New Hampshire Trappers Association members gather for annual rendezvous
By BEA LEWIS, Union Leader Correspondent
Paul Debow of Debow Wildlife Service of Plymouth, was among the presenters during the NH Trappers 64th Rendezvous held this weekend at the Belknap Fairgrounds. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)
BELMONT — The New Hampshire Trappers Association held its 64th Rendezvous at the Belknap Fairgrounds this weekend.
Despite a decline in the popularity of fur, there are 540 licensed trappers in New Hampshire, who continue a tradition that many learned from their fathers.
Bob Levasseur of Epsom, said trapping helps keep the population of fur-bearing animals in balance.
He typical sets and tends 75 traps during the season and said over the past four years he has captured and released 13 bobcats. As the bobcat population has flourished, fisher numbers have declined because the two species compete. In turn, the number of porcupines in the area where he traps has soared as fisher cats are their only natural predators, he said.
He’s heard all the rhetoric of those who oppose trapping and says the most ardent are those who assign human characteristics to wild animals.
Dick Lefleur of Berlin, education director for the NHTA said their goal is to promote safe, responsible and ethical trapping. Trappers just like hunters, must take a mandatory education course before being issued a license.
“We’re responsible to the resource and the public. We all own it,” he said.
Eric Geib, coordinator for the trapper’s education program for New Hampshire Fish and Game said trapping is not the exclusive domain of men. Typically, there is about an 80/20 split in the sexes at trapper education programs. Lefleur said 66 women have taken his trappers education course.
Paul Debow of Debow Wildlife Service in Plymouth was among those offering educational programs.
He demonstrated the variety of cage traps he uses to capture nuisance animals that invade people’s homes and property.
Flying squirrels are the most common animals he is asked to remove. The calls for help come in all during the winter. If there is no snow, the peak will be in January or February when it’s the coldest.
Homeowner’s frequently think the animals they hear partying in the attic are chipmunks. But those tiny mammals with their trademark back stripes hibernate in the winter and the antics homeowners are hearing are more likely flying squirrels. Because they are nocturnal, few people ever see them.
January and February are prime time for grey squirrels to chew their way inside a home. February and March nuisance calls for skunks tick up, according to Debow who holds a degree in wildlife management.
He uses a cage trap that is covered to prevent spooking the confined animal to avoid getting sprayed.
Baby skunks are difficult to capture because they are so lightweight they don’t trip the trap.
Peanut butter and crackers are a good bait for skunks, while porcupines are attracted to apples and salt.
During his demonstration Debow said the most unusual non-target species he has captured in a cage trap was a giant toad.
Ryan Leclerc of Winchester, a fly fishing guide and instructor spent the weekend showcasing his fly tying skills. He’s been using feathers to create flies to tempt trout for the past 15 years.
He initially learned the preliminary skills by watching videos but credits Rodney Flagg of Flagg’s Flies & Tackle in Orange, Mass., with taking him under his wing and helping him perfect the craft.
Members of the New Hampshire Bee Keeper’s Association were on hand to tout the many benefits of nature’s pollinators and the honey they produce. McCormack’s Farm, an association member, provided the bees that were displayed in a glass enclosed observation hive that included a queen bee that could be identified by the red dot painted on her thorax.