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DNR Launches New Trapper Education Program
October 18, 2009
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with state trapping organizations, is developing a trapper education program that will help individuals acquire the knowledge and skills they need to become successful, responsible trappers.
"We are very excited about Michigan's new trapper education program," said DNR Director Rebecca Humphries. "This program will educate our youth and other interested individuals about one of the oldest wildlife management tools -- trapping -- and we hope it also will recruit new trappers into this sport."
One component of the program is an online trapper education student manual.
The basic content for the manual, which is about 140 pages, was developed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, who, in turn, provided it to state agencies for state-specific modifications and incorporation into respective state trapper education programs. The manual has been customized to reflect Michigan conditions and regulations.
DNR Wildlife Division personnel and members of the Michigan Trappers Association spearheaded the effort to review and adapt the manual to Michigan trappers. The MTA also was helpful in coordinating reviews by members of other trapping organizations in Michigan to assist with the development of the final content.
"It's great to see how trapping has evolved since I started in 1973," said John Caretti, MTA vice president and trapper education chairman. "When I started, information was at a premium. Videos had not yet been invented and the Internet was still science fiction."
There were only a few books available, Caretti added, and information was very rarely shared between trappers -- unless they were family or very close friends.
"What took me years to learn is now available to everyone on the DNR Web site," he said.
The Michigan trapper education manual teaches basic techniques with a strong focus on the responsible treatment of animals, legal methods, safety, selectivity and ethical trapper behavior.
"We hope our trapper education program will not only educate those interested in trapping but also provide information to those unfamiliar with the practice," said Humphries.
One aspect of the program is learning the historical significance trapping has to Michigan.
The Great Lakes region was important to the fur trading history of America. Michigan was a hub for fur trading because of the easy travel on the Great Lakes and rivers. <
Sault Ste. Marie became the first established trading site in Michigan. Other trading centers included Detroit, Michilimackinac and St. Joseph.
"Although trapping efforts have declined over the last couple of decades, there are still many trappers who participate in this activity throughout Michigan," said Doug Reeves, acting Wildlife Division chief and avid trapper.
Reeves said trapping still provides many benefits to society in addition to its recreational opportunity.
"Trapping fosters awareness of the need to maintain and manage wildlife habitat," he said. "It helps develop a conservation ethic and a connection to the land for many people."
Trapping also helps control wildlife populations in certain situations, and it is a means for reducing furbearer numbers at the local level to help protect many rare and endangered species from excessive predation.
Farmers and other landowners benefit when trappers remove excess furbearers that threaten property and crops.
"Trapping is a highly regulated activity," said Michael Bailey, DNR Wildlife Section supervisor. "There are specific trapping seasons for the various furbearer species. Participants must purchase licenses and follow strict regulations, which include season bag limits on certain species."
Wildlife biologists in the field, he said, also depend on traps and trappers to help study many species of wildlife. Foothold traps and cable-restraining devices are the only effective means for catching elusive species such as wolves, coyotes, and foxes.
Another major focus of the DNR's trapper education program is the understanding of Best Management Practices (BMPs), which ensure that trapping maintains high standards here and across the nation. The BMPs were developed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in cooperation with state fish and wildlife agencies, trapping organizations, veterinarians and university researchers.
Trapping BMPs describe traps that meet or exceed specific criteria and provide information to help trappers practice safe, humane and efficient techniques.
There are five criteria considered when developing BMPs: animal welfare, trap efficiency, trap selectivity, trapper and public safety, practical application.
The online student manual, which can be accessed on the DNR Web site by following the Hunting & Trapping link, includes a full chapter about the BMP research that has been ongoing since 1996.
"BMPs provide guidance to wildlife agencies and help responsible trappers make decisions in the field," Reeves said. "They also help instill public confidence in and maintain public support for wildlife management and trapping."
The online student manual is just the first step taken by the DNR to develop the Michigan trapper education program.
The DNR is working with the state's trapping organizations and other interested trappers to put together a formal training program, which wildlife managers hope can begin within the next year or two.
"It was very rewarding getting all of the Michigan trapping organizations and the DNR together on this project," said the MTA's Caretti. "For me, knowing that the trappers of this state have this information makes all the work worth it. They now have what they need to help them be safe, humane, ethical and successful trappers."
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