North Dakota Fur Hunters & Trappers Association June-July 2014 Report

President — Rick Tischaefer, P.O. Box 334, Butte, ND 58723-0334; 701-626-7150;

Vice President — Glen Baltrusch, 312 Alder Ave., Harvey, ND 58341; 701-341-1261


Treasurer — Linda Penry, 3235 Crested Drive N., Mandan, ND 58554; 701-667-9380;

Fur Harvester Education Program Coordinator — Rick Tischaefer, P.O. Box 334,Butte, ND 58723-0334; 701-626-7150;


Membership Options:

• Junior (14 and under) membership with subscription to Trapper & Predator Caller — $12

• Adult membership with subscription to Trapper & Predator Caller — $20

• Family membership with subscription to Trapper & Predator Caller — $20

• Lifetime with subscription to Trapper & Predator Caller — $250

• Lifetime (62 and over) with subscription to Trapper & Predator Caller — $150


Complete membership application on first page of the association news section and send dues to:

NDFHTA, Treasurer

Linda Penry

3235 Crested Dr. N., Mandan, ND 58554



Greetings everyone! The biggest hit for February was our Winter Meet. Our hats are off and a big “thank you” to the crew in Bismarck for making such a great day for everyone – and with God’s help, a beautiful day! Cold, but beautiful. Lots of folks came to share the day; the presentations and demonstrations were extremely well done and informative; and I think everyone had an opportunity to visit in good company. The auction again had many useful items and works of art. Thanks to those who took the time to make them and donate them for such a good cause. Every time we get together, the young folks are involved in a trapping equipment drawing. It’s an awesome sight to see all those young trappers with ear-to-ear smiles because their hands are full of traps, lure, and equipment. Over the years, many have made donations to this important part of our business. This meeting was no different, and again thank you for support.

The presentations included a wide variety of subjects. Lloyd Jones spoke about his observations as a trapper who had to take time for a career and is now returning to trapping. A vast amount of knowledge and insight as to how the world has changed and how important and proactive the association and education program are to the future. Steve Takacs had a very technical presentation on suppressors; had quite an inventory on hand; talked to the subject of acquisition, transfer, and trusts; and of course, all the paperwork. Jeremy Guinn provided some really neat information on their urban coyote study in Bismarck. Folks were really impressed at the locations of the collared animals and how much traffic and human activity they have to endure to survive in that environment. Jeremy has had coyotes sleeping in bushes next to the house, under the picture window, between the garage and the house, and on the side of outbuildings in their yard. We had an informational brochure from RJ and the muskrat float project. He’ll have to work this spring season and then wrap things up. The preliminary data shows 2505 trap nights and only one incidental catch. RJ’s done a great job and we’re lucky to have him on board doing this research.

Some highlights of the business meeting included the Board appointing Troy Radtke from Sherwood as our Secretary. Troy will serve out the remainder of Chuck’s term through 2015. Other business included a donation of $200 to the Montana Trappers Association for their efforts to defeat the anti-trapping measure there; Ben Schaaf was the winner of the deer hide drawing; and Chris Flann spoke about the summer rendezvous this fall. The location is Camp Rokiwan near Spiritwood Lake north of Jamestown and will be September 6th. Mark your calendars! If you have demonstration ideas, please pass them along to Chris. If you live in the southeast part of the state, plan on helping out. Many hands make the job much easier.

The Advisory Board meetings are just around the corner. The dates will be posted on the Game and Fish website and in local newspapers. Please attend if you can. Many times I’ve been told by those who have attended that they thought it was a waste of time; it seemed that what input was provided was ignored; and the decisions for any changes had already been made and they were only doing the public meetings because it was required. Having an opportunity to comment on subjects related to managing our natural resources is a blessing bestowed by freedom; and more over, exactly the way it should be. The public (that’s you and me) grants authority to the Game and Fish to manage our resources, and accordingly, the public (you and me) must have the opportunity to be involved in any decisions made regarding our resources. Whether it’s an additional opportunity or a restriction, the basic question must be answered – why? If an individual is being restricted in their activity, do the facts support the restriction and have all other avenues been exhausted to change a behavior or correct the problem? If you feel the Advisory Board meetings are unproductive, maybe it’s because the public (that’s you and me) allowed them to become that way? Poor attendance, folks sitting on their hands, and little to no input creates that environment. You have to be involved in this process; ask the tough questions; and provide your experience, knowledge, and opinions. Make your self heard, and if you feel you are being ignored, mention that too. I’d ask that you not give up on the process – put some effort into making things happen – and check the schedule and attend if you can. Deer are always a big subject at the meetings, and this spring they will be even more. There will be discussion on what input folks provided to Game and Fish after the deer management meetings in February.

