Keeping Pennsylvania’s Heritage: Predator Hunting and Trapping
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Article Contributed by E. Lawrence of NWPAoutdoors and A. Campenella of Eyecrosser Sportfishing
For many hunters across Pennsylvania, hunting season is not over after the close of the white-tailed deer season. In the depths of Pennsylvania’s winter is when you can find the best conditions for predator hunting and trapping. Hunting and trapping predators plays an important part of conservation and it is important to hunt and manage these animals and not just the deer and turkey in our woods.
Coyote hunting is open year around in Pennsylvania. It is allowed even on Sundays when most other hunting is off limits. Coyote hunting contests are conducted throughout Pennsylvania during winter months. Many experienced Yote hunters target the animals during dozens of organized hunts in winter. The hunts can offer hundreds of dollars or more to hunters who take the largest animals. Last year, a Pennsylvania hunter took home over ten thousand dollars during an organized hunt.
Coyotes in Pennsylvania are known to carry some wolf DNA. This explains why in Pennsylvania a coyote may reach sizes of over sixty pounds. Coyotes are often found near farms where the critters look to raid chicken coops, feed on livestock, or are after other wildlife drawn to farms and agricultural areas. Coyotes are also hunted in larger forests in Pennsylvania where they prey on deer, turkeys, and other wild animals.
This time of year is mating season for coyotes and foxes and it’s a good time of the year to call using coyote or fox sounds. Distress sounds imitating wounded prey also work well this time of year, especially when the temp drops and there’s snow on the ground. The best time to call for predators is the first and last hours of light and into the evening.
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Trapping is a practice used to help control animal populations in some areas and can even help to prevent the spread of disease. Rabies is a potentially deadly disease that is transmitted by animal bites. Just last year a boy was bitten by a rabid fox in northwestern Pennsylvania. Luckily he and the other kids he was fishing with were able to subdue the animal and get it tested for the disease. The boy was then treated to prevent the disease from affecting him.
Many wildlife biologists and conservation officials support regulated trapping. Trapping is believed by many to be a form of environmentally safe and practical means of managing fur bearing predators. By supporting education and regulated trapping programs, supporters of conservation can also help support a healthy population of predators and other fur bearers. By hunting and trapping fur bearing predators in the region, hunters may see an increase in the game animals predators prey upon. Conservation includes doing your part in keeping a well balanced ecosystem.
Trapping plays an important role in conservation. Trapping is regulated by state wildlife agencies across the United States. Anyone who traps must follow strict rules established and enforced by state fish and wildlife agencies. Restrictions on species that may be harvested, harvest seasons, trap types, trapping methods and areas open to trapping are some examples of the guidelines and regulations that state agencies regularly review, implement and enforce.
Best Management Practices (BMPâ€™s) are intended to inform people about traps and trapping systems considered to be state of the art in animal welfare and efficiency. Through the use of BMP guidelines, trappers can continue to play an important role in furbearer management programs across the United States. The purpose of the BMP process is to scientifically evaluate the traps and trapping systems used for capturing furbearers in the United States. Evaluations are based on animal welfare, efficiency, selectivity, practicality and safety. Results of this research are provided as information to state and federal wildlife agencies and trappers. – Furbearer Conservation Technical Work Group of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
Trapping has been a part of our culture since the early days of our country and the waterways were once used as a means to transport furs to market. Some of the laws established in the early history of Pennsylvania pertained to the use of rivers and streams as transportation for commerce. One of these important laws still being used today refers to these historic navigable waters and the right to public use.
Our hunting and trapping heritage is an important part of our history. During the colonization and settlement of North America, the taking and trading of furs was a common form of commerce. Furbearers such as bobcats and foxes were important sources of income for many of the early inhabitants of the region. Today fur prices are historically low, yet trappers continue to participate in this outdoor activity.
Hunting and trapping remain popular in many areas of Pennsylvania. It is a part of our cultural history that goes back to the days of the early settlers and pioneers of Pennsylvania as well as all of North America. Opposition to hunting and trapping by animal rights activists will always bring into question the morality of these practices. With the help of State and Federal Wildlife agencies, trappers can continue the trapping tradition while developing the safest, most efficient, and ethical ways to trap. Not only are these activities necessary to a healthy wildlife population, they are important parts of our history and heritage.
For more information and interesting facts on hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania, please go to:
Pennsylvania Game Commission
National Trappers Association
Pennsylvania Trappers Association
Pennsylvania Game Commission – Trapping Section