Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trapping on the Hennepin

Over all the years that I have hiked the Hennepin, I have often seen the floating muskrat traps like below.  It is legal to trap certain species, such as muskrat, mink, and beaver, along the canal.

Honestly, trapping on the canal has never bothered me.  I spent a few years trying to hunt and trap, but found out through trial, error, and emotion that it wasn't my game.  This year was a bit different as far as the trapping game is concerned.  I noticed many more floating traps along the stretches that I normally hike.  I even saw the trappers passing by a few times in their boat out to check for their prizes.  It still didn't bother me much.  However, I have noticed that I have not been seeing as much wildlife in these particular areas.

Yesterday, while out on my daily hike, I saw a figure a distance away on the trail, and as it turned out once I caught up, it was a very nice gentleman who was pulling out his traps.  The water had begun to freeze over the other night, so he was pulling his traps to start a new area.  We discussed the canal a bit and finally got to discussing his trapping.  What he told me rather alarmed me.  He said they had taken many mink and muskrat, which of course is part of the trade, but it wasn't really this that bothered me.  

The gentleman then proceeded to tell me that since the season had started, they had taken 24 beaver from the area we were at to Geneseo.  This was less than a 5 mile stretch!  That number really kept playing in my head for several reasons.  Selfishly, I imagined them cleaning out the beaver population to the point where I wouldn't be able to photograph any more of them for some time to come.  But as the night went on, my reasoning beyond myself started to kick in a bit.  Mainly, this number tells me that the beaver population was obviously high for this area, therefore making it necessary to clean it out a bit.  The ecosystem needs a balance, and that is one of the reasons that trapping seasons are in place.  There are also many good people that rely on the supplemental income of trapping to make ends meet.

I still cringe at the fact that many of the mink, muskrat, and beaver that I have enjoyed photographing could now be pelts being shipped somewhere to make coats, gloves, or whatever else can be made from them.  However, I'm not really sure how strong the predator population is around this area.  Of course we have coyotes and foxes, but I can't imagine one of them taking out the 56lb beaver that the man told me they got last week!  Trapping is necessary to keep things in balance and it is something that I just have to deal with.  

I don't hold any ill-will toward anyone for taking animals legally, and I'm certainly not against hunting and trapping.  What it all boils down to here is just getting my thoughts off my chest, getting over my own selfish wants, and realizing that I have to share these areas with other people and activities.

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