Ontario Fur Managers Federation. (2011). Fur Harvest, Fur Management and
Conservation Course Manual (7th ed.). Toronto, Ontario: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. 334pp. 3-ring bound.
I am a strong supporter of trapper education. Educated trappers make wiser decisions and thereby help protect the trade from unnecessary criticism. Additionally, mandatory training helps protect legal trappers from unscrupulous ones because officials can argue that the rogue trappers broke the law. Though many trappers hate regulations, the fact is they really hate is poorly written regulations. Trappers should want regulations because governments protect what they regulate.
The training required for Ontario trappers, however, tested even my support because Ontario requires beginning trappers to undergo a 40 hour training program to obtain a license. Clearly, Ontario takes its trapping tradition very seriously. Granted the reason for this level of training likely stems from the cultural and legal issues that influenced the Canadian model for trapping. For instance, Canada assigns trappers to registered trap lines and requires them to meet established harvest rates. I suspect that the political culture in Canada, which accepts regulation more readily than its revolutionary prone southern neighbor, encouraged trappers to accept more regulations in order to maintain their heritage. Finally, the value of Canadian furbearers makes trapping profitable so additional regulations didn’t have the same negative economic impact as it would in the U.S.
Regardless of whether readers support the length of the Ontario trapper training program, I hope everyone will agree that we can learn a few things about trapper education from our Canadian brothers. I suggest that this manual can provide a template or a model to create or update our own trapper education programs.
The Ontario program consists of 7 chapters totaling 334 full-sized pages. Chapter 1 introduces readers to the issues confronting trappers from the larger non-trapping society. It discusses expectations of trappers, history of the Ontario fur industry, humane trapping, urban and rural public relations, and more. Chapter 2 reviews the concepts behind the management of furbearers in Ontario. This chapter seeks to help trappers understand trapping regulations as well as the reasoning behind those regulations. Preparation for trapping is discussed in Chapter 3. The use of topographical maps for trapline planning is explained along with the need to have reliable transportation, shelter, and clothing before heading out on the trapline. I found it interesting that the manual discusses preparations for income tax as well.
Chapter 4 reviews in some detail the trapping and fur handling equipment needed for a typical trap line. Readers are provided with a list of traps and sets that meet the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) of which Canada is a signatory. As expecte, the chapter outlines trap preparation (i.e. dying and waxing) as well as identifies trap nomenclature. I was deeply impressed with the information provided on pelt handling equipment. Aside from the usual mention of fleshing beams and knives, the chapter provided diagrams of stretcher boards for a wide variety of species. As someone lacking in pelt handling experience, the glossary of fur handling and grading terms was exceedingly helpful to me and others interested in grading pelts. Chapter 5 delves into trapper safety. Given the cold conditions confronting Canadian trappers, it is little surprise that so much attention is paid to frostbite related injuries. Other safety concerns, such as falling through ice and severe injury in the bush, receive appropriate attention. Diagrams and instruction on handling Conibears® safely as well as how to rescue yourself if you become trapped in one are thoroughly reviewed and accompanied with diagrams. A brief review of several zoonotic diseases rounds out the chapter.
Chapter 6 covers all the furbearing animals trapped in Ontario. The list includes muskrats, mink, beaver, otter, marten, fisher, raccoon, skunk, red fox, coyote, timber wolf, lynx, bobcat, black bear, weasel, red squirrel, and opossum. Authors review the size, behavior, reproduction, diseases, trap sets, and pelt handling for each species. Readers are regularly reminded to stake traps for the largest animal that could be taken and to use care not to damage the pelt.
Trappers also learn about wolverines and how to reduce the likelihood of trapping them on account of their status as endangered species. The final chapter reviews cage and box traps. Instruction covers the benefits of cage trapping, baits, and how to release or kill captured animals.
By any standard, this training manual is a fine example of exceptional trapper education. I would suggest that educators in the states consider using it as a model for their own training manual. Despite these deserved kudos, the manual does have a few weaknesses that future editions should address. First, the authors use terms, such as live trap and leghold, that reinforce negative stereotypes concerning trapping. These terms should be replaced with cage/box trap and foothold respectively. Second, some of the images don’t conform to the advice given in the text. For instance, the text recommends the wearing of gloves when skinning animals on p. 123, but the person skinning a beaver on p. 182 is not wearing any. Lastly, I was also surprised that a book of this length didn’t contain any details on handling skunk odor.
Despite these minor issues, the book is worthy of a look. It costs $28.00 (Canadian) plus actual shipping. To obtain your copy of the manual, contact Ontario Fur Managers Federation 531 Second Line East, Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6B 4K2 Canada, or call 705-254-3338. You may also visit http://www.furmanagers.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Stephen M. Vantassel is a certified wildlife control operator who helps individuals, businesses, and agencies resolve wildlife damage issues through training, writing, expert witness, and research. His latest books are the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, 3rd edition and The Practical Guide to the Control of Feral Cats. He can be contacted at wildlifecontrolconsultant at gmail dot com.
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