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Youth Trapper Camp held in Beaver Creek

 

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

John Bergquam, of Buxton, Ore., holds up a beaver pelt and quizzes a group of young children on different types of fur during the 20th annual Beaver Creek Youth Trappers Camp Saturday at Camp Kiwanis south of Havre. Bergquam, along with other instructors, taught multiple classes about trapping, nature and outdoors survival.

Editor’s note: This version corrects how many years the Youth Trapper Camp has been held and what predators can be trapped.

This year, Youth Trapper Camp Inc., a non-profit organization, held its 20th Annual Youth Trapping Camp at Beaver Creek Park's Camp Kiwanis south of Havre to educate both youth and adults about humane, ethical trapping practices aimed toward nature conservation.

"That's part of the responsibility of being a good trapper," organizer Fran Buell said.

The camp took place Friday through Sunday and saw more than 150 people attend the camp, 76 children, 25 instructors, five staff members and a number of parents who registered. Buell said that trapping is not the primary focus of the camp. The focus is on informing people about the importance of trapping and teaching children to be good stewards of the land and learning respect for the land and the animals that inhabit them.

She said that they have seen a large increase in the number of people who attend the camp every year. In 1999, the first year they held the camp, they had 88 people register, 47 of those being children.

"We started a monster," she said.

She added that she and her husband, Jim Buell, who are both long time trappers, first had the idea to have the camp after discussing how beneficial it would be for children to learn how to trap in addition to the complexities surrounding the subject and conservation. She said that they have also been able to keep the registration fees down because it is offering a valuable resource to the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department by teaching children of the important role trapping plays in the ecosystem.

Trapping is a method of population control in some cases, she said, such as for beavers. If beavers' population was unregulated they could be inflicted with a variety of diseases, such as mange and bacterial infections. Overpopulation can also cause the animals to struggle with finding resources and could result in starvation.

Trapping can also be used as damage control, Buell added, with beavers cutting down trees, building dams and diverting water sources causing flooding in areas.

She said that it is also used for predators, which the state defines as as coyote, weasel, striped skunk and civet cat, also known as spotted skunk.

The camp includes different levels of classes based on the child's experience and age, she said. Children younger than 6 years old are put in pre-first-year training, which teaches them the basics of trapping and allows them to set mouse traps around the campsite. Children older than 6 who are new to the camp are in first-year classes, which are primarily hands-off classes where children watch the instructor set traps and teach them the rules and regulations for trapping. She added that they also have survival and ethics classes for children.

Second-year children get a more hands-on training, but do not actually trap animals, she said. They do this because they want to assure that the children are setting traps properly and safely, both for themselves and the animals. Third-year students are given the opportunity, if the instructor thinks they are ready, to actually trap some animals, doing damage control for the park with the permission of the park manager.

She said she was trained how to trap by her father at the age of 8 and remembers it as the best time of her life. She added that through trapping she learned the love and respect for the land and animals, which is what she wants to pass down to the next generation.

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Look for more on the trapping camp in Hi-Line Living Friday.

 

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