With much of Canada’s past built upon the fur trade, one Columbia Valley trapper weaves history and pioneering pride into every square mile of his trap line.
Frank Rad, a trapper training instructor based out of Cranbrook, can trace a family lineage of outdoorsmen dating back to his grandfather, who came to the Columbia Valley in 1944 and leased traplines along Jumbo Creek and Toby Creek, which the family trapped for decades. The Pioneer caught up with Mr. Rad to learn about the often hidden world of fur trappers.
“When you get to know trappers, they are very reclusive people,” he said. “They like to be one-on-one in the bush. Whether it happens to be out fishing, hunting, cutting firewood or trapping, it is another season of the year where they can be outside and enjoying nature.”
Mr. Rad began his trapping career with humble roots, learning to catch squirrels and weasels with his brother when he was young. Growing up in a family of outdoor enthusiasts, Mr. Rad took his first trapper training course in 1982. Throughout his experience in the field he has learned to treat trapping much like farming.
“With trapping, you are managing the fur bearers,” he said. “I trap pine marten up until the New Year and not afterwards, because my female harvest will increase and I don’t want to catch my breeding stock. Just as with farming, if you kill all your cows you are not going to have any calves in the spring. I try to harvest only the excess population that will possibly die of starvation because only a given number can live in so much habitat.”
With over 30 years’ experience in the field, Mr. Rad was appointed as a training instructor by the B.C. Trappers Association in 2010. His main goal in education is to teach responsible trapping methods that focus upon setting traps humanely, sustainably and safely. The three day course begins with a history lesson focusing on the 2,900 trap lines established in 1926.
The curriculum then moves into modern trapping methods, which can be broken down into humane traps, designed to instantly kill, and foothold traps, created to prevent an animal from escaping. Modern traps must meet the requirements designated by the 1997 Agreement on International Human Trapping Standards, signed by Canada and the European Union, Mr. Rad added.
In accordance with the agreement, humane traps must be designed to kill an animal within a certain amount of time.
Foothold traps, which were originally designed with teeth, are now manufactured to hold a trapped animal without injury and minimal stress. They must now be toothless and come with a dedicated space in between the closed jaws of the trap to ensure the blood circulation to the animal’s foot. Foothold traps can also be outfitted with rubber jaws to minimize bruising and discomfort to the animal.
“I have caught wolves in foothold traps and when I walked up they were sleeping,” he added. “Once they have fought and realized they can’t go anywhere, they basically relax and lay down.”
Once the course is completed, graduates can purchase a trapping tenure in B.C., which range from 200 to 1000 square miles and vary in price between $5,000 to $50,000. Once a trapline is purchased responsible ownership becomes the next concern.
“Right now there are no legal requirements for a trapper to put signage up,” He said. “Quite a few of the trappers are putting signage up and warning the public that there is active trapping going on, but some of them have had so much vandalism and theft that they don’t want to do it anymore.”
Although it is unlikely that a human would become injured as the result of a set trap because of their obvious placement, pets are another concern, he said.
“Responsible pet owners must have their dogs under control, which means on a leash. If they are not on a leash they are not under control. Some people think that because their dog is right beside them that the dog is safe, but they are nose-driven and need to investigate.”
Despite the hard work and responsibilities that come with trapping, the rewards are not measured only in pelts.
“I have had some incredible times with my kids and nieces and nephews,” he added. “Some days the catch is very low, but it is still very rewarding being out there. You can’t get that time back. The time spent with the kids give them the tools which helps them grow into good people.”
For more information on trapping or how to take the trappers education course, please contact the BC Trappers Association at 250-962-5452.