Photo by Joseph Robertia Alaska Department of Fish and Game management biologist Jeff Selinger discusses techniques for setting a snare during a seminar at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in 2003. The refuge will host its annual snaring seminar Saturday.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
The winter weather has many people donning thicker coats. The same is true for many animals around the peninsula, which means it won't be long until trappers are in pursuit of furbearing game.
As such, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge held its annual trapper orientation program on Thursday evening, and will be holding a snaring seminar this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
"The trapper orientation class isn't a how-to class, although there are how-to demonstrations, instead we talk about furbearer biology; regulations for trapping legally; and the methods to trap safely, humanely and ethically," said Toby Burke, a biological technician at the refuge.
The class is mandatory for all trappers interested in pursuing furbearing game on refuge land that have not taken the class before, whereas the snaring seminar is optional, but trappers are allowed longer intervals between trap checks if they attend.
The snaring seminar also focuses more of the mechanics of actually trapping animals, according to Burke.
"They're inside for about half the seminar learning from an expert about how and where to set snares, then for the second half they'll go outside for field demonstrations and to actually set some snares," he said.
Last season there were quite a few folks that took advantage of the opportunity to trap or snare wild game on refuge land. The refuge issued a total of 56 trapping permits, of which 34 people reported actually trapping, the norm according to Burke.
"Generally only about half the people that get permits will actually trap," he said.
Of the 34 people that did trap, 27 reported successfully harvesting animals. This included 22 wolves, 32 coyotes, one wolverine, 17 ermine, 15 otter, 15 mink, 36 beaver, 18 muskrat and five marten. There also were two lynx taken out of season and forfeited to the state. This equates to a total harvest of 163 animals for all species.
"The lynx were not targeted, since their season was closed for the fifth consecutive year. They were by-catch, which does happen periodically," Burke said.
Photo by Joseph Robertia Craig Lott of the Kenai Trappers Association, right, talks to participants during the 2003 snaring seminar.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
In regard to the other species legally trapped, Burke said there were significantly higher numbers of wolves and marten taken during the 2006-2007 season compared to the 23-year average. In all, 304 wolves and 15 marten have been harvested since the refuge began tracking trappers' success in 1984-1985. As to the reason for the rise in harvest of these two species last season, Burke said it is very difficult to say for certain.
"We can't say unequivocally, but this is the fourth year in a row we've had higher than average numbers for wolves, and it's not necessarily because there are more wolves. It might be a matter of more people targeting them again," he said.
Burke said it is possible that a few years back the lice problem was so awful that some trappers decided the pelts were not worth pursuing, which is why from 1999 to 2002 only 24 wolves were harvested. However, while the lice problem is not entirely resolved, pelt conditions have been reported to be improving in recent years, and 87 wolves have been harvested since 2003.
As to the increase in marten, Burke said is it equally difficult to explain the reason only 10 had been trapped between 1984 and 2006, but five were harvested last year alone.
"We know there are small pockets of marten on the refuge, and it's possible they might and I stress the word might be expanding out, or like the wolves, it's also possible more people are starting to target them again in the lowlands east of the mountains," he said.
Burke said it is so difficult to pinpoint the reason a given species is harvested more or less from year to year because so many factors can affect trapping.
"It's dependent on so many things, such as the price of fur, how expensive gas is to go out and set and check traps, and how the snow is. If there's not enough snow, trappers can't get out to set traps, and if there's too much snow it can bury traps, and if it's too icy it can freeze traps," he said.
For more information on the upcoming snaring seminar or regulations for trapping on the refuge this season, call refuge headquarters at 262-7021.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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