Island youths complete trapper’s course to become licenced trappers

Six Manitoulin Island youngsters have completed the youth trapper’s course to become licenced trappers in the province of Ontario. They include in photo, Terry Wemigwans, Naakwam Shawanda, Hunter Cranston, Parker Hall, Sean Orford and Jake Hughson.

MANITOULIN—Six more Manitoulin Island youngsters have completed the youth trappers course to  become licenced trappers in the province of Ontario. The program, which was held recently, is sponsored by Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association (MSIA), the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Zone D and the Fur Institute of Canada.

“The students have now all passed their youth trapping course, so now they will take their completed papers to the MNRF (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and receive an Ontario Trappers License,” said Seija Deschenes, coordinator of Manitoulin Streams.  After getting their licence, “they the can come back to us, and we give them beginners trappers kit.”

The students, who range in age from 16-19, included Terry Wemigwans and Naakwam Shawanda, both of Wiikwemikoong, Hunter Cranston of Spring Bay, Parker Hall and Sean Orford of Providence Bay, and Jake Hughson of Little Current.                                                                                                                                                       

Since 2006 Manitoulin Area Stewardship Council (now amalgamated with, and known as Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association) has been organizing the youth hunter and trapper course. An objective of Manitoulin Streams is about “fostering a sense of ecosystem-based community, with citizen involvement in land and water stewardship, accepting responsibility for protecting our land and water for generations to come,” said Ms. Deschenes.

Part of stewarding citizen involvement in land and water ecosystems consists of encouraging as well as educating sustainable hunting and trapping through courses.  Manitoulin Streams partnered with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) to provide the necessary training and licencing to young citizens between the ages of 16 and 20, in efforts to promote the next generation of fur trappers.

“Trapping is one of the oldest harvesting activities on Manitoulin Island,” explained Ms. Deschenes. “Fur trapping has been a historic part of First Nations cultural heritage and sustenance for centuries. Ontario is one of the largest suppliers of wild furs in the world. This has been a large part of Canada’s historical background. At one point in time, Manitoulin Island had an exceptionally large number of trappers involved with the sale and trade of furs and it provided an important source of supplementary income for rural families. Trapping furbearing animals is an essential component for sound wildlife management because it helps prevent severe habitat alteration and damage to property, it aids in reducing the number of conflicts between people and wildlife, provides protection of livestock and helps to diminish the risk of flooding that can negatively affect farming, forestry, roadways and bridges.”

“Trapping also helps condense the amount of disease and starvation amongst over populated furbearers,” continued Ms. Deschenes. “Trapping provides important social and economic benefits for people in rural communities. Additionally, it supplies vital information on population dynamics and distribution, including reports on the spread of disease and parasites. In the last couple of decades the number of trappers on Manitoulin Island has dramatically decreased, largely due to an aging population and the reduced sale of furs.”

“Manitoulin Streams felt this erosion of trapping participants could negatively impact the delivery of sound wildlife management in the future and might entail a risk to public safety if nuisance wildlife were not controlled. We are also concerned about the loss of vital knowledge that should be passed down to the next generation. It is our desire to reverse this trend and continue to rejuvenate this land based activity by offering a youth trapping program,” said Ms. Deschenes.

“Our instructor was George Hagen and his assistant was Gino Cacciotti,” said Ms. Deschenes. “They left for George’s trapper’s cabin Thursday night. Once they arrived at the cabin they were given a rundown on what to expect over the course and their responsibilities. Over the next four days they covered the fur harvest course, fur management course and conservation course materials. The course material was covered through video lessons, group discussions, manuals and hands on experience with setting traps, retrieving harvest and preparing the furs. The youth especially enjoyed the hands-on practice and getting out in the bush experiencing a little bit of what a trappers life could be. Furthermore, they were taught to look for signs of activity such as where critical habitat and food sources are and entrances furbearers naturally frequent.”

Among the animals that were caught and prepared included muskrat, pine martin, beaver, raccoon, fisher, red fox and lynx. “The youth were taught to respect and honour the animals that they were handling and how to ensure the least amount of waste,” added Ms. Deschenes. “All six youth passed the 2017 course and will apply for their trappers licence with the Ontario Fur Harvesters Association. At the end of the course there was a lot of excitement about getting permission to trap on local properties, getting their licence as fast as possible and getting the start-up trappers kit from Manitoulin Streams.”