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Iowa is at the top of another national list, ranking in the top five in the country for the number of furharvesters.
“We have quite a few active trappers here,” said Vince Evelsizer, furbearer biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “We have a good thing going in our state and want it to continue. Our trappers represent the activity in a positive light and we appreciate them for it.”
Trapping requires skill and knowledge to be successful. Evelsizer began learning those skills as a child carrying traps and stakes while tagging along with his dad.
“We would walk sections of streams and the Upper Iowa River where I learned to identify active fur sign. That’s what I enjoyed the most,” he said. It’s those experiences and skills he will be passing along to his own 10 year old son this year.
Iowa’s trapping season opens Saturday and based on population surveys, trappers can expect to find nearly all furbearer populations trending up with the exception of skunks, mink and red fox that are lower but vary by region, Evelsizer said.
“We’ve had a few local outbreaks of distemper in our raccoon population and trapping is an effective management tool to help keep raccoons and other predators like coyotes in check,” he said. The appearance of disease is more common when populations are higher and that is especially true with raccoons.
North Iowa’s muskrat population is on the uptick which is positive news because marshes with muskrats are more attractive to waterfowl – including trumpeter swans. Muskrats normal feeding and hut building habits help keep areas of the marsh vegetation free, which benefits other wildlife, and waterfowl use muskrat huts for nesting and loafing.
“We see far more waterfowl using marshes that have muskrats, especially in the spring, than marshes that don’t,” Evelsizer said.
Being a successful trapper is a process of learning and honing outdoor skills needed to identify signs the animal leaves behind.
“Most of the furbearers are nocturnal so you when you set a trap, you are placing it in a specific area based on the signs and concealed in a way to outwit the animal,” he said. “It’s a challenge and when you catch something, it’s always exciting and fun.”
While hunters and trappers both need a set of skills to be successful, the biggest difference between trapping and hunting is hunters have the opportunity to size up the animal before taking the shot and trappers find their success in the morning.
“There is no substitute to spending time outdoors. There are plenty of places to trap if trappers are willing to get off the main areas and walk streams. Talk to landowners and ask to walk their farm ponds. It’s a good way to avoid competition and enjoy the outdoors,” he said. “I learned how to trap by going with my dad. I hope our trappers are passing on their skills to their kids and or inviting former trappers to come along again.”
Iowa’s furharvester season opens at 8 a.m., Nov. 7 through Jan. 31, 2016, except for beaver which closes on April 15, 2016.