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People Who Trap - Choice of A Lifestyle

Historically, people in the United States and Canada looked to the land to secure food and provide for their households. Being independent, self-sufficient, hard working, providing for one's family, being stewards of the land - these values and life styles are traditionally and distinctly part of the fabric of North American society and culture, and they are still present today.

Today's Trappers
Historical Perspective
The History of the Fur Trade

Today, trapping is done as an annual pursuit by many people in the United States and Canada; in addition many homeowners use trapping to deal with wildlife causing property damage. Throughout North America, government sociologists and university researchers have begun to document the importance of trapping in the lives of people who still look to the land, and utilization of wildlife as part of their lifestyle. Sometimes this lifestyle is not understood by a larger segment of society who do not hunt, trap,

A woman works on an arctic fox pelt in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
fish, raise their own vegetables or cut their own firewood - people who do not consider looking to the land to provide for their households.

Households that contain trapping lifestyle are often not apparent in suburban areas that contain a diverse mix of cultures. Yet, researchers have documented and described a very vibrant trapping culture even within the urbanized Northeastern United States.

Research has found that people who participate in trapping do so for many reasons, the most commonly listed ones are: life style orientation, nature appreciation, wildlife management, affiliation with other people, self-sufficiency, income (sometimes complimentary to their household budget, sometimes a critical component or an important safety net to household income). Most people participate for several reasons.

Notable conclusions about trappers in the eastern United States are that trapping is a central theme in the lives of people who trap even though they may live in suburban areas. These people also cut firewood, raise their own vegetables as well as hunt or fish. They also tend to have strong support for conservation programs and environmental protection. For these people, the opportunity to
A family traps muskrats under the ice in New England.
harvest fish and wildlife contributes to a sense of self-reliance, independence and the ability to provide for one's self. They consider the land and the utilization of wildlife as part of their lifestyle. Trapping is a means of providing food, clothing and other items for their households. Studies in New England and elsewhere reveal that trappers participate in bartering in many communities. They barter childcare, automobile repair, vegetables and other goods or services in exchange for pelts, trapping services, or the removal of nuisance wildlife causing property damage.

An important observation has been that trapping in today's society has often been referred to as 'recreational' in the context of a 'sport'. However, the body of existing research indicates that this term is a misnomer and not descriptive of the motives of the hundreds of trappers they studied. People who trap list four or five motives as important: Universally a theme is revealed that for many of these people, trapping is a component of their lifestyle that defines them and has deep meaning, and provides sustenance (food, clothing, money) that provides for their households and well being.

In large areas to the north in Canada and Alaska people who trap often fit our image of traditional trappers. In Canada and Alaska between October and March tens of thousands of aboriginal people participate in trapping furbearers. Mirroring the motives of their contemporaries in the more developed areas of the continent, these trappers are motivated by sustenance (food and clothing). Fur trapping can be particularly important due to the remoteness of the communities and may provide the only source of income for specific times of the year. Many values and traditions of these people are passed along from generation to generation through the seasonal rituals of trapping. Trapping teaches youth survival and subsistence skills and provides a meaningful winter activity that helps instill a sense of responsibility to their families and communities. An assessment of the impacts of various uses of mammals included furbearer trapping in the Yukon as one case. The results of the assessment determined that is was sustainable (i.e. good) and should be encouraged because harvests by local people were within natural population fluctuations of the animals they trapped. Additionally, advocacy by local trappers to maintain wildlife habitat prevented abuse of the land by people looking to remove non-renewable resources like oil.

Whether being conducted by aboriginal trappers in Canada and Alaska or people living in suburban or rural areas of New England, Louisiana, or the mid-west, a common link in the values of these people is they utilize wild animals and plants to bring sustenance into their households (e.g. the meat for food, pelts for clothing, or money to buy household goods). For many, this is an integral part of their life, and is an enduring element of their relationship to nature and link to the land. With proper management of wildlife resources, people today can still choose to participate in this lifestyle as they have done since the beginning of time. This is a unique opportunity and experience for people in the United States and Canada because this lifestyle cannot be pursued throughout most of Europe and the rest of the industrialized world.


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