Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials are encouraging new trappers to seek out more experienced trappers as mentors. Trapping season opened locally on Wednesday, Nov. 10.
“I wonder if, culturally, we’re moving away from a mentorship model… to more of an, ‘I’m going to look it up on YouTube and watch a couple of videos, buy some gear and go, and I don’t need to have anybody show me the ins and outs,’ model,” said ADF&G Prince William Sound Area wildlife biologist Charlotte Westing.
Experienced trappers should also be willing to reach out to newer trappers and offer them guidance, Westing said. Supporting and training new trappers in trapping ethics and methods is also encouraged by the code of the Alaska Trappers Association.
Concerns about trapping increased after an incident in February 2020 in which Cordova resident Erin Cole’s pet dog Mavis was killed by what ADF&G officials described as an amateurishly set trap. The person who set the trap was never identified, Westing said.
“If you’re learning to trap as a child or as an adult, get connected with an experienced and ethical trapper,” Cole said. “If you’re learning how to do something, learn how to do it well… Your actions can affect other people for the rest of their lives.”
Despite the incident, Cole continues to respect trapping as a sport, a hobby and a way of life, she said.
“Nothing about how the trap was set was illegal,” Westing said. “A person who didn’t know very much about what they were doing chose to make a set in a really weird place in a really weird way, and that was it.”
It can be difficult to remove a trap from a struggling pet without prior understanding of how traps work, Westing said. A guide to trap safety for pet owners is available at the Cordova ADF&G office or online at cdv.tiny.us/removal.
“It’s always something you need to be aware of,” Westing said. “Spend some time thinking about what you would do, and practicing, if you can.”
Trapping around town is regulated by the city, with trapping near the center of town banned entirely. Enthusiastic trappers usually prefer to go far out of town to trap, Westing said. Though most trappers follow regulations and ethical norms, traps are sometimes found set after the season has closed, or with dead animals that were never retrieved, she said.
“Most trappers are really ethical, and they’re absolutely outraged by that,” Westing said. “But it only takes one or two to just ruin it for everybody.”