SISTERS, Ore. – The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted two-year regulations for the trapping and hunting of furbearers and other animals during its monthly meeting July 18 in Sisters.
The only major change from previous regulations was a reduction in the eastern Oregon bobcat bag limit from seven to five, a conservation measure in response to higher trapping pressure for this furbearer. The season dates and bag limits will remain the same for other furbearers (red and gray foxes, marten, muskrat/mink, raccoon, river otter). The season for predators, uncontrolled and non-native animals (badger, coyote, nutria, opossum, porcupine, spotted and striped skunks, weasels) will remain open all-year while the season for rare furbearers (wolverines, fishers, ringtail, kit foxes and sea otters) will remain closed.
Last year, Oregon had 1,283 licensed trappers. Before becoming licensed, trappers must pass an education course that deals with topics like wildlife identification, trapping ethics, and setting traps so they catch target animals in the most humane fashion. Regulations designed to promote the humane treatment of trapped animals make it unlawful to use certain types of traps or certain types of baits associated with traps.
“Trapping today is a highly regulated activity and an important wildlife management tool,” said Commission Chair Marla Rae.
Furbearers and other animals that are trapped can cause significant damage to crops and livestock in rural areas. They can also damage property, roads and structures or pose a public health risk in urban parts of the state.
Thanks to the skills developed through recreational trapping, many licensed trappers are able to assist rural landowners dealing with wildlife damage, such as ranchers experiencing livestock depredation from coyotes. Frustrated urban residents that find a skunk or raccoon nesting under their house or a nutria tearing up riparian vegetation can also tap the expertise of recreational trappers to address wildlife damage. Some recreational trappers even become licensed wildlife control operators (WCOs), private businesses that address wildlife damage to structures in suburban and urban areas.
Trappers’ expertise also helps in wildlife recovery and management programs. Oregon trappers are helping catch river otters for relocation to New Mexico as part of that state’s recovery efforts. Trappers' understanding of wildlife signs and tracks and their time spent in the field helps ODFW manage other wildlife. “Trappers are excellent outdoorsmen and they recognize signs in the woods others wouldn’t see,” said Nick Myatt, District Wildlife Biologist, Baker City. “I use what trappers see in the field to better understand what’s happening on-the-ground in my district.”
Many furbearers and other animals that are trapped in Oregon could withstand more hunting and trapping pressure, and the open seasons make it easy to pursue some animals any time of year. If you are interested in becoming a trapper, email ODFW’s Education Department at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the home-study course required to obtain a license. The Oregon Trappers Association will also host an education session about trapping during its annual rendezvous Aug. 15-17, 2008 at Waldo Lake; contact them for more information.