Trapping: A dying tradition

Hunting is an important tradition in the state of Vermont. Trapping animals is one way of hunting and using the animals for food, hides, fertilization, and to regulate the population. The prices in fur dropping every year isn’t helping keep the tradition alive.  

image02Furbearers are animals trapped for their commercial fur.  Selling fur has different quality levels, it’s all based on color, size, texture, density, and damage.

Trapping seasons are mostly during winter so the pelts (skin of an animal with fur) are thicker which makes for greater warmth. During summer trapping, pelts are lighter and thinner.

There are many different types of trap: conibears, footholds, leg holds padded and unpadded, and snare traps. Those are four legal types of traps.

Douglas B Jones of Montpelier, 82, has been trapping for 70 plus years now.image00

“I am still using traps I bought in the 1960’s even though there has been a lot of change in them since then. I can’t see any improvements because if you are going to improve the trapping you have to improve the way it’s done not the trap itself,” Jones said.

When a trapper places a trap there are many different ways to decide where to place them.

Jake Austin, senior at U-32, said, “there are always animal runways that you can follow to find trapping spots.”

Trapping has lost a lot of fans because there isn’t as much money in pelts as there used to be, but some people still trap as a hobby because it is what they enjoy doing.

“In the last couple years the fur market has gone downhill. You can’t get anything for the fur now,” Jones said.

According to the Worcester Telegram, Massachusetts “There is much inventory left in China and Russia because both countries – and Europe – experienced a relatively mild winter last winter that suppressed fur coat sales.”

Another source, Trapping Today says, “The greatest factor seems to be Russia:…” said. Russia is a huge consumer of U.S. fur, mostly raccoon pelts.

Trapping is still ongoing even with the drops in the prices of fur simply because of happiness and enjoyment people get out of it.

Trapping also is slipping away like other old Vermont traditions including hunting. In past years the number of licences purchased have dropped.

In 2013 WCAX reported that “The number of out of state hunters has decreased by nearly 50 percent — a lot of bucks the Fish and Wildlife Department aren’t seeing.”

image01“When I was nine years old we moved up the road and hanging in that barn there was three traps and in one of the old closets there was a fish and game magazine, I used the magazine to see how to use the traps down in the river.” Jones said.

Trapping is a family event. “My dad taught me how to trap,”  Austin said. But not many families are holding on to the tradition.  

One thought on “Trapping: A dying tradition”

  1. I love reading about traditional skills that are still being practiced today. In my 20s I lived in Westford and got to know a trapper there. I interviewed him for a paper I wrote for my UVM folklore class. Afterwards he trapped a beaver whose damn was creating flooding in my yard and basement. He dressed out the beaver, removing certain glands and a friend of mine cooked it. I had been a vegetarian for 9 years but decided to eat the beaver meat. It tasted like steak!

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