Furtaker Seasons Highlighted by Bobcat and Fisher Seasons; Game Commission Offers Local Furbearer Information; Game Commission Offers Trapping Tips and Briefs

Oct 15, 2010, 09:03 ET from Pennsylvania Game Commission

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- New and expanding opportunities for fishers and bobcats highlight this year's furbearer trapping and hunting seasons, according to Pennsylvania Game Commission officials.

After 10 bobcat seasons harvests tempered by specific numbers of permits, the Board established a three-week bobcat season (Dec. 18-Jan. 8 for hunting, and Dec. 18-Jan. 9 for trapping), and provides all furtaker and combination license holders the opportunity to purchase one permit to harvest a bobcat in Wildlife Management Units 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4D and 4E.  This action eliminated the need for the agency to hold a public drawing for bobcat permits.

The Board also created a six-day fisher trapping season (Dec. 18-23) to allow all furtaker and combination license holders the opportunity to obtain a fisher permit to harvest one fisher in WMUs 2C 2D, 2E and 2F.

"Following careful review of past seasons and, in consideration of hunter and trapper input, beginning with the 2010-11 season, we will use season length to regulate bobcat taking in specified WMUs," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director.  "Our data indicate that bobcat populations have increased significantly.  

"In order to continue to assess interest, participation, effort and harvest, we believe it prudent to retain a permitting process. However, we believe that we can offer an unlimited number of permits to allow each furtaker and combination license holder the opportunity to harvest one bobcat in the specified WMUs."

The creation of a limited, one-week fisher season, which was part of the Game Commission's initial plans when it reintroduced fishers back in the 1990s, is consistent with the agency's longstanding goal mission of promoting and providing hunting and trapping opportunities.

"Through this limited season, we will gather additional biological samples for demographic and genetic analyses," Roe said. "Mandatory reporting, along with fisher permits, is needed to better assess participation, effort and harvest for this new season."

Resident and nonresident furtaker license-holders, as well as combination license holders, are eligible to participate in both the bobcat and fisher seasons. Bobcat and fisher permits will be available through the agency's license sale system for $6.70 each ($5 for the Game Commission, which is the same as the previous application fee; $1 for the issuing agent; and 70 cents for the license sale system operator).

Also new for the 2010-11 trapping seasons, the Board approved opening the cable restraint season on Dec. 26, rather than Jan. 1. Licensed trappers may use cable restraints for coyotes and foxes, upon completion of either a four-hour cable restraint certification course or Successful Furtaking Course, both of which are provided by agency-certified volunteer instructors.

The general trapping season - for coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks and weasels – will open Oct. 24 and runs through Feb. 20. The season for mink and muskrats is Nov. 20 to Jan. 9; beavers, Dec. 26 to March 31.

Raccoon hunting season will begin Oct. 23 and closes Feb. 19, and the season for skunks, opossums and weasels runs from July 1 to June 30, except for Sundays.  Red and gray foxes hunting season will open Oct. 23 and runs through Feb. 19, including Sundays.  Coyotes have a year-round season (July 1-June 30) and can be hunted on Sundays, too.

The 2009 Game-Take and Furtaker Surveys estimated that fur-takers took 112,550 raccoons (142,808 in 2008); 63,998 muskrats (74,059); 37,418 red foxes (44,745); 37,270 opossums (54,273); 30,386 coyotes (23,699); 13,793 gray foxes (20,845); 8,314 skunks (12,331); and 7,261 mink (8,632).

Beaver trappers do not have to have harvested beavers tagged by Game Commission personnel. There are, however, beaver bag limits for each Wildlife Management Unit. The Board increased the number of body-gripping traps that may be used to harvest beavers in WMU 1B in northwestern Pennsylvania to address the increasing number of beaver nuisance complaints. For more information, please see page 77 of the 2010-11 Digest.

Trapping is a highly regulated activity in Pennsylvania. A furtaker license – or combination license – is required to trap in the Commonwealth. All traps must have an identification tag that provides the trapper's name and address or a number issued by the agency. Body-gripping traps must be set within a watercourse. It is unlawful to set a trap with bait visible from the air, or to disturb the traps of another. Traps cannot have a jaw-spread exceeding 6.5 inches. Traps must be visited at least once every 36 hours and each animal removed.


Each year, Pennsylvania Game Commission field officers and foresters develop game and furbearer forecasts for the areas they work to share with interested hunters and trappers. Observations of local furbearers are always a part of this annual offering.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission's "Field Officer Forecasts" icon can be found in the center of the agency's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Developed to share field officer perspectives and observations on game and furbearer trends in their respective districts and to help hunters and trappers get closer to the action afield, this information helped many sportsmen and sportswomen have more enjoyable days afield last year.

"Our field officers spend a tremendous amount of time afield, often in the areas hunters and trappers are most interested in learning more about," said Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe. "Their observations have value to hunters and trappers, so in 2006 we set up a cyber-clearinghouse where anyone who enjoys hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania – resident or nonresident – can access game and furbearer forecasts from every county of the state. It's the detailed field reporting hunters and trappers seek out, and part of our longstanding commitment to be the first and best source of hunting and trapping information in the Commonwealth."


To assist new trappers, as well as long-time trappers, the Game Commission developed a three-page "Trapping Tips" section, which is posted on the agency's website.  To view the section, go to the agency's homepage (www.pgc.state.pa.us), put your cursor over "Hunt/Trap" in the menu bar at the top of the page, then click on "Trapping & Furbearers," and scroll down to "Trapping Tips" in the "Helpful Information" section.

