Springfield – Trappers in Illinois are keeping a watchful eye on
animal rights groups that are causing what has become an annual
stir in neighboring states.
Born Free USA and other groups have been campaigning to ban certain
types of traps, but overall there’s been strong support for
trapping in both Congress and state legislatures, including in
Illinois, where lawmakers earlier this year voted in favor of
expanding muskrat seasons. In at least five states – including
neighboring Wisconsin – the right to trap has been explicitly
enshrined in the state constitution.
“Wildlife management should be left in hands of professionals,”
Dave Linkhart, a farmer and trapper who is a spokesman for the
National Trappers Association, said. “Where we’ve lost some ground
is in parts of the country where trappers are scarce or not
well-organized, and an uninformed or misinformed public gets on the
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are about
150,000 trappers in the U.S. – only about 4,000 of them are in
Illinois. Here and in most states, trappers make little profit,
selling pelts at prices which range from roughly $15 for a beaver
to $ 6 for a raccoon and $2 for a muskrat.
Prices always fluctuate, and most trappers in Illinois say they are
in it only for the love of the sport.
“A trapper is a trapper, no matter the price of the pelt,” Mike
Smothers, who traps near the Shawnee National Forest in deep
southern Illinois, said. “The fact that more groups are trying to
ban trapping only unites us. We are focusing more on the coming
Among Illinois trappers, the love of trapping remains strong. The
Illinois Trappers Association had a good turnout for its annual
convention held in late summer. The annual gathering features
discussions and exchanges among the state’s trappers. At this
year’s convention, the ITA presented scholarships to two college
students studying furbearers and the “Trapper of the Year Award” to
Bryan Vanderkooi, of Mascoutah. Vanderkooi participated in many ITA
events throughout the past year, including the Youth Trappers Camp
and Wounded Warrior Project fishing tournament.
“I try to promote trapping to our youth,” Vanderkooi said after
being honored. “The sport needs to be passed on to young people so
trapping remains part of Illinois’ outdoors.”
Meanwhile, the state’s trapping seasons open Nov. 5 in the north
zone and Nov. 10 in the south zone. As trapping seasons near,
public site trapping opportunities are being made available.
DNR will conduct a number of drawings for trapping permits this
month at public sites:
n Two trapping permits will be awarded at a public drawing to be
held Oct. 24 at the site headquarters of Beaver Dam State
n Six trapping permits will be awarded at a public drawing to be
held Oct. 24 at the site headquarters of Horseshoe Lake State
n Four trapping permits will be awarded at a public drawing to be
held Oct. 29 at the site headquarters of Eldon Hazlet State