Close to 30 trapping enthusiasts packed into the Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) shop in Fort Smith last Thursday evening to exchange ideas, learn the rules and economics of the industry, and get tips from the experts at the department’s annual trapping workshop.
Renewable resource officer Danny Beaulieu of Fort Providence led the session, which explained the rules of obtaining a trap line, humane trapping practices, pelt prices, the fur auction process and how to get financial assistance, along with Beaulieu’s own personal tips for successful trapping.
Beaulieu, who recently gave similar workshops in Fort Providence and Kakisa before coming to Fort Smith, said his goal is to promote both the money making and lifestyle aspects of the age-old trade.
“I do it because I don’t want the industry to die – that’s the thing,” he told The Journal. “The fur trade made the Northwest Territories. It wasn’t diamonds; it wasn’t gold. It was the fur trade business. My family, my great-great-great grandfather came up from Manitoba to Fort Resolution in 1750 and worked for the Hudson’s Bay. The trapping and fur trade, I guess, is in my blood.”
Before starting to work for ENR 13 years ago, Beaulieu said he spent most of his life trapping full-time in the winter and supplementing that income with different summer work.
“You can make money at it if you aren’t afraid of some hard work. It’s not easy work, but it’s fun. It’s fun to be out on the land in the fresh air…It’s a really good lifestyle.”
He said the beauty of trapping is people can always fall back on it as a way to make a living, regardless of education.
“There’s a lot of young people who drop out of school and have nothing to do, and trapping doesn’t require education – it requires some, because you need to know some stuff – but at least they have something really good to fall back on if they know how to trap,” he said.
“I’ve trapped basically all my life and I always know I can go back to this. To keep the fur industry going and to have good programs so the trapper can make it, it’s a wonderful thing to see that there’s still people willing to work at it.”
The NWT is seeing a rebound in the traditional economy. Last year, trappers set records for the highest number of sales and volume of pelts seen in the past decade, bringing in a total of more than $2.3 million with around 2,500 pelts sold.
“I did a workshop in Fort Providence; we had 30 people there,” Beaulieu said. “I did a workshop in Kakisa and we had 17 people in a little community. Here, the officers were telling me we might have five or six people, and we have 25 people here. There’s a lot of interest again.”
Beaulieu said prices are good, which is attractive, but people are also becoming more interested in the lifestyle, as well.
“You’re not going to lose at trapping. Gas is expensive, but now they have skidoos that are a little easier on gas, and you don’t really have to go far. There’s a couple of kids in Fort Providence who just go out from the community walking and catch a few martens. All you need is to learn how to do it, and with these workshops we teach people how to start.”
Beaulieu said he often learns just as much from the workshops as the participants when trappers start exchanging their ideas and innovations, from boiling snares to using boxes to trap marten.
“You learn a lot from just being around trappers for new ideas,” he said. “Some young people, the wheels are turning and they get into it. It just works well.”
ENR will be hosting another trapping workshop in Fort Resolution this Thursday from 1:00-8:00 p.m. at the hall.