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Trappers bring hands-on education to prove humane treatment

VIDEO: Put your finger in this leg-hold trap, he said. And the POST reporter did.

The Alberta Trappers' Association gets a hard time sometimes when their members and supporters try to explain their role in conservation and the environment. In recent years, many of their members looking to educate the public are taking a much more hands-on approach ... using their own hands to prove their point.

"I'm going to put my finger in it..... nice and easy... I don't want it to snap on it, that will hurt," said Lac La Biche ATA member Dale Crossland as he put his finger into a functioning animal trap at an educational display during the recent Lac La Biche Winter Festival of Speed.

VIDEO of a trapper trapped by his finger —  here:

Trapping is a centuries-old skillset and a profession that is part economic, part environmental and has historically served as a way of life around the world. Crossland and members of the Lac La Biche local of the ATA says there's a lot of misconception and misinformation about trappers and the process they use to carry out their role.  Humane treatment of the animal is first and foremost in the life of a trapper, says Crossland, explaining that advances in trapping technology have come a long way to get that point across.

At a table covered with traps and snares dating back from the late 19th Century to current day, Crossland said the technology behind the more recent equipment is based primarily on the humane treatment of the trapped animal.

"The old traps wre designed to close tight. They would cut off cirtulation," he said, putting his index finger into a new trap with a rubberized line across the opening as the spring slowly released. "As soon as the animal had no more feeling in his foot, whether it froze or whatever, the animal would chew their foot off."

That kind of trauma doesn't happen with the new traps like the one Crossland's main pointer finger was clamped into.

"There's no way I can pull out," he said to a group of a dozen viewers during one of the day's presentations.

With his free hand he pointed to the straight line opening on top of the trap, as opposed to the older saw-tooth openings, saying the new traps don't rip or tear the animal's flesh either. "It doesn't cut off the circulation ... and no animal is going to chew off its own feet if he can feel it."

The none-crushing grip works well not only for demonstrations by trusting ATA members, but also when their traps inadvertantly nab the wrong target on the trapline.

"If I"m setting for coyote and I catch a dog, I can release that dog without doing any harm to it," Crossland said, explaining that traps set on farmland must be checked every 12 hours and traps on rural traplines must be supervised every 48 hours.

Any volunteers?

With his hand out of the trap, Crossland offered the experiment to anyone in the growing crowd.

The right-handed newsperson from the Lac La Biche POST offered his left hand's index finger.

VIDEO: The results are here

Crossland at the local ATA members have set up their educationals displays at the last three Winter Festival of Speed events and their tables of furs and traps are often seen at local school events. Crossland hopes the message that trappers use the most humane treatments — including quickly 'dispatching' the trapped animals — helps to point the perception of trapping to the right direction, one finger at a time.


Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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