Kentucky Trapping Still Useful
While the number of people trapping isn't as high as in the days of our great-grandparents, trapping remains essential to today's wildlife management.
"Trapping is used as a management tool to both increase populations and reduce populations," said Laura Patton, furbearer biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "Kentucky's otter restoration could not have happened without foothold traps."
River otters were once rare or absent from most parts of the state. From 1991 to 1994, 355 otters were trapped from Louisiana and released at 14 sites in Kentucky.
Today's traps are designed with animal welfare in mind. For example, laminated jaws provide more surface area than those used generations ago. This holds the animal's foot securely to prevent injury. Swivels are also used to allow the trap to spin freely as the animal moves, thus reducing injury.
"All the otters were trapped using foothold traps, and all were released unharmed," Patton said.
"The (foothold) traps today are more restraining devices than the traps of old," noted Gene Beeber, public relations officer for Kentucky Fur Takers and director of the yearly Fur Takers of America trapper's college. "Traps with teeth have been outlawed for over 50 years."
Traps can be used to eliminate problems when populations become too high in an area, or when nuisance animals cause livestock loss or property damage.
"Most of my work for the last couple of years has been nuisance beaver work," Beeber said. "They're getting in lakes and damming up overflows. They're dropping a lot of trees and killing a lot of trees along the banks."
Trapping can eliminate other nuisance animal problems, such as raccoons raiding garbage cans, coyotes preying on livestock and otters eating most of the fish in a farm pond or damaging boats and docks.
"Trapping is far less time-consuming than hunting," said Patton. "Farmers may not have time to sit out there with a gun all day. They can set snares under fences or foothold traps along trails. It just takes a few minutes to set the trap, and then they can check it once a day."
Trapping is also highly effective. "In an area like a marina or farm pond, trappers can definitely take care of a problem muskrat or river otter," Patton said.
Farmers or landowners experiencing damage from furbearers may search Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's fur trapper database at fw.ky.gov/app/trapperlandowner.aspx to find a trapper in their area during the regular trapping season. The database helps pair up trappers looking for a place to trap, and farmers looking for no-cost help with nuisance wildlife. Nuisance wildlife control operators are permitted to remove nuisance animals outside of furbearer trapping season. Operators charge a fee for their services. A listing of permitted operators is available at fw.ky.gov/app1/nuisancelookup.aspx.
Trapping season for most furbearers is open through February 28. Bobcat trapping season runs through January 31. All trappers, except kids under the age of 12, must have a trapping license. Reduced-price licenses are available for Kentucky resident landowners and their tenants, as well as all youth trappers ages 12-15.
For complete trapping regulations, including bag limits and trapping equipment restrictions, pick up a copy of the 2008-09 Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide, available wherever trapping licenses are sold.