February 10, 2022
Ask any group of hunters or land managers their opinion on trapping and you're sure to get a mixed bag of responses. Some say "trapping is dead," while others will share stories of trapping with their Grandad's as kids, all the way up to how they still use it today.
I believe trapping is something that any land manager should consider with an eye towards a broader view of the situation - certainly more than just wiping out a predator.
The idea of not trapping is so far removed from who we are that it seems we may not know our history. Trapping is what built America. Countless cities all over our great nation were founded because of their impact on fur trade. I know what you are thinking, but this is not limited to western or northern states. Our very own Augusta, GA was founded by Oglethorpe because of its strategic location below the fall line on the Savannah River. Furs were traded in Augusta, then shipped down the river to Savannah for export.
I am firmly planted in the habitat camp. It may be that I am a child of the wildly successful NWTF initiative - Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. The right habitat management practices make it possible for wild game to flourish and handle pressure from natural predators. Sometimes this means trapping or taking other measures to correct predator imbalance. Sometimes it means harvesting more game than you previously have, to correct a population issue.
Regardless of the situation, we can't ignore the vital role predators (including us) play in any ecosystem. Eradicating a species to protect another is almost never the answer.
So what are the right steps to take when things get out of balance? What do we do when a non-native predator is introduced?
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) implemented a coyote harvest incentive in 2016, aimed at curbing the coyote population while preserving the SC state animal, the whitetail deer.
According to SCDNR, coyotes first appeared in South Carolina about 30 years ago and continue to expand greatly in numbers. This makes them a non-native predator. They negatively impact the whitetail population by preying heavily on deer fawns.
The picture below was captured by a trail cam on our farm in Bulloch County, GA. Not the kind of picture we ever want to get. Yes, that is a fawn in that coyote's mouth. Proof that there is validity to the SC program.
Since 2002, the SC deer population has declined by more than 30%. While the whitetail population is still strong the research has shown that there is a coyote problem in the state. The Coyote Harvest Incentive Program was created by a Budget Provision (47.10), which directed SCDNR to develop and implement a coyote tagging and reward program. Annually, SCDNR traps, tags and releases four coyotes per game zone (16 total).
Anyone who successfully takes and reports a tagged coyote will be rewarded with a free lifetime hunting license. The person reporting the tagged coyote has the option to designate anyone for the lifetime license such as a child, relative, or friend.
The specially marked tags provide contact information directly on them. Only the uniquely identifiable SCDNR coyote tags are eligible for the lifetime license, as there are potentially some coyotes that have been tagged for research purposes.
If you live in or hunt in South Carolina, I say you should take advantage of this program for several reasons...
So what do you think? Is trapping the way? Is it something that you should consider? What ways are you helping the wildlife where you hunt?
Share your story with us in the comments. Thanks for reading and keep on getting outside!
John Keene is the founder and caretaker of Bowtreader, headquartered in Statesboro, GA. He is on a mission to help encourage others to live an active lifestyle in the great outdoors, be engaged as patriots in this great country that we temporarily call home, and most importantly live vertically. He is married to his best friend, DeAnna. Together they have 2 children, 3 dogs, a bunch of chickens and the famous sheep, affectionately known as Queen Esther.
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