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By practicing their activities on the same areas over several years, sometimes even several generations, trappers are often the first to notify authorities when changes to the environment lead to the destruction of habitats or threats to wildlife populations. Humans are responsible for significant modifications to nature, which impair its ability to self-regulate. We have the responsibility to restore the equilibrium that we disturbed through our activities in the environment. In this sense, managed trapping of certain species helps contribute to the conservation of nature.
The expertise of trappers contributes to the progress of research, which allows biologists to learn more about the habitat requirements of certain species. Modern trapping techniques allow biologists to capture wild animals alive to identify them or to equip them with radio transmitters before releasing them. Such research projects on American marten, fisher or even black bear all benefited from the experience of trappers. Trapping methods are also used when relocating animals to areas where the species once were present. One such successful example was the introduction of the wolf in the national park of Yellowstone. In the same way, trappers in Quebec helped with the reintroduction of the Canada lynx in Colorado.
Significant data source
Trappers also provide information and samples, which allows biologists and wildlife technicians to obtain various biological data (gender, age, physical condition, productivity, etc.) and to study population dynamics as well as wildlife diseases. Analyses of age and sex pyramids of animals captured also allow biologists to determine if certain populations are increasing or decreasing.
All the data collected by trappers (survey of beaver colonies, return of harvest booklets, submission of carcasses) contributes to the establishment of programs and policies that aim to properly manage furbearers present in Quebec.
It is then possible to respect the main principles of wildlife management established by the ministry responsible of wildlife by abiding by the following principles:
- Conservation of declining or threatened species
- Promote the harvest of species when the fur is at its best in order to maximize the economic benefits
- Limit harvest during periods of vulnerability (ex.: birthing seasons)
- Encourage the harvest of overabundant species, species causing damages or conflicting with human activities or presenting a health risk
Several species benefited from human presence and the habitats modified by humans. Urbanization and environmental changes also cause a direct increase in conflicts between humans and wildlife. These conflicts can be linked to damages caused to private property or to dangerous situations. In order to better protect the environment and nature and to help the cohabitation between species, trappers act directly on the species themselves but also on the habitats.
Preventive measures are typically privileged over control or dramatic interventions. For example, trappers are involved in the installation of water-controlled structures that prevent flooding caused by beaver activity. Trappers will also be involved with managing creeks for mink or wildlife-proof garbage containers that will be resistant to bears and raccoons. A specific training course on managing wildlife conflicts and living in harmony with wildlife (CAFE) is actually in development to encourage such practices.
Because they care for the environment and the cohabitation of nature’s various users, trappers collaborate in the management of landscapes by, for instance, participating in the integrated management task force for natural resources and territories. Well aware of the links between forestry and furbearers, trappers have an important role in the development of sustainable forestry practices. In order to properly protect nature, trappers will often report knowledge of animal activity on their trapline while reporting numbers and distribution of wild furbearers as well as important population trends.
When animal densities increase, habitat quality decreases (food), productivity decreases and both diseases and parasites are more common. Several species of furbearers carry diseases that are transmissible to humans or pets. Trapping allows the regulations of these populations while maintaining a healthy natural balance.
In Quebec, following the discovery of raccoon rabies in 2006, the ministry was able to rely on professional trappers to help reach the objective of eliminating this disease from the province. Annual operations of surveillance and control are run in Estrie and Montérégie since 2006. Thanks to the deployed efforts, only one case of raccoon rabies was detected since 2010. For more information on the Quebec government rabies control plan and the role of trappers in the fight against raccoon rabies in Quebec, visit the website www.rageduratonlaveur.gouv.qc.ca
Trappers are often the first to observe abnormal behaviour in wild animals. Either by reporting or submitting carcasses of animals that are suspected of being sick to the government, trappers enable the monitoring of spread of diseases while also informing the local populations. Between 2012 and 2013, trappers contributed to an important study of tularemia in Quebec. This study revealed the presence of this disease in our wildlife in several regions.
Sarcoptic mange can be transmitted from direct contact of infected individuals and outbreaks are most likely in high-density animal populations. By proper management of wildlife over their traplines, trappers help reduce the risk of infection. Moreover, infected animals are typically in bad physical conditions, which make them easier to capture, thus reducing the risk of spreading to other animals of the same species.
More details on wildlife diseases: FTGQ website