Hunting

The urban trapper: “I use every part of the animal – it bugs me when others don’t.”

Jesse St. Andre is a keen hunter, trapper and conservationist who lives in New England, the USA’s fourth most densely populated state. Here he explains that despite living in suburban American, hunting and trapping are more important than ever:

It’s 5am and the sun won’t rise for another two hours. I lace up my boots and load my 22lr revolver before, with just the light of a headlamp, I head into the darkness. Only a few hundred feet off the road I’m greeted with a set of red glowing eyes and a hair raising howl. Just feet away I pull the trigger and the sharp sound of the 22LR seems to travel for miles. I have just succeeded in trapping the most formidable opponent a trapper can face in New England – a 60lb Eastern Coyote alpha male.

I was not always a trapper; it was something I evolved into and living in suburban America does not exempt me from trapping furbearers. I live in the USA’s fourth most densely populated state, with three of its largest cities less than 50 miles away and here hunting, trapping and fishing seem to be losing their cultural relevance.

“I am a hunter because I like to know where my food comes from but this is not why I trap.”

Despite urbanization and habitat fragmentation many species have learned to adapt and are not only present on the urban landscape but are actually found in greater abundance than in rural areas. In terms of balancing biological and cultural carrying capacities, there is essentially no better place to trap than the small woodlots scattered between city hardscapes. As a conservationist, it is these overabundant species which I target.

I am a hunter because I like to know where my food comes from but this is not why I trap. I trap because of the conflict between humans and wildlife. When it comes to human-wildlife conflicts it’s the wildlife that loses every time. It is only by managing these populations at acceptable levels that we can ensure that my children will get to enjoy the splendor of watching these animals.

For the wildlife, a negative human encounter/ conflicts ends where the animal is shown no respect and is discarded without any form of utilization. As a trapper, this bugs me. I use only the most humane traps and when I trap an animal I use every part.

The fur is processed and sold for garments, the meat feeds my family, skulls and bones are cleaned and donated for science and education, and inedible species and parts are donated to a local Raptor Rehab to feed the birds of prey while they recover from their injuries.

“I’m always on guard for the animal rights extremists but I have nothing to hide.”

When I trap, I am not hiking miles in the woods to a remote beaver dam or into endless wilderness in search of wolves. I trap the beavers which flood our roads, I trap the fox, skunks and raccoons that live under our sheds and decks, and I trap the coyotes that eat the neighborhood cats and attack our pet dogs. I guess you could say I am a nuisance wildlife trapper. I don’t trap these animals for the money (trust me I’m lucky to break even) yet I am providing a service – a service to the wildlife and a service to the people.

I pride myself in my ability to effectively trap in close proximity to people and pets with virtually no risk of injury to either. Non-target catches, while very rare, are simply let go unharmed. My traps are not only effective, but they are humane. I currently am trapping urban Bobcat’s for my state wildlife agency so they can collar and release them in an attempt to better understand the Bobcat’s population dynamics as human conflict with Bobcat’s is on the rise.

Aside from trapping black bear in Northern Maine, there is nowhere I trap where I can’t see a house or hear a car door slamming, kids playing or dogs barking. I essentially trap in a fishbowl where everyone can see everything that I do. While I’m always on guard for the animal rights extremists, I have nothing to hide and most people are not only intrigued but accepting of what I am doing after a short conversation and explanation of traps and techniques.

While I don’t go out of my way to hide what I am doing, I also don’t openly flaunt it out of respect for those with opposing views and values. This is suburban America at its core and while I dream of uncharted adventures, this is my home. In between the city hardscapes I am able to reconnect with some of the fundamental values which made the human race what it is today.

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