In Passing: Jacob “Trapper Jake” Korell

JACOB “TRAPPER JAKE” KORELL

Jacob “Trapper Jake” Korell died on March 6, 2013, only one month shy of his 99th birthday.

Korell was always passionate about trapping. He started trapping muskrats at age 7 and continued trapping until his death, for a total of 92 years of trapping. He was preparing to check his traps when his heart gave out and was found in his fur shop with his truck running. He prided himself on never selling anything in the carcass, and put up all of the 75 coyotes, 7 badgers, 1 bobcat, 5 beavers, and 20 raccoons he killed this year.

Korell married Martha Gradwohl on March 9, 1936 and moved to Fremont County. They cleared sagebrush to build an adobe home and created a working farm. Korell was involved in most any outdoor activity, and raised his family through big game outfitting, taxidermy, buying and selling raw fur, breeding Quarter Horses, farming, and feeding cattle. Through all of it, trapping was his passion.

Korell received multiple honors for his trapping ability, which was considered an art by most who were lucky enough to know him. He was awarded Best Fur Handler of the Year multiple times from Clay Exports Company, Sears Roebuck, and FC Taylor. He was inducted into the National Trappers Hall of Fame in 1993 and was a lifetime member of the National Trappers Association. His likeness was captured in a bronze, “Jake,” by Gary Shoop in 1985. “The Last of the Breed: The Story of Trapper Jake Korell,” was written to capture his colorful life, and a movie, “The Life of Trapper Jake,” was filmed in 2012.

In his later years, Korell’s greatest joy was founding and developing the Wind River Heritage Center in Riverton, Wyoming. The Center features over 60 lifesize mounts of most of the furbearers and big game animals native to the Wind River area, including wolf, buffalo, and grizzly mounts. Korell, his son, Gerald Korell, and his son-in-law, Scott Maller, completed all of the taxidermy work. The Center also houses the Jake Korell Trap Collection, a wax museum of historical figures, and antique farming equipment.

Korell’s extraordinary life was remembered on March 12, 2013 and he was honored by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. Approximately 400 people attended his funeral.

Memorial contributions in memory of Korell may be sent to: Wind River Heritage Center, 1075 South Federal Boulevard, Riverton, Wyoming 82501.

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