Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - February 5, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
10 - THE LEHTBRIDGE HERALD - Monday, February 5, Lynx trap Expensive pelt For his efforts, Mr. Payne collected one coyote, whose pelt is worth $27, which was still alive when he arrived and which he quickly killed with one shot in. the eye from a .22 calibre rifle from more than 40 feet away. About 100 traps were set out, but Lome Payne's day was rather unproductive. He set another one, intended for a lynx and using a rabbit caught earlier that day for bait. The line he is holding pulls tight around the lynx's legs and keeps it until the trapper returns. Trapper decries c. of cruelty, destruction to animal populati A Southern Altoarta trapper doesn't think the public understands his trade, and feels criticism against his methods, by persons who have never done any trapping, are unfair. Lome Plante, who has been trapping in the Coleman district for more than 20 years, says trapping may not be the most humane way to kill animals, "but it's a lot more kind to hold an animal in a trap and then kill it fast, then to poison it with a slow death chemical." Mr. Plante is also employed at the Philips Cable Company near Coleman, but trapping is his real love, not just a second income. 3y LARRY BENNETT Herald Staff Writer Trapping is neither as destructive to the animal population, nor as cruel to the anir mals as many say it is, he says. "I use traps to hold animals until I can get to them, and I only trap in the winter when the fur is good. "I never set a big trap for small animals, or use my traps just to tear an animal apart. "If I use a trap that is too big and rip a leg off a catch, or ruin the hide with trap welts, then the reason for killing the animal is destroyed and my whole effort is a waste," says Mr. Plante. A normal day's checking of the trap line starts early in the morrmg when Mr. Plante drives along the roads in his designated trapping area to check numerous traps he has set near the road ways. Accompanied'by this reporter. Mr. Plante spent the morning checking more than 100 traps in nearly 40 trap sites (called sets). Size varies A set may have from one to three traps in it. Traps may vary in size and design, depending on the type of animal to be caught. For his efforts he collected one coyote, which was alive when we arrived and which he quickly killed with a .22 calibre rifle with one shot in the eye from more than 40 feet away. He also recovered one small mink, a red squirrel and a snowshoe rabbit that had all frozen to death in his traps. He found another snowshoe rabbit in a trap. It was still alive when we arrived and he promptly killed it by smashing it over the head with a trap. Much of the morning was spent searching for a trap that had disappeared without a trace. Mr. Plante was afraid he had trapped a large animal that had made off with the trap, but had later become tangled in underbrush while attempting to drag the log that the trap had been attached to. "Big cats (mountain lions) will step in a trap and run off, log and all, get mad and break the trap all to pieces," he said. His major worry was that a smaller animal had gotten into the trap and had managed to hide and die. When asked if he was not afraid that possibly a mountain lion had gotten entangled in his trap he said he was not worried because the type of trap he was using was neither strong enough nor the right kind to hold a lion, and certainly wasn't strong enough to do much more than just give it a welt. When we discovered another trap missing at a set not more than 300 yards away, he became suspicious and remarked both the theft of traps and traps with animals in them was one of the greatest expenses he faced. Birds caught In the previous week he said he had lost at least $100 worth of traps and about $200 worth of animal hides from martins and lynx he bad captured, but someone else had taken. Another problem faced by trappers, says Mr. Plante, is the plague of birds that are always trying to steal some of the bait and are constantly getting caught in his traps. We removed four birds from the traps - two magpies and two blue jays. Lunch was eaten on the run between trap sets. In between setting and checking traps Mr. Plante explained only certain kinds of traps could be used to catch particular animals. "You don't use a trap large enough to catch and hold a bear or mountain lion (it's illegal to trap both kinds of animals in Alberta) to try and catch a squirrel. "You've got to try to match the size and strength of the trap to the size and strength of the animal you are after. "If the trap is too big for the animal all you do is tear it to pieces and kill it for no reason, which I'm against. I don't kill animals just for the sake of seeing them dead - when you take an animal's life you've taken all it has. I do it to make money to feed my family, send my kids to school and pay the bills. "If I waste a hide I lose money and kill with no reason. Nothing wasted "I try not to waste anything. Rabbit hides aren't worth much, but I use the rabbits I trap as bait for traps for other animals with a much more useable fur," he said. Mr. Plante also told The Herald his family ate many of the squirrels he trapped, and all the skinless bodies of the carnivores he trapped, such as coyotes, lynx, martins