I was in the fur shed when I saw blue lights fl ashing outside. Not a good sign.
Three vehicles were parked in my driveway — two wildlife officer trucks and a county sheriff sedan. The men beside the vehicles stood ready, arms away from their sides, in a line that separated them and also gave each a clear line of sight to their suspect — which, it appeared, was me.
I knew the two wildlife officers and greeted them by name. They did not return the courtesy, but one did speak: “Drop the knife!” he said. I’d been skinning, and when I walked out into the yard, I hadn’t laid the knife down. It irritated me, but not having been raised a fool, I dropped the knife. “Turn around, hands on the wall,” the same officer said. I was irritated more, but I put my hands on the wall.
After a thorough frisking, I learned they were there to question me about a pile of skinned furbearer carcasses that had been dumped off a county road bridge into a dry creek bed a couple miles away. A jogger spotted the pile and contacted the sheriff ’s department, who contacted the wildlife officers, one of whom knew I lived nearby and was a trapper.
It wasn’t my carcass pile, but it took me a long time to convince them. I’m not sure they ever did believe me, really, but after they’d been there a while it occurred to them that (a) they were overreacting a tiny bit, and (b) while dumping legally taken furbearer carcasses off a country road bridge probably wasn’t cool, it also wasn’t illegal.
It turned out to be a non-event, but the whole incident highlights a problem all trappers face: getting rid of the unsellable by-product of our trapline activities. Or, in plain English, dumping the carcasses.
It can be a real hassle. Many trappers routinely catch 300 to 500 animals per year, and those carcasses have to go somewhere. Dumping them off a bridge is one solution, of course, but it’s illegal in many places, and, as mentioned, it’s a poor idea anyway, from a public relations standpoint.
Some trappers are farmers or have friends who are, and have out-of-the way corners where they can dispose of carcasses out of public view. Scavengers such as buzzards, coyotes and other animals usually make quick work of cleaning up carcasses left in places like this.
But what if you’re not lucky enough to have such a place? Selling carcasses for human consumption helps reduce the problem and also helps with the bottom line. But not all
furbearer species are edible, nor do all trappers live where such markets exist. So even if you do sell ’coons and beavers, you’re still faced with the problem of carcass disposal.
One trapper I know buries his in wood mulch and lets them compost for a year or so, then sells the enriched mulch for fertilizer. He says the smell is almost nil, and gardeners love the stuff.
Another trapper hauls his to a landfill and pays $24 per thousand pounds for disposal.
But what about the city dwelling trapper who doesn’t have a mulch pile? Skinning in the field is one option, and this spreads carcasses out and makes for quick natural recycling. But it makes for slow going on the line and poor skinning conditions.
There’s no easy solution. The important thing is to be discreet. Make every effort to avoid offending non-trappers who don’t share our passion. They approve of trapping, but only in an abstract, out-of-sight-out-of-mind way. They don’t want their noses rubbed in it. Carcass disposal is a necessary part of trapping, but we must be careful. Dumping critters off a county road bridge may be quick and easy, but it’s a good way to turn folks against us.