Trapper Gordy Klassen works to build awareness about Canada’s oldest commercial enterprise
Not everyone likes what he has to teach – people in Israel once called him a wolf murderer – but Klassen has carved out his “own little brand of activism” by educating the public on the importance of managing animal populations in urban river valleys, for ranchers, oilfield workers and municipalities.
“Trapping and fur trading are traditions dating back long before Alberta became a province, and they remain important commercial and recreational activities today,” reads an Internet message from Diana McQueen, former minister of environment and sustainable resources development. “Modern trappers have a deep respect for the land and its wildlife – and are proudly carrying on this long standing commercial enterprise.”
How many pages has the Vancouver Sun dedicated to this noble savage, you ask? FIVE. Obviously it takes a special kind of man to justify doing exactly what people want him to do to protect property interests and make it seem like the right thing. Once it would have surprised me, but now I understand how this game is played.
What I don’t understand is why people assume trappers actually KNOW THINGS about the species they kill. I mean I can understand that they have to know where they hang out and what attracts them, but that doesn’t mean they know anything at all about their natural history, does it?
Moving beavers or other animals isn’t a good option, says Dave Kay, commercial wildlife and priority species specialist at Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources Development. Beavers, for instance, then have to compete for territory and often end up killing each other. Leaving the rodents to their own devices also doesn’t work, Kay says. When beaver populations become too big – the rodents reproduce many kits, he says – natural forces such as the disease tularemia move in, killing them off in unhealthy masses.
First of all, if beavers killed each other, wouldn’t that be easier than having you kill them? Saves everyone time and money, right? And second of all, have you never in your trapper life heard of dispersal? Do you really think kits stay with their parents forever if it wasn’t for you and your trusty conibear? Maybe your kids did?
It’s passages like these that make me want to swallow paint-thinner while singing “Oh Canada”. Read for yourself.
Klassen is motivated by managing the ecosystem – yes, even manipulating it – to use its renewable animal resources while balancing its health with the health of people and industries around it.
”It has to be done sustainably,” he says, explaining that if someone traps too many marten or beaver one year, there won’t be any left for the next. “I can’t think of a trapper where sustainability is not in the best interest. … You get as much as you can without hurting things.”
Why is it that when reporters write about Bosnia or fracking or the robbery on 23rd street they present different opinions to get the full story, but when reporters write a trapping homage they let them spew their rugged lies without any hint of a challenge? As I’ve said before, I think the reporter spends so much time typing at the computer that they have walter-mitty fantasies about chucking it all and living off the land to strangle animals (and their editor) with their bare hands. They admire trappers because they live the life they can only imagine.
The article comes with a video, but be warned it’s not for the feint of heart. In fact, watching it I’m reminded of that sneaky camera man who filmed Palin’s interview in front of the turkey slaughter. Someone behind that camera just might have an agenda that’s not too far from our own.
“The fur trade and traditions date long back before Alberta became a province and they really are what defined Canada in its day,” Kay says. “When you hang around trappers enough, you really get a sense for how much they actually do care about wildlife and wildlife habitat. It’s a passion. It really is. They do care deeply for them.“
And I care about trappers. I really do. I care deeply for them.