As of this writing, we are doing an information mailing to the folks in North Dakota. The mailing was sent (or provided) to members of the association and NAFA shippers. If you are neither and would like the information and help with the survey, let me know and I’ll get you one. One of the items is the “Ownership and Use Survey of Cable Devices in North Dakota”. This information is critically important for work that is being completed later this month. Some of that includes mechanical testing of break-a-way devices and lock and spring combinations. In order to do that, we need to know what is being used in North Dakota. The questions are straight forward; circle the appropriate answers or fill in the blank; and your information is confidential.

Another part of that mailing was information about river otter in North Dakota. A river otter harvest season has been discussed at several past Furbearer Working Group meetings. The most recent (April 2013), Stephanie Tucker (our furbearer biologist) mentioned that it might be sometime before she’ll be able to work on anything related to a harvest season; and Randy Kreil (Wildlife Division Chief) thought that a segment of the public in the eastern part of North Dakota would be opposed to such a season. This information is being provided to you so 1) you know the facts; 2) you can make an educated decision and hopefully support the effort to have a harvest season in North Dakota; 3) you help with the public education process; and 4) you encourage individuals influential to the process to have a harvest season sooner than later (your Game and Fish Advisory Board representative; the Director of the Game and Fish Department; or the Governor’s Office).

A past survey indicated trappers are interested in having a river otter harvest season In North Dakota. Some feel it is past due. While things get worked out, we need to get into the public education business now. In addition, it’s obvious we need to do a little pushing as well. The following information should be helpful to you in doing both. You can discuss this information with friends, co-workers, relatives, at club meetings, coffee shops, or any other place or event where you have the opportunity to educate the public. Doing so will advance the effort to someday have a river otter harvest season in North Dakota.

Many trappers report the abundance of tracks, scat, or observations of river otter in their trapping areas. Most of these areas are in tributaries, lakes, ponds, or sloughs relatively close to something that flows into the Red River. The incidental catches of river otter while water trapping have increased as well. We encourage trappers to turn in incidental catches as these are resources for important information (age, sex, location, reproductive history, and overall health). If the pelts can be salvaged, they are put up and sold through the North Dakota Cooperative Fur Harvester Education Program account at North American Fur Auctions.

During the 2005 – 2010 time period, North Dakota Game and Fish Department State Wildlife Grant monies provided $200,695.00 in grant funding to Dr. Tom Serfass of Frostburg University (Maryland) to “Evaluate the Distribution and Abundance of River Otter and Other Meso-Carnivores in Eastern North Dakota”. If you would like a copy of the 214 page report, drop me an e-mail and I will send it to you. The bottom line is the research substantiated the presence of river otter. The research did not delve in to population modeling to identify what the estimated population may be, but there was enough latrine sites to do some additional research. First was the genetic make-up of our river otter – they are the same as the river otter in Minnesota. Second was what river otter were eating – mostly rough fish and crustaceans. My personal observations while working in the northeast included rough fish like carp and suckers, other unidentified fish, crayfish, clams, turtles, ducks, and muskrats.

The Red River is key to the geographic area we’re talking about, and simply put, it is a watershed. This watershed contains tributaries from both Minnesota and North Dakota. Minnesota has 14 of these smaller watersheds that contain an estimated 1579 miles of streams and rivers that flow in to the Red River. North Dakota has 12 of these smaller watersheds that contain an estimated 2135 miles of streams and rivers that flow into the Red River. This does not include mileage for the Rush River watershed; and the New Rockford and McClusky Canal systems. River otter have been caught and released as far west as Turtle Lake on the McClusky Canal system. All of this, from both Minnesota and North Dakota, flow in to the Red River and north into Canada.

