Wanted: young trappers
RWED helps boost plummeting trapper numbers

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Jan 29/99) - The number of active trappers in the Inuvik region has fallen from around 800 in the mid-1980s to roughly 200 today, according to a co-management plan for the fur industry written last week to incorporate ideas discussed at a trappers workshop in Inuvik in November.

The paper outlines goals in education, trapper support and prey monitoring among other areas.

But one main concern the co-management plan aims to specifically address is the dwindling number of young trappers.

"We could arrange to have younger trappers taken out by an experienced trapper," says renewable resources officer Conrad Baetz.

"It would give the younger generation the ability to be more comfortable in that setting."

Baetz describes how hunting and bush skills, such as setting tents and fires, cutting wood so it will burn and not be green wood, are all aspects of trapper training.

"I think we need to expand our program and maybe include some of those things," he says.

Several reasons are responsible for declining trapper numbers.

Baetz attributes an unstable fur market combined with the high cost of entry into the fur trade as likely causes.

"The cost of snowmobiles has risen substantially from where it was 10 or 15 years ago. The cost of gas and to outfit yourself is so expensive that it's very difficult for a younger trapper to come up with the amount of money needed," he says.

"Prices have dropped substantially as well. Seven to 10 years ago you could get a $100 average for a marten. Now you're lucky to get $40."

Those who continue to trap do so more because they enjoy the bush lifestyle of being on the land and trapping is one way to satisfy that way of life, Baetz says.

Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development has programs such as the fur price program (FPP) and the fur advance program (FAP) to help boost the number of area trappers.

For marten, RWED pays trappers $55 for a good-quality, well-handled, prime skin and if it sells for $35 at auction in the south, the department swallows the difference as a subsidy.

Further, in the fall, when trappers are trying to scrape up money to get themselves back on the land, Baetz says for all furs sold under the program, trappers get an additional $15 for each.

That brings the price for a top quality marten pelt to $70.

"We're doing what we can to ensure trappers get as much value for the effort that they're putting in," Baetz says.