and minks were sent to the department of fish and wildlife at Edmonton where the carcasses were used for predator study programs. "If the supply of animals in an area decreases I go elsewhere - if I catch all the animals in an area I'll have no income the next season," he said. During the afternoon we checked several more trap sets that had not been working because there had been a brief warming spell that had melted the surface of the snow and then turned to ice when it got cold again, freezing the traps in an icy crust so they would not close when an animal stepped on them. Later in the afternoon, as the temperatures dipped well below the zero mark and the sun slipped behind the mountains, we boarded a snowmobile and began to check some more distant traps - with no results. Mr. Plante blamed the sparseness of animals in his traps on the brief warm weather spell and the resulting icy crust. In many sets the tracks of animals could easily be seen all around and even in the traps, but none of the more than 30 traps had done their job. Also in the late afternoon, Mr. Plante demonstrated how to construct a trap set for a lynx. Setting traps A rough covering of the set area is the first part of trap setting that must be built. It consists of a crude lean-to made from small trees and branches, usually leaned against a larger tree, and usually placed as near the suspected site of a game trail as possible. In this instance the covering was built directly over some suspected martin tracks. The next step in malting the trap site was to suspend the bait from wire. Bait was half of the rabbit that he had taken earlier in the day - the carcass was still warm and soft. To make the bait for the trap Mr Plante split the rabbit in half with his axe, sprinkled some blood around the area and hung the carcass on a wire inside the crude structure. Two leg-hold traps were placed beneath the dangling bait. To complete the trap set Mr. Plante constructed a device from heavy metal foil and bright colored plastic ribbon, which he hung at the structure's entrance. He explained that cats in the wild, like house cats had "no nose" (didn't have much of a s?nse oE smell) and the ribbons and the foil fluttering in the wind acted to attract the animals to the trap. At the end of the day Mr. Plante said we had not visited all of his traps, and he declined to say how many he operated, or where they all were. Mr. Plante would also not disclose how much money he made per trapping season and said the money he got paid for his job at the Coleman industry and the money he made from his trap lines were his own business. He did, however, give some indication that trapping could be profitable when he said the snowmobile we rode on had been purchased from money made on the trap line. He said the machine had cost $1,300 when it was purchased. Kid, s iiei Two of his three teen-aged children also help him run his line, but his eldest daughter objects to the idea and will only help prepare the hides after tha animals have been skinned. Mr. Plante says it is his daughter's choice not to help with the trapping and lulling ol animals and he will not forca her to help as long as she feels the way she does. His own personal attitude about trapping is that it isn't one of the nicest jobs in the word, but ha loves the out-of-doors and trapping makes him get outside, he says. "All of us can't be doctors or lawyers or have jobs that let us sit in big offices. Some of us have to sweep the floors. That's what trapping is like, but it's good honest work and much better than trying to support a family on welfare cheques," he said. During the evening Mr. Plante explained he must rely on the so-called cruel type leg hold traps to catch large members of the cat family, because the much praised conibear traps (humane traps) did not do the job. "For a conibear (trap) to work the animal must stick its head through a square heavy duty spring steel. "A cat or a coyote simply won't stick their head into something like that, and if they don't stick their head in, the trap just won't work," he* said. Humane traps Not only do the humane traps limit what may be taken with them, they also create a hazard for the trappers who use them and anyone who might get caught in them, he says. . "The conibear kills the animal by snapping its back - it will also snap the arm of anyone unfortunate enough to get caught in it," said Mr. Plante. "Many trappers often tend their lines alone, and if they gat caught in a leg hold trap they can generality get themselves out pretty easily, but there is no way you can get yourself out of a conibear," he said. The cost of a trapper's licence is $10 and the trapper is limited to that area only. Dried and salted, but not tanned pelts, vary in price per animal. Last year Mr. Plante said he got an average of slightly more than $27 for a coyote hide, .$40 for a lynx hide and only $1 for a beaver hide. "But prices vary all the time," he said. The filial expense that must be paid by a trapper when he sells his hides is a provincial royalty per pelt. "For red squirrel pelt, valued at 51, a trapper must pay a two-cent royalty. On other animr.Is such' as (he coyote a $1.23 royalty must be paid. For an $8 mink pelt a trapper must pay a $1 royalty," he said. "When the prices dip, it often doesn't pay to trap the animals," said Mr. Plante.