The rugged outdoorsmen of the past, who went West before the Conestoga wagons, were trappers. Trapping furs to sell to the earliest settlers was how they made their livelihood.
Today's trappers are still a hardy breed, although their endeavor looks far different than it did in pre-pioneer days. Imagine getting up about 3 a.m. every day in the worst of weather and running a trapline. There was a day when half the boys of a rural family would do just that and then walk to school. They earned money through trapping. Few boys today do it, but there are still avid trappers out there, and they perform a service to the public whether we realize it or not.
Trapping animals that are not hunted and keeping those populations in bounds is the best control for diseases, such as rabies. We all know that even today, the animals most likely to be infected with rabies are domestic pets and wild animals such as raccoons, opossums, skunks and other species that are not hunted much. These are the ones most likely to be raiding your garbage cans in the middle of the night.
A few weeks ago, I was with a group of people, and one man was telling, to the delight of the group, about how he had moved a refrigerator from a location in the country to his house in the city. Unknown to him, however, was the fact that a family of either opossums or raccoons (I forget which) had found shelter in the workings of the refrigerator. He, of course, did not know that until several of the creatures were running around their home.
It was a comedy of errors, of course, as they tried to round up the animals and get them out of the house. While everyone else was laughing at the antics of the couple's chasing these creatures around, I was horrified. I put a real damper on the storytelling as I tried to warn them that this was a potentially dangerous situation. Well, they finally got the unwanted animals out without mishap, but it points out that we can have an encounter with one or more wild creatures at any time, at any place. We must restrain children from touching, petting or trying to pick up any such wild creature. Any wildling that would willingly allow a human to pick it up is almost surely sick. An animal can have rabies and not be frothing at the mouth at the moment we encounter them. I'm simply advising caution.
The Pennsylvania Trapper's Association will be hosting its 32nd-annual sporting and collectibles show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 10-12 at the Heritage Grounds in East Waterford (Juniata County) along Route 75.
The gate opens at 8 a.m. Friday for tailgaters and vendors to set up. The show opens at noon. Admission is $5 with children under 12 admitted free.
This is a pretty interesting event, and if you are a trapper or think you might be interested in this pursuit, here is the place to go. There are lots of vendors with the latest innovations in traps and related gear, firearms, collectible items such as antique hunting licenses and archery items.
On Saturday, Sept. 11, at 1 p.m., a fundraising auction will be held. For more information, or to be a vendor or a tailgater, contact Allen Appleman at 717-386-7573 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Terry Swartz at 717-536-3733.
These days, our frame of reference to trapping is the Game Commission's trap and transfer of wild turkeys, which can be credited as the vehicle most responsible for restoring wild turkeys to Pennsylvania. Over the past couple of winters, the Game Commission has been studying deer by trapping them and radio-collaring them. My hunting buddy in the Poconos was selected to have one of these research areas on his farm. Lots of research information has been collected through this method.
Trail cameras have been set up, and surveys carefully monitored various deer that have frequented the research areas. Just last week he sent me a pretty nice photo of a collared 8-pointer. He hopes to see it come deer season.
"If I can keep it alive that long,'' he told me, meaning it is just as likely to fall prey to a poacher as to make it to hunting season.