaver populations as a whole – which is why support for proper education on the subject of trapping is encouraged.

- The beaver population has remained healthy, and even increased over decades with trapping activities in place.

- Beaver “bafflers” and other “flow devices” are not a cure-all for beaver control. (Massachusetts figured this out the hard way)

- These “flow devices” are extremely costly, and require routine maintenance to properly maintain.

- This bill proposal does not address other beaver damage situations, such as destruction to trees, water contamination through beaver waste - Giardiasis (known as beaver fever), and proper beaver population monitoring.

- This bill seeks to greatly restrict how private landowners can handle nuisance wildlife issues on their own property.

- As current laws stand, landowners and municipalities can have beaver conflict issues resolved (in many cases) at not cost, due to current recreational trapping seasons – or utilize these “flow devices” if they so choose.

- Trappers do not simply trap beaver for “nuisance” issues. The animal’s pelt, glands, and edible meat has an endless array of viable uses to mankind.

- Regulated trapping PROMOTES healthy ecosystem growth and assists our state biologists with hands-on data collection.

- The activities of regulated beaver trapping is also utilized as an early warning sign for biologists and state agencies to determine beaver species health in specific locations – something that can’t be obtained from a “flow device”, or through a camera lens.

As we wait for this proposal to become an actual bill, please do what you can to spread the word. I will update and edit this article, as information becomes updated and/or known. Happy Trappin’

By jeff, Dec 1 2016 03:46AM

Today marks one month into the 2016 fall/winter fur-trapping season here in New Hampshire – I’ll admit I’m feeling just about every bit of it. The yearly cycle seems to continually repeat itself; just as trapping season ends you feel remorse and reflect on how short it was. Around mid-August you’re foaming at the mouth to get out into the backcountry while prepping equipment and scouting property. By late September you’re realizing how much you forgot to prep and it’s a mad dash through October to get the fur shed cleared of summer junk, get permits signed and lay traps out on the ‘line. Opening day I typically take the entire day to roam the land and make quality trap sets. That first night I’m always about as gitty as a youngster on Christmas Eve wondering what will await me in the traps the next morning. Typically by the third week of November I start crying “uncle” as the beavers creep into double-digit tallies and each one seems to weigh slightly more than the last. It’s a good problem to have – and I am forever grateful to the natural world for the experience and every furbearing creature that passes through the fur shed doors.

This season I finally caved and traded in the backpack for a new jet sled to transport those “blanket beavers” from the stream bed to the tailgate – it’s the best investment I’ve made since putting a hand-me-down utility cap on the pickup truck some years back. A dozen beaver have been hauled from multiple brooks around my local haunts so far – not too shabby for an expected slow beaver season. Every year I start riddling myself with “doom and gloom” about the lack of beaver sign on my regular trapline; and every year I crack a smile and envision the “I told you so” glare from my landowners when they tell me the beaver are plentiful. A handful of otter, half dozen muskrats and a full-moon-night coon have also made their way to the skinning table next to the beavers, with about a quarter of that tally actually making it to the stretchers. The majority has been skinned, folded skin-side in, and stored in the deep freeze for later in the season when things slow down and more attention can be given to proper fur processing. The beaver I pull out of this particular stretch of brook must be travelers – or heavily territorial, as many are scarred up from fighting each other to the point where a conservative draw with the fleshing knife makes the pelts look like they were skinned out with a weed-whacker. I sense I’ll be honing my sewing skills when the snow gets deep, as beaver pelts loaded with holes don’t make for favorable throw blankets and mittens!

A beaver humanely caught in a Conibear-style trap.
A beaver humanely caught in a Conibear-style trap.

I networked extensively this past summer and managed to befriend some truly genuine and friendly folks. One fellow in particular took quite an interest to the idea of fur trapping, and I managed to get an extra pair of hands sporadically on the ‘line this season in trade for me divulging some of my trapping skills. He’s a very humble, fellow “woodbooger” who’s going to make a fine trapper when he’s ready. I’ll be shifting from my valley trapline over to a newly acquired 900 acres up in the mountains this weekend – so I’ll certainly put him to work in this new “playground”. I’ve had requests from a few other folks here visiting the site asking to come along on my ‘line – hopefully we’ll squeeze them in. For years the trapper was envisioned as a solitary fixture in the backwoods. While I usually prefer it that way, there’s nothing more valuable than introducing someone to trapping; unless of course you also fully convert them – that’s when you really hit pay dirt!

This new property in the mountains holds a chain of several-acre ponds; each peppered with an array of beaver huts, hard-packed otter runways and dense patches of thick hemlocks woven into the mountainsides – a true trapper’s paradise if I ever did see one. I have a generous landowner and kind-hearted circle of friends to thank for the opportunity to traverse this untouched wilderness. Its natural places like this that leave me begging for the day when I’m finally retired and able to devote my undivided attention to fully explore – all in due time I suspect. For now I’ll cover what I can and soak up the scenery as I partake in hands-on conservation activities.

Meanwhile back in society it seems as though we’ve survived another presidential election - well, some of us have at least. While we’re all constantly inundated with emotional social media banter and the endless squawking of televised talking heads, some of us across the country remain vigilant with regard to constant and strategic attacks on hunting and trapping rights. Here in New Hampshire my constituents and I are monitoring local attacks from several different fronts. As another legislation cycle ramps up, its important to keep an eye on your local Legislative Service Requests and get the ball rolling early about how to discuss, defend, and combat any legislation which may seek to restrict your natural-born rights to managing our renewable natural resources. Burying our head in the sand or turning a blind eye will only end up harming us and our activities in the long run. The Northeast states have collectively seen a recent surge in attacks on hunting and trapping, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Whether through legislation, newly formed donation-hungry “coalitions” or poisoning the public with fear-fueled half-truth rhetoric – hunters and trappers need to be attentive as we flow into the New Year. The last year of networking has seen many hard-fought battles, but it has also presented a gracious opportunity and evoked a positive attitude towards the unity of hunters, trappers, and other fine representatives of wildlife conservation. Let it be known to anyone who wishes to wrongfully restrict or eliminate our way of life – we are watching, we are fully aware, and these unnecessary attacks have caused a snowball effect within our seemingly unorganized community of outdoorsmen and women; a snowball effect that only continues to grow and gain more followers as common-sense thinkers become fed-up with the “new” status-quo.

With that, I wish only the best for my fellow trapping brothers and sisters across North America this season. Be safe, be happy, and support one another in our wild lands. May your fur sheds be full, and may our furbearer populations continue to flourish. New content is coming to the site in the coming months – so stay tuned to the Live Free And Trap website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for the latest. I’ll be doing my part with public outreach in the near future – so if you’re local to the Northeast and see me in passing, don’t be a stranger! Good luck out there!

Nice bounty of New Hampshire beaver after first day of trap checks!
Nice bounty of New Hampshire beaver after first day of trap checks!

RSS Feed

Web feed

social_07 social_05 social_03
instagram-48 LFAT2016logo6BANNERred LFAT2016logo6BEAVERred