Peninsula trappers giving pelts to scouts

Posted: Monday, December 22, 2003

Last month, Girls Scouts from Fairbanks made national news after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) cried foul over the troops trapping of beavers.

But some local trappers have banded together to show their support for the scouts' project.

The Kenai Peninsula Trapper's Association (KPTA) has agreed to donate several furs to Girl Scout Troop 34.

"We thought it would be a good thing to do," said KPTA member and 14-year trapping veteran Roy Smith. "We wanted to ensure that the girls would have enough furs to make the hats, mittens and other items they had intended to make before PETA got involved."

The trappers' reasons for supporting the Girl Scouts were many.

"Well, not only were the Girls Scouts learning about nature, diversity and the circle of life, but they were also trapping ethically, legally, and were planning on using the entire animal not just the fur," Smith said.

"Also, the beavers they were trapping were damaging the environment."

Smith explained that on the lower Chena River in Fairbanks the beavers are causing flooding and damage that can harm other species.

Also, the beavers numbers are so high that they are out-competing each other. If the population isn't curbed in some way as through trapping beavers could end up starving to death.

According to Smith, the Girl Scouts were helping the state. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game not only was behind them, but is overseeing it, too, Smith said.

The trappers believe not only was the controversy over this issue a matter of differing ideologies, but also a bit of cultural misunderstanding on the part of PETA.

"Here in Alaska, trapping and wearing fur is a tradition that's gone on for hundreds of years," said Craig Lott, KPTA chair. "Here it's as much about function as it is fashion. Fur serves a purpose. It's warmer ask any dog musher, they'll tell you.

"The mentality to trapping is different here. This is our cause and our beliefs, but we get attacked for them by groups like PETA. Their cause is, of course, animals shouldn't be used for consumptive use," Lott said.

However, he said he believes there may be a duplicitous agenda beneath PETA's public policy.

"They use propaganda," he said. "They bring attention to their cause to generate donations. It's all about money. They claim they are nonprofit, but the people at the top are getting paid huge salaries to oppose issues like trapping.

"I think if they really believed in their cause, they should do it for free."

Lott donated furs to the Girl Scouts. In all, the group has collected six beavers, one coyote and one wolverine.

"Anytime we can help, we try to," Lott said. "Hopefully this will help the girls out."

The trappers plan to mail the package to the troop this week.

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