Original Published on Sep 16, 2022 at 13:53
By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
THUNDER BAY, ONT. — The Ontario Fur Managers Federation (OFMF) has started a public awareness campaign to demonstrate the role they say trapping plays in maintaining a healthy balance in nature.
Billboards are being installed across the province, including Thunder Bay, until Oct. 14.
Thunder Bay trapper Katie Ball is an entrepreneur who designs and makes fur garments at her Silver Cedar Studio. As the president and director of the OFMF, she also represents the Northwestern Fur Trappers Association, the Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen’s Alliance, and Fur Harvesters Auction.
“We’re trying to educate the public and let people know that trapping is very important,” she said. “We need to maintain our infrastructure, healthy population of animals as well as safety for the human population itself by limiting disease and human-wildlife issues.
Ball says overpopulation can be a major issue, not just for the animals themselves, but also for the area and where they may reside.
“Both raccoons and foxes can carry rabies, a deadly disease, and can pass it on not only to humans but to livestock and pets,” she said.
“Also, with coyote populations tending to explode and moving into new areas, a lot of wildlife conflict with our own pets, and with people who have notably been bitten. We like to keep wild animals wild. We still want to experience them, but we as trappers are helping maintain those healthy populations.”
Ball explained that trapping is taking an animal in the most humane possible way. Trappers adhere to the Agreement on International Humane Trapping standards and strict regiments. Traps are inspected and she says there are no longer “these big, spiky, scary traps anymore.” Traps, which include the conibear trap, which is a square, body grip with no teeth or “jaws,” a restraining trap that is a foothold, and snares, are meant to kill as humanely as possible.
“In the wild, animals don’t die humanely,” she said.
Ball’s family enjoys consuming some of the things they have trapped, which typically include beavers and muskrats. If they are not consumed, they’re used for feeding their pets and for baiting other animals.
“What we don’t use goes back to nature. Nothing is wasted,” she said. “The furs can get turned into products to keep our family warm. We also send them to auction to garner some funds.”
Trapping is not an extremely profitable business, but there is some money to be made. Trappers trap because they are stewards of the land, Ball says.
“We feel we are a part of the land and we need to be out there because it is something that we love — something that we do,” she said.
“We love to see these animals, we want to see healthy populations and that’s why we are out there. When it comes to the business, really there’s not a lot of money to be made. It is highly regulated just like wild game and it’s exactly the same.”
As a small business owner creating and selling fur products, Ball has found there is a growing demand for it. People not only look for vegan options but many also look for healthy, holistic options for their foods that have been grown locally. She says they’re looking at where their clothing is coming from and people are going back to wool and fur.
“Mitts, hats, collars and cuffs . . . people are seeking those items out and I’m definitely noticing an increase in business in that regard too,” she said. “People want these items. They want a lifetime piece. They want something that they can pass to their kids and they want something that’s completely warm and natural.”
Ball says people are constantly buying new fashion trends with plastic fillers and wonders, ‘where does all that go?’
“That all ends up in our landfills,” she said. “The main difference between my coat and your coat is how much it’s going to pollute for hundreds of years to come versus mine, which will go back to the earth and where it came from.”
People need to educate themselves on these topics and find the truth for themselves, she says. Trapping has a long history reaching back as a means of survival and is essential for the traditional lifestyle of many Indigenous people as well, whose lives depended on it, Ball adds.
Today trapping in northern communities continues as a mainstay for many Indigenous people as a food staple for health and well-being.