Week 7: Furbearers

Week 7: Furbearers

By Heather

“Here, come October, I sit in the solitude of my tamaracks and hear the hunters’ cars roaring up the highway, hell-bent for the crowded counties to the north,” writes Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac.  “I chuckle as I picture their dancing speedometers, their strained faces, their eager eyes glued on the northward horizon.  At the noise of their passing, a cock grouse drums his defiance.  My dog grins as we note his direction.  That fellow, we agree, needs some exercise; we shall look him up presently.”

This is my favorite quote from this week’s reading.  The narrative of all the “average” people hurrying to the same place for the same thing and here, Leopold is with his grinning dog already on the hunt.  I also enjoy his storytelling in these passages.  How he gets distracted so easily and quickly, like we all do, in the woods.  I would spend hours outside on our several acres mostly by the creek looking at mosses, birds, insects and shards of glass; the glass from a different era when farmers would dump their trash over the edge of the road.

Controversial.  That is how I have always thought of trapping.  Discussions were always avoided and I tried to never take sides, even though I understand both sides.  I grew up a bit different than most which I am sure, you are all starting to realize.

My grandparents used to rendezvous.  Some call them black powder shoots and many more can relate to them as more of a reenactment.  Yet I lean far away from the latter because that is not what we did by the modern definition.  We slept in tepees, wedge or baker tents.  All items displayed must be of the fur trade era, so well before said time period of “civil war reenactors.”  We dressed in buckskins and furs.  We were adorned with colorful blue, white, red, green and yellow trade beads that hung from our necks, ears, pouches and sashes.  I could throw a tomahawk and hit a target at 20 paces by the time I was eight.  The first gun I shot was a black powder rifle crafted by my grandfather.  Rain, shine, frost and early spring Wisconsin temperatures never stopped us from camping so primitively we only had wooden outhouses; no electricity, no running water, all food was cooked on an open flame and we didn’t wear civilian clothes for sometimes totaling up to 14 days.  In this way of era camping and the eccentric people we interacted with, one can only assume there was fur.  I love fur.  I grew up wearing it.  I still have an ermine tail hanging on my pouch in my rendezvous basket.  Everyone wore it.  Coon, fox or coyote hats to buffalo rugs to beaver capes, it was a part of my youth into adulthood.  Many people trapped lawfully as a hobby.  As I grew older my love of fur never died but what did happen was my intelligence regarding fur harvest grew to an understanding and a dichotomy of wanting it yet not purchasing more.

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As we walked into the meeting room the main display table was littered with pelts of many different animals: skunk, coyote, beaver, otter, cougar, deer and I think opossum.  My eyes lit up.  I was able to identify all the pelts and had to touch them almost immediately.  Our presenter on Furbearers and Wildlife Management was Micah Glover, Wildlife Resource Assistant for the Missouri Department of Conservation at the James A Reed Wildlife Area.  Glover discussed with us the importance of wildlife management and the necessity for all animals.  He shared with us that the Reed area is 3,000 acres with 12 ponds.  The Reed land is not just for wildlife, it also has some acreage for agriculture and crop rotation.  Glover discussed his agricultural background and described how most farmers leave approximately 20 percent of their harvest for the wildlife.  This not only helps with food during winter months but also gives prey animals a buffer zone, similar to what feathering of trails or the edge of field accomplishes.

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To properly manage wildlife it is necessary to have food, cover and water.  Each species has different specific needs to attain all three life-sustaining items.  The different types of management areas include: wetland management, flooded fields, flooded cropland, and flooded timber.

Glover talked to us about how important controlled hunting is for over population and how important it is as a hunter to take the time to complete hunter surveys.  The surveys help the Missouri Department of Conservation have an idea of how many animals are harvested and assist in determining the remainder of populations.  

There were several different traps set out on the table next to the pelts.  Glover went over the different types of traps and showed us a video about the leg trap.  I have a better understanding of why these traps are used and how they do not hurt the animal.  The leg trap is usually used for purposes other than harming animals such as tagging and release or relocation of the animal.

Aldo Leopold juxtaposes the thought of conservationist and hunter; how we all have to learn how to balance the ideas or ideals we have.  I know I have mentioned in previous posts and our class discussed at length how humans have intervened so much with our natural world that now have to continuously be involved.  There must be a balance and we must create this balance to ensure all animals have a place. 


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