When we look at the definition of the word “trapper” as well as what the role actually entails we see it for what it is: nothing glamorous! In the traditional sense, a fur trapper is someone whose occupation involves the trapping of animals for their fur. When we use the word “occupation”, however, we actually mean: a nominal and supplementary source of income. Contrary to the marketing we have engaged in recently, fur does NOT provide an important income for trappers anymore - not even in remote or rural areas. In fact, all trappers – native and non-native alike - trap by choice and not need. If we were being entirely honest we would also admit there are some part-time, recreational hunters who do as much trapping as native trappers and usually earn more money, but we aren’t…
The animals are baited with sex gland scents or urine - neither of which are pleasant to deal with - and successfully trapped using either a conibear trap, leg-hold trap, or snare. The trapper must patrol the trap line to remove the animals caught, as well as reset or relocate the traps when necessary; and if any animal is still alive when the trapper returns, they need to kill it either by clubbing or drowning to prevent damage to the precious pelt.
The trapper skins the animal using a knife, stretching the pelt on a frame to be cured, and disposing of the carcass. The skin-side of the pelt is scraped with a knife to remove any remaining fat or flesh, before rubbing the skin with salt to help dry and preserve it. Once dry the pelts are sorted in accordance to colour, quality and species before taking them to the auctions.
Yes, it is as morbid and mundane as you may have initially thought! Moreover, the trappers and their traps are the wild animals’ worst nightmare: a terrifying and extremely unpleasant experience which, unfortunately for them, is a very real prospect. There is nothing which “connects” them to nature; in fact through the systematic slaughter of countless animals each season, the trappers disconnect and desensitise themselves in order to carry out this task on a regular basis.
If the trappers had any actual interest in preserving and protecting the wild animals they wouldn’t catch and kill them! They are conserving nothing except their place in an outdated industry.
It is estimated that approximately 85% of the fur produced around the world comes from fur farms, whereas in Canada it makes up a little less: between 70 – 75%. The reason so much emphasis is placed on the farms is because it is possible for farmers to control the reproduction of the foxes and mink, breeding them specifically to produce the colour, quality and size of pelts demanded by the industry. Ergo, the only reason the farms exist is because we realised how much money could be made from producing and selling fur!
Besides, fur farming is simply another branch of the livestock-raising industry; and in the 21st century, fur farming helps to maintain remote and rural communities about as much as any other form of agriculture does. In other words, it doesn’t.
In the traditional sense, an artisan is: a craftsperson or manual worker, skilled in an applied art that makes a distinctive, high-quality product in small quantities, usually by hand and using traditional methods.
In this day and age, each fur garment is NOT individually cut and sewn by a skilled artisan; large fashion houses now produce the bulk of the products which flood the market each fall and winter. These products are made using modern machinery and technology, much like any other accessory or item of clothing. Furthermore, the indigenous communities who originally developed the skills and tradition of creating fur garments are no longer involved in this part of the process. If they are still employed at all by the industry, it is as a trapper.