TRAPPING TECHNOLOGY AND THE TRADITIONAL TRAPPER
Trapping Technology and the Traditional Trapper
by: Chris A. Berson (Trapper Dan)
The trapping industry has changed a lot in the past 100 years. The days of traps with steel teeth are gone and have been replaced with smooth jawed traps with the animal’s welfare in mind. The size of the traps have even been regulated. Many states have even regulated which types of traps that can be used banning foot holds, snares, and/or coni-bear traps in many states. Recently, we have even seen Dog Proof traps enter the market, which is now a rapidly growing market. But beyond changes in the traps themselves a new change is entering the trapping industry: Technology.
Technology is changing the industry in many ways. The changes range from tech on the traps themselves to the ways trappers scout land. Many trappers see this use of technology as a deviation from the traditional trapping heritage much to their disapproval. Does technology have a future in the industry and can we expect to see a wider use of it? Or does technology create a new generation of trappers, leaving the traditional ways behind, as is happening in many other fields in today’s digital age?
One of the new technologies available to trappers of all types is Google Maps. It is publicly accessible at no charge which makes it a widely used tool. The only thing that is required is an internet connection which many have, available even on our smart phones. With Google Maps a trapper can identify waterways, ridges, choke points, and in some cases beaver dams and damage. The information obtained from Google Maps can help to identify potential hotspots without ever leaving your home.
Google Maps, however, can not tell you what species are actually in a given area. It will take boots on the ground. Just because there is water does not mean that your target species is located there. Traditional trappers will tell you that you must scout the area yourself, and put the time in. You must physically scout for the food sources, footprints, trails, scat, and other signs. These are things Google Maps can not show you. The traditional trappers are not wrong in this respect.
So is Google Maps a valuable technology for trappers? Perhaps as a starting point it is an asset. It will still take traditional methods to complete the scouting job. Also, one needs to consider that the Google Maps information may be out of date. Just because there was a flowing creek in the picture does not mean water is flowing there now, and vice versa. Google Maps does not appear as though it will take away from the heritage of trapping, due to its lack of information needed to successfully trap an area.
The Trail Camera
Trail cameras entered the market primarily targeted towards the deer hunter. The cameras use motion sensing technology to trigger the camera. In recent years it has been used in scientific trapping fields as well as among fur and ADC trappers. So how are trappers using this technology and is it necessary?
Many trappers have said they are using trail cameras to test out their baits and lures. They mix various combinations and place them in mock sets absent of a trap. The camera is placed to see what animals are attracted to their bait/lure combinations at their mock sets. Much of this work is done during the off season.
These trail cameras are an aid in honing skills and exploring what works. It is just a trap of a different sort that allows for the compliance of laws. In days past, trappers could go out and just set a trap and test a bait at any time. With modern trapping laws this is just not possible today. For a trapper to become better it is necessary to practice and hone their skills and the trail camera makes this possible.
GPS and Apps
Global Positioning System, or GPS, is being used in a few ways by trappers. Much of the uses have to with ADC and scientific studies discussed in the next section. For the fur trapper it is used by some to locate traps that they have placed. One can place a trap, record its exact location, and find it with exact accuracy at a later date. There is even an app, iGoTrapping, that has been created to help trappers record set locations, along with other information. Is this technology really useful for trappers or is it just another way of over complicated the tasks at hand?
In the short term you are going to set traps where you are seeing activity, in places you have access to. You are going to choose the bait you have with you for that species. A responsible trapper should be able to remember where he set a trap. The GPS coordinates are not going to change this.
In the long term, combining GPS coordinates over a large area and time span combined with additional information could increase efficiency. You could see over time which sets and baits seem to work better and in which areas. Also, you can see where there seems to be more activity and when. Much of this could be used during the off season and aid in preparations and time management. While the GPS technology is going to be integrated in to many new trapping technologies, how it will be used by trappers will ultimately be decided for themselves.
Trap Notification Devices
The ADC and science trapping community saw the Tele-Trap Notifier hit the market utilizing cellular technology to send a message to the trapper that their trap had gone off. It was possibly the first new product to truly revolutionize the trapping industry. Since then, a few companies have began manufacturing trap notification devices, and many improvements have been made.
The equipment is sold with some packages topping out well over $500 for coverage of a handful traps. In addition to the equipment cost is the monitoring service. Six months of coverage for one unit of six traps could cost several hundreds of dollars for just six months of monitoring service. For a large amount of traps over a year, one could spend thousands of dollars in monitoring fees alone. The companies that manufacturer and sell these devices do say they are not meant for the average trapper. They are advertised as a way to save money for large scale trapping companies.
Trap notifiers do not tell you many other things as to the activity at the trap site. The notifiers do not tell you that the trap was circled but not entered allowing you to make immediate corrections. They also do not say that the bait was stolen or that the trap shutting was a miss fire or why. Perhaps further advances in this field will include camera feeds in the future to correct these omissions.
So are these trap notifiers really necessary? In the field that they are a designed for they appear to be an asset. It allows traps to be tended to sooner, aiding in animal welfare. In addition to the animal welfare, ADC customers don’t have an animal making noise in a cage trap all night. Is it a path away from everything that is considered traditional? Yes, but ADC and science based trapping differs in many ways from what is considered traditional trapping.
Technology is being used in a variety of ways by trappers today. Even with the use of technology, a good trapper must still be on location evaluating the information in front of his eyes and place the traps accordingly. So in this way, the core of trapping will never change. We can use Google Maps to scout from home, but we will still have to scout when we arrive on location. Trail cameras are a trap of a different sort helping trappers to comply with laws during off seasons. GPS/Apps may collect more information than the average trapper wants, but the trapper is still going to place the traps where he is seeing good sign in front of him, these apps will not change that. Trap notification devices appear to detract from daily interaction, but when combined with daily interaction it promotes better customer service and animal welfare, which is integral to the ADC industry.
Even with the use of technology, it is still going to be the trapper on the ground reading the signs making decisions the old way. New things come along and if they are good enough, they are used. Technology in trapping can be viewed as just another tool at a trapper’s disposal that has come along. It has a purpose, whether you use it is up to you.