"These Trapper's Tips were developed by Dan Lynch, Game Commission Southeast Region Wildlife Education Specialist and experienced trapper, for publication in Pennsylvania Game News magazine, to further educate and improve the success of trappers everywhere," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "There's something here for everyone, regardless of your level of experience or familiarity with trapping furbearers."

Other trapping tips offered by the Game Commission include:

Scouting Matters: Pre-season and in-season scouting are critically important to any trapline. Furbearer activity centers sometimes shift, based on the availability of food and den sites. Scouting helps a trapper determine where it's best to put traps. After all, traps set in areas where targeted furbearers aren't available will only waste your time and fuel. Be efficient. Don't guess. In the process, you'll squeeze plenty of excitement into your morning trap-checks and become a better trapper.

Blowing in the Wind: When choosing trap-set locations, make sure to use the wind to your advantage. If a furbearer cannot smell your attractant, it may pass within a few feet of your set and never take a step toward it. Most furbearers are curious, and if they detect the bait, urine or lure you're using to attract them, they'll come closer to investigate. The wind will help you pull in furbearers by carrying your attractant's smell further than it would emanate on its own in a still night air, especially in cold weather. It also allows you to set further off the travel-way, reducing the possibility on non-target catches, and trap theft.

Every 24: Trappers have a legal obligation to check their traps every 36 hours. Most trappers, however, rarely check traps later than every 24 hours. Experienced trappers know that it's best to check traps earlier to ensure captured furbearers stay in the trap; and the captured furbearer spends no more time restrained than necessary.

Swivel Action: Adding swivels to your trap's chain - as well as shortening and center-mounting the chain to the trap frame directly beneath the jaws - will reduce escapes and self-inflicted injuries to the trapped furbearer. Swivels are inexpensive, easy to incorporate and will pay dividends. Consider placing one on each end of the trap chain, and one in the center. The swivel for the stake-end of the chain should be large enough to accommodate your trap stake. For additional trap modifications, please visit the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on "Trapping & Furbearers" in the left column, then select "Best Management Practices for Trapping in the United States."

Sweet Treats: If you're raccoon trapping in an area where there's a possibility of capturing a non-target animal, it's usually best to avoid using meat- or fish-based baits and gland lures. Try using substitute attractants such as grape jelly, anise oil or peanut butter. These baits usually won't pull in pets and they still have tremendous appeal to raccoons.

Rock Solid: Traps set afield for furbearers work best when they are seated solidly in a trap bed. This is accomplished by packing soil around the circumference of the trap's jaws. If the trap moves when you push down on the trap's jaws or springs, it's not seated firmly enough in the trap bed. Pack dirt around the trap or place a stone or small stick under the trap's jaw to keep it from moving. Traps must be immobile to be effective.

Ask First! Ask a landowner for permission to trap, even if he or she allows trapping, or doesn't have his or her land posted. Landowners often know their property intimately and can direct you to the best places to set traps, or the only places they allow traps to be set. Be responsible and trap ethically. Remember, wildlife conservation always wins when trappers and hunters ask for permission.

On the Blind: Another great way to take raccoons and mink in areas where using bait may lead to the capture of a non-target animal is by using "blind" or trail sets. These sets are placed where a raccoon or mink is forced to enter the water to get around a rock, tree trunk or to walk along a bridge abutment. These sets are especially effective on furbearers that have learned to stay away from bait sets.

Any Trap Won't Do:  Traps must be matched to the furbearer you intend to catch. You can't use a muskrat trap to catch a coyote and a beaver trap won't work for raccoons. Here's a quick overview of what to use for popular Pennsylvania furbearers: foxes, 1.5 coil spring; coyote, 1.5, 1.75 or 2 coil spring; raccoon, 1 or 1.5 coil spring; weasels, skunks, opossums, 1 coil spring; mink, 1 or 1.5 coil spring or five-inch by five-inch, double spring body-gripping trap; muskrat, 1 long spring, jump or coil spring trap or five-inch by five-inch single spring body-gripping trap; and beaver, 3 or 4 double long spring or jump trap and 10-inch by 10-inch, double-spring body-gripping trap. For more information, look for Best Management Practices (BMP) studies for various species, which can be found on the Game Commission website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) by putting your cursor over "Hunt/Trap" in the menu bar at the top of the homepage, then clicking on "Trapping & Furbearers" in the drop-down menu listing and then looking under the "Best Management Practices" section.  

Out of Sight: Most people do not consider the skinned carcass of any animal to be pleasing to the eye. Since furbearer remains are considered municipal waste, carcasses should be disposed through your curbside pickup, or at an approved waste or rendering facility. Don't dispose of them where passersby will see them, where a pet may drag one home, or where their decomposing odor will offend nearby homeowners. Keep it clean.

Protection Precautions: Trappers should always handle dispatched furbearers with latex or rubber gloves to avoid coming in contact with any body fluids from the animal. Rabies, which continues to pose a health threat in many counties, is transmitted when a furbearer's body fluids enter a person's body through a cut or body opening (mouth, eye, etc.) Don't take risks when approaching trapped animals to dispatch them. Always maintain a safe distance from captured furbearers and handle catches with gloved hands.

Auction Locator: If you're interested in finding a fur auction near you, consider visiting the Pennsylvania Trappers' Association's website (www.patrappers.com), then click on "Districts" and check the events listed for the districts in your area.

Note to Editors: If you would like to receive Game Commission news releases via e-mail, please send a note with your name, address, telephone number and the name of the organization you represent to: PGCNews@state.pa.us

SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission