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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Youth Trapping Workshop a Success at Seney National Wildlife Refuge

Region 3, October 27, 2012
Trapping mentor John Hubbard shows participants how to set a muskrat trap along the side of a bridge.
Trapping mentor John Hubbard shows participants how to set a muskrat trap along the side of a bridge. - Photo Credit: n/a
Participant Ethan practices setting a muskrat trap while Chase observes.
Participant Ethan practices setting a muskrat trap while Chase observes. - Photo Credit: n/a
Hauling out the traps and the catch.  Participant Brianna carries the heavy load, a beaver weighing about 50 pounds.
Hauling out the traps and the catch. Participant Brianna carries the heavy load, a beaver weighing about 50 pounds. - Photo Credit: n/a
Rich Wilson demonstrates fleshing a beaver pelt while Steve watches closely.
Rich Wilson demonstrates fleshing a beaver pelt while Steve watches closely. - Photo Credit: n/a
Participants and their trapping mentors.
Participants and their trapping mentors. - Photo Credit: n/a
Rich Wilson's group looks proud of their muskrat catch.
Rich Wilson's group looks proud of their muskrat catch. - Photo Credit: n/a

October 28 and 29, 2012, Seney National Wildlife Refuge held a Youth Trapping Workshop to address a growing need to get kids out on to the refuge and offer opportunities to explore. We developed this workshop to help close this experience gap and provide youth a chance to explore refuge habitats and learn about wildlife behavior in a hands-on, in-depth way.

The two-day workshop aimed at building mentoring opportunities between youth and individuals skilled in outdoor pursuits and was inspired by the enthusiasm and skills of Seney Refuge's maintenance mechanic and avid trapper, Rich Wilson. Spending time in the field with Wilson revealed wildlife sign not evident before and a skill set, and personality, that could be shared. Wilson agreed to lead a series of short “trapping & tracking” sessions during a youth event. The sessions were popular and well received.

The Youth Trapping Workshop grew out of these short sessions and was designed to get kids out on the refuge and introduce them to this wildlife dependent activity by offering them the opportunity to spend two days in the field with experienced trappers. Participants were exposed to:

  • Trapping equipment
  • Trapping rules and regulations
  • Wildlife behavior, observation skills, tracks and other wildlife sign
  • Wetland habitats
  • Setting traps
  • Trapping ethics
  • Collecting the catch and processing furs

Species targeted included muskrat and beaver, although trapping for other species was discussed and demonstrated. Trapping took place in areas of the refuge identified as locations where beaver removal should be considered for maintenance of refuge impoundments and spillways.

The first day of the workshop, participants met at the visitor center and then spent about four hours in the field, in small groups each led by a “trapping mentor." Several parents chose to participate along with their kids. Mentors introduced participants to trapping tools and equipment, pointed out clues within the habitat that showed beaver and muskrat behavior and demonstrated where and how to set traps. It was satisfying to watch the participants awareness skills grow. One group decided to check out another group's trapping area and quickly keyed into where to look for the other group's traps and in a bit of good-natured competition, evaluated their potential for success. We gathered back at the visitor center in the late afternoon to share bowls of chili and stories from the day.

On day two, each mentor took their group back out to their “trap line” to check traps and gather their catch. All combined, 40-50 traps were set and left overnight, with five beaver and three muskrat caught. Participants were able to experience some of the realities, challenges and pleasures of trapping, as well as gain an understanding of wildlife behavior. Traps were removed from the field and animals were brought back to the shop where Wilson, and the other mentors, demonstrated skinning and fur processing techniques. All participants had purchased fur harvesting licenses, so when all the work was done, we held a drawing for taking the skins home.

In case participants wanted to sell or tan their hides, Wilson provided handouts about fur buying and tanning. A number of participants were interested in the meat, so we quartered the beavers and had a drawing for beaver meat. Thanks to the generosity of several individuals, all the kids went home with weasel, squirrel and muskrat stretching boards, as well as weasel boxes and two traps. We went home with the satisfaction of having experienced kids and parents exploring refuge habitats and learning, hands-on, about wildlife behavior from skilled outdoor enthusiasts.

 

Contact Info: jennifer wycoff-mcdonough, 906-586-9851 x 16, jennifer_mcdonough@fws.gov