Minnesota has had a regulated harvest season for river otter in the Red River watershed since 1986. Bag limits have varied from 2 to 4 for that region of Minnesota. A review of the 2012-13 harvest season for the counties that border the Red River in Minnesota – and also border North Dakota – reveal a total of 182 river otter harvested by trappers. That is just in the counties that border North Dakota.

The Red River is also a geo-political boundary. It is a “state line” separating North Dakota from Minnesota. Minnesota has had a river otter harvest season in this area since 1986 and North Dakota has no harvest season. River otter go where the habitat supports them, and a geo-political boundary like a “state line” means nothing to a river otter. I was listening to Randy Kreil, (Chief, NDGFD Wildlife Division) on KFYR in December 2013 and he made clear that particular point. I cannot recall what species he was talking about (and it really doesn’t matter), but his point was that wildlife does not abide by geo-political boundaries (i.e. boundaries established by humans separating land from one another, whether it be private ownership; township; county; state; or federal lands). That is the truth, and it is yet another fact that substantiates having a river otter harvest season in North Dakota. If you can have a regulated harvest in the eastern half of the watershed (i.e. Minnesota), you can have a regulated harvest in the western half of the watershed (i.e. North Dakota).

The mid 1990’s is the earliest I have been told about incidental catches of river otter. While not very specific, those were from the Barnes, Steele, Traill, and Cass county areas. In 2001, Jackie Gerads (our Furbearer Biologist) began looking into river otter populations in North Dakota, and there was some discussion about a reintroduction effort. Many states had demonstrated real benefit from trapping river otter in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas and reintroducing them to where they were once native. Those efforts resulted in having river otter harvest seasons in those states in a soon as 5 years after reintroduction. We needed to know what was on the landscape before that occurred, and which after 10 years, finally materialized in to the research that Frostburg University completed.

Population modeling takes many factors into account in order to be accurate. It is a formula of numbers and computations that include habitat acres; adult male to adult female ratios; juvenile male to juvenile female ratios; adults to juvenile ratios; litters per adult female; litter sizes; litter success rates; and incidental mortality are just to name a few. The most accurate, efficient, and inexpensive manner in which to garner most of what a biologist needs for that model comes from the animal’s carcass. You cannot pleasantly (or safely) obtain that information from a live animal on the table in front of you. Trappers and trapping activity, (regardless of what furbearer we are talking about), are the single most efficient and inexpensive tool wildlife managers and biologists have to accurately obtain the crucial components of a population model. By having a modern, regulated trapping season for river otter, we will be able to fill in those blanks with that information, and more fully understand the health and population of this resource.

River otter are no different than any other furbearer we’re blessed with in North Dakota. By monitoring the population and habitat; reviewing the tools, techniques, and season dates for harvest; and having trained game wardens to enforce the laws; everything will work out just fine. There has never been an instance in modern wildlife management where regulated trapping has been a detriment to a furbearing species – in fact, it has been the complete opposite.

On February 18, 2014, Randy Kreil (NDGFD Wildlife Division Chief), at a public meeting in Anamoose, N. D. stated that “we know we can’t stockpile wildlife on the northern plains”. That is the truth, and it is yet another fact that substantiates having a river otter harvest season in North Dakota. We must be responsible stewards of the land and it’s resources – and that includes a harvest season for river otter. The data recovered from the carcasses will help in population modeling and planning for the future. Use this information to educate the public at every opportunity and influence those who can make this happen. Nothing will happen if you do not.

I will be attending the 2014 Furbearer Workgroup meeting in April. The agenda has many items and updates of current projects (lion, muskrat, education, the standard for testing break-a-ways on cable devices, etc.) and I’ve asked these items be added to the agenda for discussion: 1) a river otter harvest season; 2) a fisher-marten harvest season (outside of the current framework); 3) no zone bobcat harvest; 4) initiate a research project to address the 2” bodygrip and foothold trap rule during the spring water trapping season; and 5) eliminate the cable device restrictions for the spring water trapping season. These subjects are concerns from you – the trappers, fur hunters, and citizens of North Dakota – you can help the effort by sharing your thoughts with your Advisory Board member, Director Steinwand, and the Governor. Being apart of the association will help in supporting these efforts.

That’s about it for now. I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping your membership current – or joining the association. You’ll find great benefit in doing so and you will be informed as to what’s going on. Until next time, take care. — Rick


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