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I oppose the several anti-trapping, anti-hunting bills that have been introduced in the Vermont legislature this past session: S.201, S.281, S129 and H.411 as introduced. But, I will focus mainly on trapping.

Enjoyment of wildlife and the outdoors has been central to my life. I got my inspiration and love of wildlife largely because of having hunted, trapped, and fished during my youth. Such outdoor activities and experiences, especially trapping, give one an understanding of wildlife that even many game biologists do not acquire — except from trappers — to the betterment of wildlife management. Those experiences made me care about and protect wildlife — not so much individual animals, as assuring that sufficient populations of all animals continue to flourish — for their own sake.

Wildlife management is not an ephemeral idea — it is a necessary part of managing our human interactions with wildlife. Those interactions we cannot avoid. Any danger to wildlife is not from hunting or trapping, but from development that does not take the needs of wildlife corridors and habitat into account, from direct loss of habitat, from air pollution, water pollution, pesticides and herbicides use and loss of food sources due to man’s activities — among other dangers such as roadways.

About predator and prey relationships, there is no truth to the claim that some make that nature will balance itself. If you want to see animal populations get out of balance with their habitat and with each other, then take away the hunting/trapping tools that our professionals must have to manage them.

Trapping is essentially self-educational and is mostly a rural activity. For youth, before starting, it requires some formal education and certification through the state as a starting point. It requires and teaches entrepreneurship by the need to plan a trapline, purchase the traps, usually less that 10 of them at first, then create the trapline after acquiring landowner permission, then establish each trap placed for a specific target species. Following that it requires maintaining the trapline by checking traps every day and re-setting them if needed while collecting the animals caught, walking perhaps miles over often untrodden terrain. It teaches dependability by having to maintain the traps, keeping them clean and odor-free, taking the successful catch home, skinning their pelts, cleaning them, curing them, storing them properly and caring for them for months, yet endeavor to get one’s schoolwork done each evening. Finally, one must find market and buyer to sell the pelts. If the season was successful, perhaps a few more traps will be acquired for the coming year.

Trapping is time consuming, hard work and the returns are generally not high — yet trappers keep at it. Why? Because it requires persistence and is character building, par excellence. These are valuable skills to have in society. These things cannot be acquired by any other means than by walking out the door every evening to “run the trapline” while simultaneously acquiring deep knowledge of wildlife behavior, travel pathways, habitat needs and wildlife interrelationships. It also imparts a love of all things outdoors from having to spend part of every day acquiring an intimate knowledge of the overall landscape and its detailed features.

The result of all this is rare, valuable knowledge and skills in the face of an increasingly urban society. If it is a joint venture with one’s father, it builds bonding that lasts.

Ray Gonda, of South Burlington, founded a local chapter of the Audubon Society, belonged to Defenders of Wildlife and was a founding member of the Vermont Conservation Voters. He brought the Vermont chapter of the Sierra Club into existence and served two terms on Gov. Howard Dean’s Council of Environmental Advisors. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.